The first time I met Irene Klass, of blessed memory, was in Israel. I was an olah hadasha (new immigrant) in 1971, and she had come to visit her daughter Naomi, who at that time lived near me in the Jerusalem suburb of Kiryat Moshe. “What do you do?” she asked me. “Well, I’m a writer, but haven’t found much work in Israel. In Australia, I was helping my husband in his pharmacy as a Revlon Beauty Consultant.”
“Would you like to write a beauty column for Tthe Jewish Press?” she asked me, “I’m the Editor of the Women’s Page.” So began my four decades-long association with The Jewish Press, with my dear friend Naomi and this wonderful lady who went out of her way to help Jews, and especially Israeli Jews, at every opportunity.
Irene was a gracious, intelligent, creative and generous lady – and I experienced all of those qualities when I would visit her. Whenever I came to New York for a book tour, I always made a point of visiting her and I always stayed with Naomi who has inherited her mother’s warmth and generosity.
All my memories make me smile, particularly a lovely weekend to which they invited me to join them at the Homowack Hotel in the Catskill Mountains. Rabbi Klass, Irene’s husband, was the Shabbat speaker. He was a man of great scholarship. When Irene entered the dining room, all eyes would turn to her – impeccably dressed, beautifully coiffed and a lady who inspired admiration in everyone.
At another time, Irene invited me to join her and Naomi for lunch. Although I didn’t remember it, Irene recalled that once I had told her that I loved rice pudding – it reminded me of my late mother who used to make it for me as a treat when I was young. This wonderful woman had spent the whole morning preparing it as a surprise for me. I can still recall the creamy custard, the perfect soft grains of rice, the aroma of the nutmeg sprinkled on top. I remember hugging her for this thoughtful gesture. Irene, I loved and admired you!
Sadly, the latter years of Irene’s life were difficult, but in earlier years she was a devoted wife to Rabbi Klass and an excellent editor. She was also a writer and poet in her own right – loving mother to Naomi and Hindy, grandmother and great-grandmother a petite lady with a beautiful smile and a great heart.
Irene, I will never forget you!