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Joseph Lelyveld

LELYVELD, JOSEPH (1937– ), U.S. journalist and author. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Lelyveld was the son of Rabbi Arthur *Lelyveld, who became prominent in the Reform and civil rights movements. During his childhood, his father was largely absent, and the marriage ultimately dissolved. Young Lelyveld was often left with grandparents, and once with Seventh Day Adventists on a Nebraska farm.

A graduate of Harvard College with a bachelor of arts degree in 1958, he earned a master of arts in American history from Harvard in 1959 and a master of science from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 1960. Lelyveld spent a year in Burma on a fellowship before joining the Times as a copy boy in 1962. He moved up to reporter and had a variety of local and national assignments. One of his more memorable stories involved a fourth-grade class in New York City. Lelyveld attended class every day and wrote about the students, their life away from school, the teacher, and others in a series that lasted through the school year. In 1980, he got his first foreign posting, to the Congo. He was a correspondent based in London, then New Delhi, and then Hong Kong, and served two tours as the correspondent in South Africa. After his second tour in Johannesburg, Lelyveld won a Pulitzer Prize in 1986 for his book Move Your Shadow, about apartheid in South Africa. He was also the recipient of numerous journalistic honors. From 1987 to 1989, he was foreign news editor of the Times, and he became managing editor in 1990, the second highest job in the news organization below the executive editor, Max *Frankel. Lelyveld succeeded Frankel in 1994, and served as executive editor until 2001.

After he retired from the newspaper, Lelyveld was called back into temporary service after his successor, Howell Raines, was forced to resign after 21 months when a rogue reporter was unmasked as a liar and fraud. Lelyveld presided over the newsroom until his original choice for the job, Bill Keller, became executive editor.

In 2005, Lelyveld published an unusual memoir, Omaha Blues: A Memory Loop. In it, Lelyveld discussed his relationship with his father and his mother and his feelings about being Jewish. In 1996, when his father was dying, Lelyveld had conducted a journalistic investigation of his family. He was led to a trunk filled with family memorabilia stored in the basement of the Cleveland synagogue where his father served as rabbi. It took years before Lelyveld sifted through his father's letters, which helped shape his memoir.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.