Evelyn Levitt

Obituary of Evelyn Reiter Levitt

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Evelyn Reiter Levitt passed away peacefully at her home in Coconut Creek, Florida, on Friday, November 24th at the age of 106. As the matriarch of her family, Evelyn was a devoted wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother who will be missed dearly by everyone who knew her and loved her.


Evelyn was born in Budapest, Hungary, in July of 1917 at the height of World War I to Jewish parents Mordechai Schonblum and Irene Weiss. Shortly after, she and her family moved to Bukovina, a region along the border of Romania and Ukraine, where they led a comfortable life on a small farm. Evelyn became fluent in many languages, including Hungarian, Romanian, Russian, German, Yiddish, and later French and English. Her talent and passion for languages eventually led to her successful career as a high school French and German teacher.

Above all else, Evelyn was a survivor, whose extraordinary strength and courage enabled her to overcome unfathomable obstacles and live such a long fruitful life. She survived two world wars, two global pandemics, and two bouts of cancer. She long outlived two husbands, Charles Reiter (married, 1940-1974) and Sidney Levitt (married, 1980-1984), countless friends, and other beloved partners, most recently Bernard Cytryn, a survivor of Auschwitz, who passed away in 2020. And, against all odds, she survived the defining event of her life and of the 20th century—the Holocaust.


In the fall of 1941, when Evelyn was newly married and just beginning her life as a young adult, the Romanian authorities forcibly deported thousands of Jews to Transnistria, a region in what is now Ukraine. Evelyn, her husband Charles, and her parents were sent to the city of Obodovka, where Jews were confined to a small ghetto surrounded by barbed wire, with little food and inadequate shelter.

Upon their arrival in Obodovka, Evelyn and Charles were separated. Charles was taken away to a labor camp for two years, where he suffered from severe starvation and frostbite. When he eventually left the camp, emaciated and looking nothing like his former self, he walked the entire way back to reunite with Evelyn, who recognized him only because he was wearing  the same winter coat she had insisted that he take with him to the camp two years prior. While Charles was away in the winter of 1941-1942, Evelyn nearly died from typhus during an outbreak of the disease, which  killed her mother and father. Despite the unimaginable suffering that she and her husband endured, they survived and maintained their Jewish faith throughout their lives. 


After liberation and the end of World War II, the couple moved first to Paris for a few years before emigrating to the United States in 1950, and eventually settling in Plainfield, New Jersey, where they raised three daughters, Miriam, Renee, and Sylvie. Evelyn had a lifelong passion for education, so once in the United States, she became determined to complete her college education and earned a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University. She went on to build a distinguished career as a French and German teacher at Metuchen High School for 25 years before retiring in 1974. She believed deeply in education and its power to transform lives, as it transformed hers.

Evelyn spent most of her retirement years enjoying time with family and friends, with countless hours devoted to playing Scrabble and Canasta. Shopping was a favorite pastime, as Evelyn had a unique fashion sense, which inevitably included rhinestones, sequins, plush purses, dangling earrings, and bright shades of lipstick. Her flamboyant style in clothing mirrored her zest for life.


In addition to sparkle and color, Evelyn brought much humor to those around her. She spoke in a thick but uniquely charming Eastern European accent and made countless hilarious linguistic mixups, such as referring to the Tappan Zee Bridge as the “Chimpanzee Bridge” or to a camisole as a “casserole.” She had her own set of adages and refrains—a favorite being “Use it in good health!”—her personal way of providing a blessing over all holiday gifts. Birthdays were particularly important to Evelyn. She lovingly and unfailingly remembered to send cards to her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren well past her own 100th birthday. 

Evelyn described her emigration to the United States as a rebirth, a second chance at life following the horrors that she endured in Europe during the war. She was a passionate American citizen and patriot, and she recited the lines from the Declaration of Independence about “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” like a prayer. The life that she built in America became a gift bestowed on her entire family, all of whom owe their lives to Evelyn’s indomitable will to survive during humanity’s darkest time.


To her family, she was first “Mom,” then “Grandma,” then, as a great-grandmother, “Gigi.” With profound gratitude and love—Mom, Grandma, Gigi—we thank you and will miss you beyond words. 

Evelyn is survived by three daughters, six grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren.

A private family service will be followed by interment at Beth Israel Cemetery, Woodbridge, New Jersey. In lieu of flowers, please make donations in Evelyn’s name to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.


Arrangements were under the care of Dangler Funeral Home, Morris Plains. 

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