Those are seven words I would use to describe our beloved instructor National Master Lev Khariton, who tragically passed away on Monday, November 18 from a stroke. In addition to teaching for us in Jersey City and Manhattan at Jersey City Global Charter School, Waterfront Montessori, Embankment School and Grace Church School, Lev was a jack of all trades, as a father of 3, beloved husband, translator, poet and much more.
My friend Steve Eisenberg, founder of JICNY, emphasizes how one should not judge another person as he has no idea what the other is going through. On Thursday, November 15, Mr. Lemuer Perez, the principal at Jersey City Global Charter School called me, asking if Lev was coming in. It is against our company policy for an instructor to “no-show” to a class so my first reaction was “Oh-no; how can this be?”. Lev did not pick up his phone; I tried calling him several times and by Sunday night I haven’t heard from him. I then checked his daughter’s Facebook page and was shocked to see “Please pray for my father, Lev Khariton” and knew some thing was wrong. When I messaged her, she said “My father had a stroke. He had brain surgery. He is in critical care…” The next day, he passed away.
In February 2018, I needed a replacement Jersey City Instructor so our mutual friend Expert Fedor Khrapatin referred Lev to me. While he obviously has a great knowledge of chess and teaching experience, I was frankly hesitant to hire him at first since he was older and I didn’t think he’d relate to some of the younger children. I knew he would be great for adult classes or private lessons but not necessarily beginner students under the age of 10. However, since he came as a referral from someone I trust more than most people in the chess world and we had a nice interview, I decided to give it a shot. The students at each of the schools he taught, including some Kindergarten and 1st graders, truly loved working with him. When I told the Middle Schoolers at the Grace Church School Elective the other day that he passed, several kids became emotional and said they would be serious in chess in his honor.
I have had the privilege of watching Lev teach a few times in the classroom at Jersey City Global Charter School, Grace Church School and Embankment School. In each class, Lev would instantly grasp the attention of every student, abiding by David Macenulty’s declaration that every single student in a class should be learning. Two years ago I had the privilege of co-teaching a a kindergarten class with David at Dalton. One day he called on a boy to answer a question and the child said “but I didn’t raise my hand.” I laughed when David replied” Is there a rule that a teacher is not allowed to call on a student when he doesn’t raise his hand?”. No child left behind!
In addition to being a loyal, empathetic teacher, Lev was a fascinating guy. I will never the forget the time I agreed to have lunch with him at the local Mexican joint near Jersey City Global Charter School, a few hours I was to present at the Open House. I thought we’d grab lunch and I would have a few hours afterwards to to do some work before going to the school; I was wrong! I was too intrigued learning about his poetry, travels in Russia, Israel, France and the United States ( he’s lived in all four countries), books and experiences teaching former World Champion Mikhail Botvinik English. I had new clue that the guy I hired was so famous.
14 months later, I unfortunately found myself in Staten Island at his funeral, showing you can not take life for granted. To show my gratitude for living each day, I recite the “Modeh Ani” prayer, which thanks Hashem for being alive. His son, brother, college roommate, other friends and I spoke about different aspects of his life; however, we all expressed how he loved teaching and was always compassionate. The rabbi spoke about how it says in the Talmud that a good person is one who controls his anger. Rabbi Mark Wildes, Founder of Manhattan Jewish Experience, shares how the Ramban suggested that we can all become as good and righteous as Moses. While Lev easily could have went into depression after many hardships, including having to work in a dirty hospital for little money, he always realized the glass full. While he may have not passed away with millions of dollars to distribute in his will, (talk to David Weiss of Matt Nolfo and Associates if you need one of those), he was a happy man, who made a difference in the lives of his family, friends, colleagues and countless students.
As we continue to grow company, we will always miss Lev, who was an integral part of our team; I am forever grateful to Fedor Kharaptin for introducing the two of us, as Lev became a great colleague, friend and mentor. I will always remember our lighthearted conversations when he’d laugh when I’d throw in random words in Hebrew and Russian. These are three ways to commemorate Lev:
- Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I can give you details regarding Shiva, which is going on until Wednesday, November 27.
- We will be hosting a silent auction to raise for his family at 1st Annual Premier Chess and Top Level Grand Prix Tournament #3 at Town School on Dec 14; email email@example.com if you can donate an item and come to tournament to place some bids!
- Come to his 75th posthumous birthday celebration at 1st Annual Lev Khariton Memorial Blitz Tournament on February 24.