Don Levine Eulogy by Jamie Leno Zimron

We have all lost a dear and irreplaceable friend, colleague, and leader in Don Levine's recent passing. I was grateful to be asked to share about Professor Don Sensei's aikido and AE work at the funeral last week. The service was a beautiful gathering and reflection of the loving communities Don created and nurtured so well. As people expressed their experiences with and appreciations for him, through words and stories and soul-stirring music, a tapestry of tribute was weaved that spoke and sung from the hearts of everyone who was graced by this great and wonderful man. 
In love and gratitude as together we keep on training and moving along the path.
Professor Don Levine Sensei Celebration of Life
The founder of Aikido, Morihei Uyeshiba O'Sensei, saw his Martial Art of Peace as 'medicine for a sick world.' Tho Don didn't begin training until he was 48 years old, his whole being - mind, body, heart and soul - resonated immediately and completely with the great master's teachings. Don relished Aikido, both intellectually and interactively, every moment even to his dying days. 
Through his vast vision and tireless efforts, Don Levine has given what O'Sensei directly charged us with: infusing the world itself with more Aikido and Ai-Ki. He not only articulated but formed the actual not-for-profit organization - Aiki Extensions - to allow conscious application of Aikido principles and practices into every facet of life. We, his students and colleagues, all have him (and O'Sensei) to thank for perhaps the most meaningful part of our training and our lives.
Don himself was a divine extension of AiKi on earth. In his own inimitable ways, he was filled to overflowing with AI / love, and with KI, life-energy. Indeed he was the embodiment of living life & love. For this and so many reasons his absence leaves a huge hole. He will be sorely missed.
Assuming Don is hovering here to hear what we're all saying about him, I think he'd be nodding along that being a Sensei is a lot like being a rabbi on the mat, dressed up in Japanese dogi and hakama rather than talit and yarmulke, and sermonizing through somatics. Aiki Extensions is a complete embodiment of what were Don Sensei's Jewish social action genes and penchant for doing full-time Tikkun Olam - Repair of The World. 
Not only that. Don was a master of chutzpah! While many people scarcely dream, his visions were grand and he always took audacious action. It just seemed obvious to him that Aikido's message is meant to be taken beyond the dojo into everyday and every walk of life, in order to make the world a better place for all human beings. 
Yet creating Aiki Extensions was a radical thing to do. Nothing stopped Don - not lesser rank, or refusals or rejections or general lack of acceptance within that other 'ae' / the 'aiki establishment' - nothing deterred him from knocking on dojo doors everywhere for practitioners to join AIki Extensions and broaden their training.
Where else but at a national AE Conference, or international gatherings literally in castles and camps, can you befriend other instructors and practitioners, to learn as well as inform how they link the non-violent principles of Aikido with their professional work as psychologists, doctors, lawyers, teachers, academics, mediators, business and leadership coaches, athletic trainers, counselors for veterans and PTSD recovery, growing boys into compassionate men and girls into empowered women? For all this we have Don to thank. 
That would be Dayenu, enough. 
But Don didn't stop there. As an Ethiopian scholar, he was instrumental in bringing the peaceful path of Aikido to war-torn Ethiopia, and training Tesfaye Tekelu as together they (with others here) built the Action for Youth & Community Changecampus and the AE Peace Dojo in Hawassa. 
That too would have been Dayenu, enough. But Don dared to unite even Arabs and Jews through The Martial Art of Peace; called on me as a dual American-Israeli citizen; brought in other key players; and together we cooked up the 'Salaam Shalom' Middle East Aikido Project. To his profound thrill and joy, the project launched in 2005 with our historic Training Across Borders Conference, in the UN Buffer Zone between Greek and Turkish Cyprus. Following Don's chutzpah-style leadership we managed to gather 100 Aiki 'warriors for peace' from Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Jordan, Greece, Turkey, Serbia, Bosnia, the Americas and Europe. And we are continuing to forge seemingly Impossible bridges through AE's peace-building projects and 10th Anniversary Training Across Borders Conference this fall in Athens, in dedication to Don Sensei.
Don Levine was my dearly beloved colleague, mentor, friend, and we loved calling each other Achi and Achoti ~ my brother and my sister. Working with him, I always loved the feeling of co-conspiratoring. Despite his greatness, and indeed as a part of it, he had no qualms calling me his sempai (senior in aikido rank) and at times even asked me about things. His vast smarts and knowledge came from always being humble enough, open enough, willing enough to be a lifelong student as much as he was our brilliant way-showing teacher.
To me Don will always be the dearest and greatest of souls. The man of great heart and wisdom, with a brilliant incisive mind, all blended with the youthful playful spirit of a wide-eyed child forever full of wonder and energy, always making new creations and seeking next frontiers of daring worthy adventures. Were it not for the nasty C-word, I know he would have gladly kept trailblazing ad me'ah v'esrim / to 120. 
When people ask the usual question of what is your home dojo, my answer has become 'Aiki Extensions.' I shall always carry Don in my every step and word. I am endlessly grateful to him for giving me my Aikido home, and enabling me to be in the most authentic and useful place I know of. For providing such incredible opportunities for us all to work with our Aiki brothers and sisters off as well as on the mat, so creatively, happily, meaningfully. For the great legacies he has left each one of us to fulfill daily, for as long as we walk this earth.  And I bless him for allowing me to be part of his magnificent, so gifted, and so loving family. 
Deep deep bows dearest Don. We know you are alive and well, and living on even more powerfully in the ever-expanding spheres of your remarkable influence.
As you would say: Gambatte! Kadima! Onwards! 
Salaam. Shalom. Domo arigato. Abrazos. 
Adieu achi, I love you.
Jamie Leno Zimron, April 7, 2015



Beautiful, Jamie Sensei.

A true and worthy tribute to a truly worthy man.



--Brandon WilliamsCraig.....2015-04-17 23:17:48 +0000