Obituary: William Levine

William Levine, founder of William Levine Inc. and a leading fund-raiser for Jewish philanthropic causes, died of heart failure Nov. 11, in his home. He was 93.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Levine was the son of Russian Jewish immigrants. After earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting from St. John’s University in New York, he worked as a runner on Wall Street before joining his late father-in-law’s diamond wholesale business.

In 1938, Levine left New York and moved to Chicago, and 10 years later he started his own diamond wholesale firm, William Levine Inc. The firm grew to include divisions in New York and Belgium, employing dozens of diamond cutters. According to family members, it was the first firm outside New York to become a De Beers sightholder.

Levine was also active in a variety of Jewish causes. Since the late 1950s, he was active in the Jewelry Division of the Jewish United Fund, where he held offices and chaired fund-raising committees for nearly two decades. In 1977, he was appointed the general campaign chairman for the Jewish United Fund, leading a fundraising drive that netted a then-record $28 million.

Levine also played a major role in helping to establish the diamond industry in Israel, where he conducted many business dealings and visited regularly with his wife, Mildred, who died six years ago.

In 1981, his efforts were recognized by the Jewish Federation, which awarded him its highest honor, the Julius Rosenwald Award.

Levine is survived by two sons, Carl and Jess; three grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.