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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Irene Klass’

Irene Klass: A Pioneer At The Jewish Press And In Life

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Irene Klass, the cofounder and publisher of The Jewish Press, the first nationally-distributed Orthodox Jewish newspaper in the U.S., died last week. She was 94.

A larger-than-life newspaperwoman who helped her husband, Rabbi Sholom Klass, found and build the largest Jewish weekly in America over the last 50 years, Mrs. Klass maintained a reputation for being preternaturally able to spot writing talent and for having a knack at grassroots marketing. Her efforts contributed to the great growth of The Jewish Press over the years.

In addition to her Jewish Press persona, Mrs. Klass became the matriarch of her extended family and, by the sheer force of her charm and friendliness, an increasingly large circle of friends.

But it was at The Jewish Press where Mrs. Klass had her most prominent impact. She discovered and gave writing space to little-known but talented personalities like Rabbi Meir Kahane and Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis; along with Rabbi Klass, determined the look and feel of the newspaper; and became half of the public image of The Jewish Press – always carrying under her arm several copies of the latest issue wherever she would go.

“She was a queen in the true sense of the word,” said Molly Resnick, a close friend and founder of Mothers Against Teaching Children to Kill and Hate. “Regal in bearing and caring for everyone. She always put God Almighty at the forefront, wishing that more people could see the beauty of His Torah wisdom.”

Irene Schreiber, the oldest of three girls, was born in 1916 on Manhattan’s Lower East Side to Raphael and Nettie (Weiss) Schreiber. The family moved to several neighborhoods before settling in Brighton Beach, on the southwestern edge of Brooklyn.

 

Irene Klass (left) , with her sister Helen,

around the time of her bat mitzvah

As an adult, Mrs. Klass felt that her yichus, or Jewish lineage, was an important part of who she was and would make sure to remind her grandchildren that the famed Divrei Chaim was her great-great-uncle, and that she was closely related to the Chasam Sofer.

Throughout school, she and her two sisters earned a reputation for brilliance and excellence. She would frequently repeat how an elementary English teacher would ask the class if she and Ms. Schreiber were the only ones who had read and understood Shakespeare. Because she was charged with taking care of her younger sisters, Mrs. Klass did not get the opportunity to attend college, but she still devoured much literature and eventually books of Torah to hold her own in conversations on most topics.

When she was ready to get married she looked for a talmid chacham when most of her friends were looking for someone handsome and rich. She also began attending Torah classes, and soon met Rabbi Sholom Klass, who regularly lectured on the Gemara.

They got married in 1940 and had two daughters, Naomi (Klass Mauer) and Hindy (Greenwald). They soon moved from Brighton Beach to the neighboring town of Manhattan Beach, where just a handful of Orthodox families resided.

Mrs. Klass shared many of her husband’s ambitions, including that of putting out a newspaper. Rabbi Klass’s first foray into the field was the Oceanside News, a four-page publication, and she would go with him to deliver it door to door.

 

Klass family circa 1926

Rabbi Klass started other publications – the Brooklyn Weekly and the Brooklyn Daily – before realizing his dream of producing a newspaper filled with Torah. It was Mrs. Klass who shaped much of the look of The Jewish Press, insisting that the stories that animated her husband’s lectures and made them so popular be included in the paper. The Tales of the Gaonim and the Midrash became one of the most popular columns of the paper, and continue to be reproduced to this day. Another column she pushed for inclusion was the wildly popular Questions and Answers, where Rabbi Klass would answer questions on halacha from readers. The best of that column has been collected in three widely read books.

Over the years the paper matured; in addition to its heavy Torah content, it became an important advocate for Israel. Hundreds of thousands of American Jews looked to The Jewish Press for solace during the Six-Day War in 1967 and the Yom Kippur War in 1973 – and throughout the 70s and 80s.

The newspaper also increasingly played an important role on the American Jewish scene, serving as a liaison for the Jewish community to local, state and federal officials.

Mrs. Klass herself was a very accomplished writer. In The Jewish Press, she wrote scores of articles and poems.

At home, Mrs. Klass was the caretaker not just for her husband and daughters but also for the many extended relatives who came to live with them at various times: Her father, Rabbi Klass’s parents, siblings and cousins, and friends.

Longtime friends and relatives emphasize several aspects of her life and personality: her vibrancy, her intelligence, her enthusiasm for the newspaper, and her tzedakah.

Her vibrancy was reflected in Mrs. Klass’s zest for life. In addition to her prose and poems, she wrote a few songs, and saw to it that they’d be recorded. Additionally, her simcha dancing, which she practiced and displayed at her vacation spots – the Pioneer Hotel and then the Homowack Hotel – was highly admired.

She would pass down aphorisms to her children and grandchildren, such as, “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again,” “You don’t have to be good at everything, take something and make it your best,” “Good better best. Never let it rest until your good is better and your better is best.”

Her intelligence was evident to everyone she met. “Irene Klass had a keen intellect,” said Prof. Paul Eidelberg, a Jewish Press columnist. “I recall our driving back together from a meeting in Manhattan. Her familiarity and understanding of one of my books – which is not an easy read – astonished me.”

She displayed intelligence not just in her book knowledge but also in her adaptation of healthful practices. She was a health fanatic, long before it was in vogue, advocating and practicing a healthful diet, and teaching those she met how to properly wash their hands.

She was also fanatical about The Jewish Press. She believed deeply in its content and preached its virtues every place she would go. She’d give friends and acquaintances free subscriptions not just to market the paper but also to expose them to all of its benefits.

“Irene encouraged people of all ages to get involved,” Nachum Segal, a longtime friend and a radio talk show host, said. “Her primary method was through writing, but no matter what the vehicle was, she wanted people to feel they had the ability to make a difference by expressing their opinion . [Many listeners] remembered how she would speak to young women and press them to express themselves.”

Dr. Miriam Adahan, a Jewish Press contributor and book author, called Mrs. Klass “a courageous woman.” “She spoke out fearlessly about issues that others were afraid to address,” she said, “such as domestic violence and political corruption. The fact that she published my articles was what gave me the impetus to keep writing, which led to many books and a thriving career, Baruch Hashem. I will be forever grateful to her for all that she did for me, personally, and for klal Yisrael.”

Her tzedakah was legendary. She’d regularly write out checks of several thousand dollars to cover operations, yeshiva tuitions, and basic expenses for families and individuals, many of whom she hardly knew or didn’t know at all. In one not unusual instance, her daughter Naomi alerted her to someone who needed to fly to Switzerland for an organ transplant. In an instant, Mrs. Klass paid for the airfare of this person she had never before met.

“She always gave, even when she could hardly afford it,” Naomi said. “She used the influence of the paper to help others get whatever they needed. The amount of tzedakah is almost impossible to comprehend. She was a tiny powerhouse.”

Aside from the advocacy for Israel in their paper, Mrs. Klass and Rabbi Klass became strong personal supporters of the land, eventually encouraging several grandchildren to make aliyah, and helping to support them financially when they first arrived.

When they went to Israel for the first time in 1972, Rabbi Klass came for 10 days, but Mrs. Klass was able to stay for three weeks. She took her granddaughters to the Kinnert. She had been singing a song about the lake her whole life, she said. They arrived in the evening, and when she awoke in the morning she went out on the porch. She said it was overwhelming, the song coming alive for her – how in her whole life she never saw such a site and was riveted by it.

And when she was davening in Israel in the morning, she said she would hear the birds chirping; they were joining her in her praise of God.

In Tribute

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

On Monday November 21, the 15th day of Kislev, at 11:00pm, Mrs. Irene Klass, the Publisher of The Jewish Press and Editor Emeritus of The Jewish Press Magazine section, passed away.  At the same time, her daughter, Naomi Klass Mauer, was at the airport, getting ready to escort the aronof her husband, Dr. Ivan Mauer, to his final resting place in Eretz Yisrael.  Mrs. Mauer wrote the following hesped for her mother while on the airplane.

 

Mommy, Ivan – how could I lose you both in one day? Two mighty giants to shake the very heavens. 

 

             Oh Ma, you were the smartest woman I ever knew. I was always so proud of you. How I hoped you were proud of me. 

 

Small in stature, a giant in every other way. So before your time. When we were children, you were already into organically grown health foods. Wash your hands you would tell us. Today, everyone knows how important hand washing is to prevent the spread of germs. 

 

You and Ivan were both true intellectuals. I loved your easy banter on scholarly works. Ivan called you Mrs. Shakespeare and referred to himself as William. When you were already hardly talking you looked up at him and said “that’s Sir William.”

 

But probably your greatest midah was your tzedakah. You helped people you knew and people you never met. You were gracious and generous. Like Ivan, you saved lives. Your tzedakah saved many a family.

 

And your voice Ma, your beautiful singing voice from which a foul word never left your lips. Ah, but you were so elegant. When I was young, I knew I could ask you anything and you always told me the truth. Chesed was your first name and truth was your middle name. 

 

Your articles and poems were extraordinary. Herman Wouk and Dr. Norman Lamm called you to praise them and when you praised an article of mine, I felt so honored.

 

You were Daddy’s strength. You gave him the encouragement to start The Jewish Press. You were his helpmate in every way. The success of The Jewish Press was as much yours as it was his.  

 

Irene Klass and Rabbi Sholom Klass

at their wedding in 1940

 

 

When I was young my girlfriends used to say we won’t tell you because you will tell your mother, and I would say, yes I will but my mother won’t tell anyone. You were my best friend. 

 

Your childhood was very difficult but you overcame everything. You had an inner strength. I know what it was – it was your deep faith in Hashem. I owe you my life and my strength and my strong faith. 

 

Mommy, please forgive me for not being here. I will carry you inside me for all of my life. You and Ivan will be meileitzei yosher for all of us. 

 

I love you my sweet, special, strong mother. You were greatness personified and we were the fortunate ones. Rest in peace, you have earned every reward.

 

* * * * *

 

The following hesped was said by Shandee Fuchs, editor of the Family Issues section and Mrs. Klass eldest granddaughter.

 

It is very difficult to stand here and say goodbye to Bubby.

 

It is even more difficult to even try to begin to describe Bubby to you.

 

To me, Bubby was the most special wonderful person in the world.

 

I am sure that each of my cousins will tell you how much she loved them, but it is impossible to describe the total unconditional overflowing love that I felt from her. My Zaidy and Bubby made me feel like the most special person in the world. I knew that they would do anything in their power for me, no matter what. In a world that is slowly going mad my Bubby and Zaidy were my stability, and my anchor.

 

Bubby was a role model of bitachon in Hashem.

 

Bubby would start each day talking to Hashem. She had a favorite place by the glass sliding doors to her terrace. She said she wanted to be able to look up to the heavens when she spoke. After she recited her brachot and Shema she would actually have a conversation with Hashem, beseeching Him on behalf of her entire family and the rest of Klal Yisrael. 

 

Most of you who are gathered here probably have stories of your own about my grandmother and her amazing acts of tireless chesed. Wether it was through a monetary assistance or some “pull” or putting in a good word, or just listening Bubby was there for everyone.

 

Before Rosh Hashana I heard a shiur about our purpose in life. The speaker said that when we are born we are given a name by our parents, which is of great significance, but it is our job- our tafkid in life – to take for ourselves another name, one of the names of Hashem. We should live our lives in such a way that one of the attributes of Hashem should be attached to our name and we should be known for that. For example Avraham Avinu is known as the Eesh Chesed. In that way we will make a kiddush Hashem and know that we have accomplished what we were sent here to do. Last night I was thinking, which one of Hashem’s names did my grandmother attach to herself? What is she known for? And I just couldn’t decide. I went through all the middot of Hashem and realized that she was such a power house that she achieved all of them. Rachum and chanun- compassionate and gracious; erech apayim- I don’t think that I ever saw my grandmother be angry; rav chesed- abundant in kindness; and emet – Bubby was a person of truth, who stood up for the truth, even when it wasn’t the popular thing to do.  Together with my grandfather, through The Jewish Press, they took on many causes because they were the truth and they were just, no matter what the repercussions were. 

 

Bubby was a true eishet chayil- standing beside my grandfather all their years together. It wasn’t always easy times. And as the eishet chayil in Shlomo Hamelech’s song she never seemed to tire or stop. From early in the morning till the middle of the night and beyond- if there was something to be done or someone to help Bubby just wouldn’t stop. 

 

Bubby prepared the way for us. For me especially, she was always there. When the time came, she became mine and Meir’s shadchan and introduced me to my best friend as well. When Hashem blessed me and I became a grandmother, everyone asked me what I would be called. They were shocked when I said that I was going to be a Bubby! They were sure that I was going to choose “savta”, however I told them I have a Bubby and that is what I hope to be.

 

The Yom Tov of Chanuka is just about here. It is a Yom Tov that symbolizes hashgacha pratit.  Bubby was firm in her belief that Hashem is the One and only One Who directs everything from above. Our chachamim instituted that we light candles to commemorate for all time this belief in hashgacha pratit that was demonstrated so many years ago.

 

Bubby is my candle shinning ever so bright on the path that she so lovingly prepared for my family and me.

 

May Hashem help my family and me stay on her well-lit path.

 

I would just like to ask mechila for not being there as much as I should have.

 

Please forgive me.

A Life Of Triumph: Mrs. Irene Klass

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

When Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch started dating his wife, they realized she was four years his senior. She, being a good German woman, suggested that maybe they call if off because she was older than him. He looked at her and said, “Lady, for what I have planned I need a mature woman.”

I can only envision that when Rabbi Sholom Klass, zt”l, and Rebbetzin Irene Klass, a”h, were dating, he looked at her and said, “For what I have planned I need a mature woman.” And he had a mature woman. Probably from the day she was born she was a mature woman.

The Gemara prepares us as individuals for the great interview each of us is going to face one day. It’s the interview the Beis Din HaGadol - the Beis Din Shel Ma’alah – gives every individual. Together, Rabbi and Rebbetzin Irene Klass accomplished tremendous things for Klal Yisrael and when they are judged, it will be as a unit.

I can only visualize Rav Sholom greeting his wife and taking her into the throne room in front of the majesty of the Beis Din Shel Ma’alah. The Gemara tells us the first question will be, Did you deal honestly, did you treat peopleproperly? I think they will be able to answer a resounding Yes. It’s a legacy they leave. Everyone knows the Klass family as honest and upright people. Yes, they’ll be able to say together, we treated people fairly, equally. The proof is in the children, the progeny. Advertisement

The next question is going to be, Did you set aside time for Torah studies? Rabbi Klass was a self-made man, but that’s a term that really needs to be fixed. There is no such thing as a self-made man. He had a wife who helped make him, helped form him. The Responsa he wrote and all the Torah he knew are theirs. And when the question will be asked of the both of them, she and he will say: Yes, we did. We accomplished. And we left the imprint of Torah in our family.

The next question will be, Did you toil in propagation? The Maharsha explains this refers to carrying people. I believe people who carry others on their shoulders, as the Klasses did, are a vanishing breed. You don’t see it anymore. People give tzedakah and then insulate themselves from the situation. Not the Klasses. They carried yechidim, they carried couples, they carried families, they carried neighborhoods, they carried shuls, they carried projects. So together their answer to this question will be, Yes we did – and our children continue to do it for us.

Next they’ll be asked, Did you hope for salvation, did you look toward Mashiach, the geulah? I would submit that the Klasses, through The Jewish Press, arguably did more for Eretz Yisrael as a nation, as a hope for the geulah, and for Klal Yisrael as a people than almost any other institution. And the Klasses shouldered the burden when it was not in vogue. They were first, they blew that trumpet first. So I think the answer to this question is obvious as well.

They’re also going to be asked something that’s not so simple: Pilpalta b’chochmah? Though there is more to it, in a literal sense the question means, Did you enhance the Torah, did you delve into it and bring out chochmah? And obviously the Klasses can say they indeed advanced concepts in Yiddishkeit. One his many legacies is that he championed the concept of Ask Your Local Orthodox Rabbi. It was something he stood for; asking sheilos was something he pushed people to do. Pilpalta b’chochmah? Yes.

The last question is, Did you anticipate, did you understand A from B?

When the Beis Halevi was a young rav in Brisk, somebody came to his door erev Pesach and asked, “Rebbeh, can I do the four cups of wine with milk, as I don’t have wine?”

The Beis Halevi responded, “Halachically yes, you may do it with milk.” He then asked his wife to cook a meat meal and bring it, along with matzos, to the person’s house.

She asked, “How do you know he needs meat?”

Mrs. Irene Klass, A”H

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

It is with profound sorrow that we address the death of Mrs. Irene Klass – publisher of The Jewish Press, wife of Rabbi Sholom Klass, zt”l, the newspaper’s founder and longtime publisher, and daughter of Raphael Schreiber, a”h, the paper’s co-founder.

 

Mrs. Klass shared her husband’s dream of developing an independent voice for Torah Judaism. She partnered with her husband for many years in bringing their dream to fruition and carried on with those efforts after his death in 2000. Extremely well read and blessed with a talented pen, she also contributed commentary, poetry and general articles that appeared regularly in the paper.

 

Mrs. Klass had a keen eye for talent and in fact recruited many of The Jewish Press’s most popular columnists – including Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, Dr. Morris Mandel and Rabbi Meir Kahane – to the paper.

 

She was a person of great character with a faith in the Ribbono Shel Olam that was at once profound in its recognition but straightforward and uncompromising in its application. She was honest to a fault, often telling others that anything less is a betrayal of one’s self. She had a wide circle of friends with whom she spent much time, but enjoyed a deserved reputation of never having spoken an ill word of anyone.

 

             Mrs. Klass was also known for her compassion and concern for the needy. She bestowed countless monetary gifts to the down-and-out and literally sustained hundreds of individuals and families over the years. Her loyalty and generosity to friends was legend – a character trait she shared with Rabbi Klass – and took an active interest in their families.

 

After the death of Rabbi Klass she regularly held forth at the center of the close circle of her children and grandchildren. She continued his practice of insisting that a d’var Torah be the centerpiece of all family gatherings.

 

Although she reveled in the accomplishments of her children and grandchildren, she never failed to note her pride in the development of The Jewish Press as a significant Torah learning resource and one of the important reasons government officials took the Orthodox Jewish community seriously.

 

The Jewish Press will have much more about the life and legacy of Irene Klass in the weeks to come.

 

May her memory be a blessing.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/mrs-irene-klass-ah-2/2010/11/24/

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