By John Robert Morton | 07/07/2022
Lifelong learning is an important focus of the University and its alumni. With a collection of alumni who are diverse, wide-ranging and dedicated, the University strives to provide learning opportunities to all students.
Yehuda “Jim” Lev is among those alumni dedicated to lifelong learning. He recently earned his master’s degree in homeland security from American Public University.
Growing Up in Poland and Israel
Jim was born in post-World War II (WWII) Poland to parents who were Holocaust survivors. His early life’s passion was adventure books. In his home in Krakow, Poland, Jim grew up reading the works of Mark Twain, Jules Verne, Daniel Defoe and Jack London as well as numerous novels about people fighting the Nazis in WWII.
His favorite way to pass time, aside from reading, was to imagine being a character in one of the novels that he read. With parents who were unwilling to share any of their terrifying Holocaust experiences, the shadows of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen always intrigued Jim. That curiosity led to a life where education would be an important part of it.
When Jim was 10, his family immigrated to Israel and settled near Tel Aviv. Once in Israel, he skipped the third and most of the fourth grades (in Poland, elementary school attendance begins at seven).
Jim began school in the last month of the fourth grade, without any knowledge of the Hebrew language. This lack of Hebrew influenced Jim’s rather poor achievement in high school, but it didn’t prevent him from scoring well on the graduation exam.
After graduating from high school at the age of 18, Jim was drafted to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) where he served for three years in the infantry. Later, he served in the IDF Reserves until 1974 and took part in the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War.
Furthering His Education and Travelling the World
Upon Jim’s release from the compulsory IDF service, he began his higher education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJI) in 1968. Jim studied a variety of courses in political science, international relations and sociology.
He did quite well at HUJI, although by no means did he excel. Jim says, “In all honesty, straight out from the IDF, I was more interested in social life and having a good time in my HUIJ dormitory apartment, rather than studying.”
However, Jim mentions that this time was when he began crystalizing his concept of what he wanted to do when he “grew up.” After receiving his bachelor’s degree in international relations with a minor in sociology in 1971, Jim decided to travel and left Israel.
He traveled for several months in Europe before arriving in the United States of America in December 1971. Once in the U.S., Jim stayed with a friend in New York City, where he became a handyman in a Queens hotel for a while.
After that, Jim went to live with another friend in Chicago, where he spent several months working in a restaurant named Tap Root Pub. After the Tap Root Pub closed, Jim bought an old Chevrolet and started his cross-country trip, which ended back in Chicago several months later.
At that point, Jim returned home back to Israel. Once back in Jerusalem, Jim applied for a counseling job at the School of Foreign Students of the Hebrew University.
Jim’s travels, studies and work at the HUJI helped him to improve his command of the English language, which provided helpful to him later in life.
Pursuing a Degree in Homeland Security
Many years passed between Jim’s graduation from HUJI and his decision to take classes for a graduate degree in homeland security. During this time, Jim realized that a bachelor’s degree would not be enough for him, so he decided to proceed with his master’s degree in homeland security. His decision to study for his master’s degree was mostly influenced by two factors: the cost and the course choices in the homeland security program.
Long before the events of 9/11, Jim’s interests were focused on intelligence, terrorism and counterterrorism. Terrorism, counterterrorism and homeland security are deeply ingrained in the Israeli psyche since before Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948.
Palestinian terrorism was something Jim grew up with, and it was especially pronounced in Jerusalem in the 1970s-1980s, when Jim was making up his mind which career to pursue. The “War on Drugs” has spilled beyond America’s borders, and it captivated Jim’s imagination, pushing Jim to join the Israel National Police (INP) and the Israeli government. Jim served as the head of the National Narcotics Division and the Head of Law Enforcement for Israel’s Anti-Drug Authority (ADA) until his immigration to the U.S. in 1999.
Jim believes that the best professional decision he made was becoming a law enforcement officer in 1973. His work culminated in several important narcotics arrests and seizures, as well as the apprehension of some Palestinian terrorists. He also participated in the seizure of large quantities of explosives and guns through the successful use of intelligence, undercover operatives (“assets”), and police work.
Having participated in and led numerous successful national and international intelligence and narcoterrorism operations, Jim, by then a Lieutenant Colonel, decided to retire from government service in 1998.
He intended to study holistic health methods to start a new career in healing and pain therapy rather than keep chasing narcotics dealers. Jim studied for a couple of years at the Israeli College of Natural Health Sciences in Tel Aviv and began practicing holistic pain therapy. He continued in this field for several years after his family moved to the U.S.
In 2009, after thorough research and contact with several online academic institutions, a consultant of American Public University suggested that Jim should teach political science and security studies online. Jim realized that most schools require a graduate degree in a closely related field to teach. Jim then made the decision to continue his education and complete his master’s degree in homeland security, a program that involved topics Jim considered to be his forte: intelligence and counterterrorism.
‘There’s No Such Thing as Free Time’
Jim says, “If you are really retired, there is no such thing as a truly free time. There’s always something that needs to be completed.” As for hobbies, Jim has spent 23 years seriously practicing martial arts (Shotokan karate) but due to several injuries and health concerns, he’s had to quit.
Like most of us, pets consume a huge part of Jim’s life. Dogs are Jim’s passion. In Jim’s opinion, dogs are the ultimate human companions, forever selfless and dedicated to their humans. Jim currently takes care of a Golden Retriever and a German Shepherd that fill his life with relaxation and joy.
A Message for the Future
Jim says that he is mostly “content with the outcome” of his life. He observes, “Each person is different; the duplication of others’ path or achievements even if you try your hardest is unlikely. Your path will not necessarily end up being something you wanted to be, but rather it’s something that you are dealt by fate, chance or the Almighty.”
Jim believes that each person should strive not to mimic the achievements of another. Instead, you should identify a single objectiv
e close to your heart and aim to achieve it.
About the Author
John Robert Morton is a Student & Alumni Affairs Liaison and has been with the University for 12 years. His bachelor’s degree in European history is from Troy University in Troy, Alabama. He also completed master’s degrees in political science and sports management from American Military University. As a liaison, John Robert enjoys helping students and alumni to achieve their personal and professional goals.