NOVEMBER 29, 2018 – Todd Levine, who owns Larry Levine’s in Peabody, is one of the few kosher butchers in Greater Boston. Levine grew up in Malden, and learned the kosher butcher business from his father, Larry. He has volunteered for different Jewish organizations, including serving as the president of Temple Ner Tamid in Peabody. Levine lives in Peabody with his wife, Simone, a pharmacist. They have two daughters, Allie and Hillary.
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Could you tell us about your upbringing, your parents/family and where you grew up?
I grew up on Harvard Street in Malden. My father worked as a butcher in the kosher meat industry. My mother worked in food service in the Malden Public School System. I attended Malden public schools, and my formal Jewish education came from the Malden Hebrew School. My informal Jewish education was from my Bubbie and Zayde who lived the next street over from me. If I didn’t like what was being served for dinner in my house I could always ride my bike around the corner and Bubbie would make me something special. I played various sports and was in the band. I grew up in a multicultural neighborhood where everyone got along. There were three shuls within walking distance from my home in Malden. One of my fondest memories on the High Holidays was walking from shul to shul visiting friends. My family were founding members of Congregation Beth Israel, the Orthodox Synagogue.
Your dad started Levine’s. What kind of influence has he been on your life?
My father started Levine’s over 43 years ago. One of his biggest influences on me was that family and hard work were needed to be successful in life. I saw how he treated his parents and relatives, calling and visiting them often. The obvious influence, of course, was him teaching me the kosher meat and deli business.
When did you first become interested in Judaism, and how did it influence you during your early years?
I became interested in Judaism at a young age. My family was very active in our synagogue and frequently attended services and all events. My mother was president of the Sisterhood of the Malden Hebrew School. I would frequently drive around to collect the tzedakah boxes in the neighborhood. I was the official coat checker for all the donor dinners the Sisterhood would have. I wasn’t the best student in Hebrew school, but many years later, when I became president of Temple Ner Tamid, my Hebrew school principal attended my installation.
Why did you decide to become a kosher butcher?
I decided to join the family business when I was in high school. My parents would not let me enter the business full time unless I went to college. So I got an associate’s degree in culinary arts. My most difficult challenge was having to cook pork chops … When I entered the business, my favorite thing was being able to work with my parents. I couldn’t get fired and I couldn’t call in sick. What could be better? My mother’s grandfather and father were also in the kosher food business. So that makes me the fourth generation.
What do you love about being a kosher butcher?
I like being a part of everyone’s life, whether it be for daily or Shabbat meals, Jewish holidays, simchas, and unfortunately we have other Jewish lifecycle events. After being in the business for so long I have been fortunate enough to see many brisses, baby namings, bar and bat mitzvahs, and even weddings – not only on the North Shore, but all over New England.
How has the kosher meat business changed over the years?
The kosher meat business has changed in many ways over the years. When I first started in the business we were just selling fresh kosher meat and poultry and delicatessen. As years have gone by, my father added cooked foods. I have taken it a step further and added full service catering known as Catering by Tevya. The types of kosher food products have vastly expanded over the years. A highlight of the year is when I attend the Kosher Food Trade Show in New Jersey to find all new products such as turkey bacon to imitation crab meat to salmon gefilte fish.
Tell us about your volunteer work.
My volunteer work at Temple Ner Tamid is vast. I was on the Board of Directors, and then became vice president for six years, and president for two years. I was Men’s Club vice president, and then became president, USY volleyball coach, and also served on various committees such as youth, ritual, house and social. One of my biggest accomplishments was being on the temple’s 40th anniversary committee during which we surpassed our fundraising goal. I am honored also to be co-chair this year for our 60th anniversary which we will be celebrating this June. Outside of Temple Ner Tamid I am also on the board of directors for the North Suburban Jewish Community Center.
What do you get out of volunteering?
M: Making a difference in people’s lives
E: Enjoying the smiles on people when an event goes well
N: Need of others helps make volunteering worthwhile
C: Creating memories and making new friends in the process
H: Helping others
What motivates you to make a difference in other people’s lives?
I think my upbringing and involvement in the Jewish community over the years motivates me to make a difference in people’s lives, whether it’s in what they plan to eat for dinner, or helping them with a special menu for their upcoming simcha. We also work with many different Jewish organizations on their needs – whether it be a temple, Hillel, CJP, Lappin foundation, NSJCC, AJC, USY and many others. We work together to come up with the perfect menu that fits the needs of the event.