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October 23, 2014 / 29 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Rabbi Sholom Klass’

Remembering Irene Klass

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

During my 25 years as an editor at The Jewish Press, I accumulated many fond memories of Irene Klass, a”h.

 

When I started my career at The Jewish Press, I had just become a grandmother of a baby girl. This began a wonderful period of personal and professional changes for me. As a former teacher, where one of my duties as an educator was to teach and advise a staff of aspiring journalists of the school newspaper, I appreciated the chance to work at a real newspaper. Being an editor at a popular Anglo-Jewish weekly newspaper opened new vistas for me. And, as a bonus, I had the pleasure of working for the legendary Irene Klass.

 

Way ahead of her time, Irene wrote many articles offering advice on subjects like hand washing and the potential damage caused by loud music at smachot. Those issues have finally caught up with today’s generation. Today, the media’s focus on hand washing to prevent illness and avoid spreading disease (along with the frantic use of hand sanitizers), and the danger to one’s hearing from the persistent loudness of bands and electronic music on iPods, is a testament to her forward thinking.

 

Rabbi Sholom Klass, z”l, andIrene, with theirextraordinary devotion to promoting many important issues affecting the Jewish community, used the influence of The Jewish Press to bring those issues to light – long before there were other Anglo-Jewish publications. Rabbi Klass’s Torah articles brought the light of Torah to The Jewish Press’s readers. I remember how Irene would never go to an event without a batch of the paper’s latest issue.

 

Both Rabbi Klass and Irene had a great sense of humor, and I remember the many delightful conversations I had with each of them. I enjoyed many phone conversations with Irene on every subject from raising children to editing columns in the Magazine section, from recipes for various favorite foods to the best cure for a cold. When I drew my first illustration for one of the columnist’s stories Irene wanted in the Magazine section, my fate was sealed. From that point forward, there were many opportunities to provide a picture to complement the content of the columns. I looked forward each time to fill any open spaces on the pages with a drawing. And Irene never failed to express her appreciation.

 

What I remember most, however, is her kindness toward and concern for everyone with whom she came in contact. Her generosity and chesed to anyone who she learned was in need is well known. Rabbi Sholom and Irene Klass instilled this trait in their children, Naomi Klass Mauer and Hindy Greenwald, who continue to emulate their parents’ wonderful example of tzedakah and chesed.

 

Still ringing in my ears, as I remember conversations we had during which I said something that amused her, is her infectious laugh that would warm anyone who had the privilege of generating such hearty laughter.

 

Irene Klass will be missed by everyone who knew her. May her entire family be comforted by all the fond remembrances offered, and may her memory be a blessing.

The Passing Of Irene Klass: The End Of An Era

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

It was with profound sadness that I absorbed the news last week that the petite, charming Irene, wife of Rabbi Sholom Klass, and publisher of The Jewish Press, returned her soul to her Maker.

 

Slight in height, Irene had the stature of a giant and was a ball of fire. A gifted poetess and grammarian, Rebbetzin Klass boasted a beautiful penmanship and magnificent vocabulary. She took tremendous pride in The Jewish Press’s Women’s Outlook section, which was her “baby,” but she contributed to all aspects of the paper.

 

If she learned of a recent divorcee or widow, she and her husband would find a place for the single mother at The Jewish Press, whether as a secretary, typist or advertising saleswoman. If it became known to her that an elderly gentleman who had led a productive life was becoming depressed after his retirement, he would find himself gainfully employed at The Jewish Press, where Irene and her husband would have the retiree surrounded by young employees who bestowed respect and honor upon him and made him feel worthy again.

 

Wherever Irene went, whether to participate in a simcha or vacation at a hotel, she would socialize and meet people whom she would hire to enhance this wonderful Torah newspaper. She loved Torah and was a true helpmeet to Rabbi Klass, whose goal was to spread Torah.

 

When I worked at the Jewish Press as an editor in the 1980′s, I would have to call Irene every week to discuss the layout and content of the Women’s section. It was before the appearance of the fax machine and since Irene didn’t come to the offices of The Jewish Press then, Rabbi Klass would bring me an envelope each week with all the articles and pictures to be featured in Irene’s magazine. I remember the first time I was instructed to call her, soon after I was hired to be editor. It was before the advent of Caller ID, and she didn’t pick up the phone. When an answering machine came on. I started speaking into the machine, leaving a message that it was Pearl Preschel calling. In middle of my sentence, I found Irene on the line. “I thought you weren’t home,” I said, “since you didn’t pick up.”

 

“I can’t pick up the phone, unless I know who it is,” she explained to me. “We get hundreds and hundreds of phone calls a day and this is the only way we can screen them, by listening to the machine.”

 

Before yeshivas and Jewish organizations had professional fundraisers, The Jewish Press served that purpose. If the worthy institutions weren’t getting free advertising, they were only spending a pittance and on credit, because the Klasses had hearts of gold and were true philanthropists. According to Maimonides, the greatest level of charity is to provide a person with a parnassah, a means of self-support. The Klasses fulfilled that mitzvah hundreds of times over. What was very special about the way they did it was that they behaved as if the employee was doing them a favor by taking the job.

 

The Agudath Israel of America owes tremendous hakaros hatov to Rabbi and Mrs. Klass of The Jewish Press. Several decades ago, when Rabbi Moshe Sherer was at its helm, Agudath Israel of American wasn’t a multi-million dollar operation with a tremendous budget and offices in many U.S. cities. The organization was not known at all except in Orthodox circles and was on a shoestring budget. Thanks to The Jewish Press, Agudath Israel became a household name and achieved tremendous power in the political world. Rabbi Sherer, who was very close to Rabbi Klass, was given free reign when it came to publicity, and Agudath Israel often had its articles and photos exhibited on the front page.

 

One time Rabbi Klass submitted an article from Rabbi Sherer that Rabbi Sherer had asked be published on the front page with its headline blaring in huge type over four columns. Rabbi Sherer was working very hard at the time on conversions according to Jewish law. Since the headline disparaged one of the movements of Judaism, I was not comfortable belittling other Jews – even if they were not acting in consonance with Jewish law – in so public a forum.

 

“Rabbi Klass,” I said, “The Jewish Press is exhibited on newsstands throughout the city. I am afraid of a chillul Hashem, because many people who are not Jewish will see we are putting down other Jews. Can’t we print this article inside the paper?”

 

Rabbi Klass said we could but advised me to receive Rabbi Sherer’s consent as well. When I called Rabbi Sherer, he agreed immediately, as Rabbi Klass knew he would. We printed the article on page 3.

 

Rabbi Sholom Klass’s deferral to Rabbi Sherer made a tremendous impression on me at the time. I learned at a later date that The Jewish Press never charged the Agudah for any of its full-page ads.

 

             It is to Irene’s credit that her husband’s entire family was part of the Jewish Press. Who could forget Lionel Klass, Rabbi Sholom Klass’s gifted and intelligent brother who worked as editor at The Jewish Press? Knowledgeable in Torah, he would spend hours at home typing up pithy Torah sayings to insert into the pages of The Jewish Press as fillers. He always had a container of vitamin C pills to administer to anyone who had a bad cold. He would regale the employees with fascinating stories and the latest medical research. He was the epitome of modesty and wrote quite a number of very interesting articles.

 

Irene Klass’s older daughter, Naomi Mauer, is the assistant publisher of the paper, and several children of Irene’s younger daughter, Hindy Greenwald, work at The Jewish Press.

 

Rabbi Klass’s nephew, Rabbi Yaakov Klass, has taken over the late rabbi’s Question and Answer column, and follows in his uncle’s footsteps with his love of Torah. His father Al Klass and mother Hilda Klass, who worked in other departments at the Jewish Press, served as surrogate parents to all its employees. Anyone who had any personal problems would find an ear with them. Rivi Rosenhal, Rabbi Sholom Klass’s sister, still delights The Jewish Press readers with her wonderful illustrations and insightful political cartoons. Rivi’s husband Harry would, from time to time, contribute his political insights in wonderful articles about Israel.

 

Very often, people would mistakenly believe that I was a member of the Klass family and would be surprised to discover I wasn’t related.

 

Now with Irene’s passing, I feel like a member of my own family has passed away. Irene, a wonderfully, talented compassionate human being will now be reunited with a giant of a man, her husband Rabbi Sholom Klass. Rabbi Klass was descended from the Maharal. Irene, who was a Schreiber, came from the family of the Chasam Sofer. In addition to their illustrious yichus, they were people with tremendous self-yichus. May their memory be a blessing.

The Passing Of Irene Klass: The End Of An Era

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

It was with profound sadness that I absorbed the news last week that the petite, charming Irene, wife of Rabbi Sholom Klass, and publisher of The Jewish Press, returned her soul to her Maker.

 

Slight in height, Irene had the stature of a giant and was a ball of fire. A gifted poetess and grammarian, Rebbetzin Klass boasted a beautiful penmanship and magnificent vocabulary. She took tremendous pride in The Jewish Press’s Women’s Outlook section, which was her “baby,” but she contributed to all aspects of the paper.

 

If she learned of a recent divorcee or widow, she and her husband would find a place for the single mother at The Jewish Press, whether as a secretary, typist or advertising saleswoman. If it became known to her that an elderly gentleman who had led a productive life was becoming depressed after his retirement, he would find himself gainfully employed at The Jewish Press, where Irene and her husband would have the retiree surrounded by young employees who bestowed respect and honor upon him and made him feel worthy again.

 

Wherever Irene went, whether to participate in a simcha or vacation at a hotel, she would socialize and meet people whom she would hire to enhance this wonderful Torah newspaper. She loved Torah and was a true helpmeet to Rabbi Klass, whose goal was to spread Torah.

 

When I worked at the Jewish Press as an editor in the 1980′s, I would have to call Irene every week to discuss the layout and content of the Women’s section. It was before the appearance of the fax machine and since Irene didn’t come to the offices of The Jewish Press then, Rabbi Klass would bring me an envelope each week with all the articles and pictures to be featured in Irene’s magazine. I remember the first time I was instructed to call her, soon after I was hired to be editor. It was before the advent of Caller ID, and she didn’t pick up the phone. When an answering machine came on. I started speaking into the machine, leaving a message that it was Pearl Preschel calling. In middle of my sentence, I found Irene on the line. “I thought you weren’t home,” I said, “since you didn’t pick up.”

 

“I can’t pick up the phone, unless I know who it is,” she explained to me. “We get hundreds and hundreds of phone calls a day and this is the only way we can screen them, by listening to the machine.”

 

Before yeshivas and Jewish organizations had professional fundraisers, The Jewish Press served that purpose. If the worthy institutions weren’t getting free advertising, they were only spending a pittance and on credit, because the Klasses had hearts of gold and were true philanthropists. According to Maimonides, the greatest level of charity is to provide a person with a parnassah, a means of self-support. The Klasses fulfilled that mitzvah hundreds of times over. What was very special about the way they did it was that they behaved as if the employee was doing them a favor by taking the job.

 

The Agudath Israel of America owes tremendous hakaros hatov to Rabbi and Mrs. Klass of The Jewish Press. Several decades ago, when Rabbi Moshe Sherer was at its helm, Agudath Israel of American wasn’t a multi-million dollar operation with a tremendous budget and offices in many U.S. cities. The organization was not known at all except in Orthodox circles and was on a shoestring budget. Thanks to The Jewish Press, Agudath Israel became a household name and achieved tremendous power in the political world. Rabbi Sherer, who was very close to Rabbi Klass, was given free reign when it came to publicity, and Agudath Israel often had its articles and photos exhibited on the front page.

 

One time Rabbi Klass submitted an article from Rabbi Sherer that Rabbi Sherer had asked be published on the front page with its headline blaring in huge type over four columns. Rabbi Sherer was working very hard at the time on conversions according to Jewish law. Since the headline disparaged one of the movements of Judaism, I was not comfortable belittling other Jews – even if they were not acting in consonance with Jewish law – in so public a forum.

 

“Rabbi Klass,” I said, “The Jewish Press is exhibited on newsstands throughout the city. I am afraid of a chillul Hashem, because many people who are not Jewish will see we are putting down other Jews. Can’t we print this article inside the paper?”

 

Rabbi Klass said we could but advised me to receive Rabbi Sherer’s consent as well. When I called Rabbi Sherer, he agreed immediately, as Rabbi Klass knew he would. We printed the article on page 3.

 

Rabbi Sholom Klass’s deferral to Rabbi Sherer made a tremendous impression on me at the time. I learned at a later date that The Jewish Press never charged the Agudah for any of its full-page ads.

 

             It is to Irene’s credit that her husband’s entire family was part of the Jewish Press. Who could forget Lionel Klass, Rabbi Sholom Klass’s gifted and intelligent brother who worked as editor at The Jewish Press? Knowledgeable in Torah, he would spend hours at home typing up pithy Torah sayings to insert into the pages of The Jewish Press as fillers. He always had a container of vitamin C pills to administer to anyone who had a bad cold. He would regale the employees with fascinating stories and the latest medical research. He was the epitome of modesty and wrote quite a number of very interesting articles.

 

Irene Klass’s older daughter, Naomi Mauer, is the assistant publisher of the paper, and several children of Irene’s younger daughter, Hindy Greenwald, work at The Jewish Press.

 

Rabbi Klass’s nephew, Rabbi Yaakov Klass, has taken over the late rabbi’s Question and Answer column, and follows in his uncle’s footsteps with his love of Torah. His father Al Klass and mother Hilda Klass, who worked in other departments at the Jewish Press, served as surrogate parents to all its employees. Anyone who had any personal problems would find an ear with them. Rivi Rosenhal, Rabbi Sholom Klass’s sister, still delights The Jewish Press readers with her wonderful illustrations and insightful political cartoons. Rivi’s husband Harry would, from time to time, contribute his political insights in wonderful articles about Israel.

 

Very often, people would mistakenly believe that I was a member of the Klass family and would be surprised to discover I wasn’t related.

 

Now with Irene’s passing, I feel like a member of my own family has passed away. Irene, a wonderfully, talented compassionate human being will now be reunited with a giant of a man, her husband Rabbi Sholom Klass. Rabbi Klass was descended from the Maharal. Irene, who was a Schreiber, came from the family of the Chasam Sofer. In addition to their illustrious yichus, they were people with tremendous self-yichus. May their memory be a blessing.

Legacy Of Unassuming Chesed

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

As someone who was intimately involved with the trials and tribulations of this newspaper for over a decade, both as a reporter and editor, I was privy to many of the fascinating stories that revolved around Rabbi Sholom Klass, zt”l, and his rebbetzin, Irene Klass, a”h.

 

It is safe to say that the breadth and scope of their chesed and tzedakah will be almost impossible to duplicate. Millions of dollars in various forms of charitable donations were quietly channeled to hundreds of individuals, yeshivot and organizations over the years. The Klasses did not do this for the awards, publicity or ego trips. In fact, Rabbi Sholom Klass did not enjoy being in the limelight at all.

 

During my tenure at The Jewish Press, there were occasions when a yeshiva or organization that had benefited from the Klass’s loyal generosity wouldn’t think twice about saying something bad about them. I know how much some of these unwarranted criticisms hurt the rabbi and rebbetzin on a personal level. On one particularly disturbing occasion, I prodded the rabbi by saying this: “Enough is enough. I want to tell the olam about how much money you and the rebbetzin have poured into these people and organizations. Let me write [about this]. Let me expose the hypocrisy. Without your generosity and the amount of publicity you’ve given them in the paper over the years, they would be nothing.” Though I know he felt betrayed and disgusted, Rabbi Klass looked me straight in the eye and calmly replied, “Steve, please don’t say or write anything.”

 

There were several occasions when Rebbetzin Klass would call me from her modest home in Manhattan Beach and ask to hold space at, or even past, the deadline for an item about a certain chesed cause that had inspired her imagination. Even if it meant taking dictation over the phone, you could not refuse the rebbetzin. Her determination to help an individual or an organization was paramount, even if it literally meant yelling, “stop the press!” As much as I could be frustrated as an editor trying to meet a deadline, I was equally in awe of the fact that Rebbetzin Klass refused to be shackled by the boundaries of time. On the surface the rebbetzin might have appeared to be frail, but her feisty spirit and uncanny ability to make a splash wherever she went transformed her into a larger-than-life figure.

 

Rabbi and Rebbetzin Klass provided the Orthodox Jewish community in New York and in many other areas of the U.S. with a coherent English-language voice when it was politically and religiously incorrect for a shomer Shabbat Jew to publicly raise his or her voice. Back in the 1960s, who had ever heard of a mass circulation Jewish newspaper championing the causes of building mikvaot in New York and adhering to kashrut consumer laws? Whoever read a Jewish newspaper that emphasized Torah and hashkafa, featured page after page of news from Eretz Yisrael, and highlighted bylined columns from both Menachem Porush and Yitzhak Rabin?

 

Rabbi and Rebbetzin Klass provided a pioneering pulpit for the fledgling yeshiva world, Orthodox organizations, and various charities to disseminate information to the community formerly unavailable to them until The Jewish Press came into existence. Without The Jewish Press, many yeshivot and Jewish organizations might have ceased to exist. The Jewish Press was also the first Jewish newspaper to provide a venue for the neophyte kosher food industry, which spurred the growth of kosher consumerism and glatt kosher culinary trends.

 

And I could go on and on about the endless chesed practiced by Rabbi and Rebbetzin Klass.

 

We all owe a debt of gratitude to the legacy of Rabbi Sholom and Rebbetzin Irene Klass, who devoted their lives to the proliferation of Orthodox Jewry in America.

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.

It’s My Opinion: A Golden Anniversary

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

I was an avid reader and fan of The Jewish Press long before becoming a writer in its pages. Our publication recently celebrated its milestone 50th anniversary and I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on the paper’s unprecedented impact on American Jewry.

 

The Jewish Press was the first English-language Jewish weekly published nationally in the United States. It was unique. It was printed in English, not Yiddish. It was unflinching in its Orthodox perspective, but took on many subjects that more timid publishers in the Jewish world would long avoid.

 

Its founder, Rabbi Sholom Klass, zt”l, was an incredible Torah scholar who understood the ways of the world. He combined his scholarship with a common-sense approach to tackle issues that affected Jews in a modern world. 

 

The paper addressed sensitive subjects and issues that had, in the past, been swept under the proverbial Jewish rug. Alcoholism, drug use, spousal and sexual abuse, learning disabilities and more have been explored. Halachic perspective on organ transplants, fertility treatments, end-of-life issues and other scientific debates have also been examined.

 

Frum Jews enjoyed and read The Jewish Press. Over the years, an additional readership emerged. Because it was printed in English and contained such a blend of cutting-edge topical articles, in addition to traditional material, the paper has actually served as a tremendous source of kiruv (Jewish outreach). 

 

Rabbi Klass was undaunting in his courageous approach to the publication. He used the pages of the newspaper to champion Jewish causes and issues. He used the influence of his position to help the Jewish people and the State of Israel. The newspaper continues this legacy of Jewish leadership today.

 

Mazel tov to the Klass, Mauer and Greenwald families. You have taken the mantle. You have continued in this extraordinary undertaking. You have and are making a difference. Thank you for being there. The Jewish community needs you now more than ever.

50 & 10: The Jewish Press and Rabbi Sholom Klass

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

I see him now in my mind’s eye. He is sitting at his desk in his office at The Jewish Press, a Gemara open before him, other scholarly tomes on the side, engaged in what he loved best: learning Torah.

An appointment to see the publisher of The Jewish Press – which this week celebrates its 50th anniversary as a national publication – probably took many people by surprise. No matter the purpose of the meeting, it started off with a d’var Torah by the publisher. If the person was learned in Torah, a lively give and take ensued. If the person wasn’t so learned – even if the person wasn’t Jewish – he was nonetheless treated to a Bible story.

That was my father, Rabbi Sholom Klass (whose 10th yahrzeit we just marked), the founder and publisher of The Jewish Press.

But it wasn’t always so simple.

Sholom Klass grew up in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. His father was a tailor and his mother and grandmother ran a grocery store. His grandfather, Rabbi Yaakov Epstein, was a Torah scholar who implanted a love of learning in young Sholom, who sat by his side mesmerized by his teachings.

As a student at Yeshiva Torah Vodaath, Sholom studied under Reb Shraga Faivel Mendlowitz and eventually came under the influence of Rabbi Dovid Leibowitz. After high school, he had to learn at night and work during the day.

These were the Depression years and his family needed all possible help. Sholom got a job working as a reporter on a small local newssheet and an excitement for this kind of work was born within him.

When his family moved to Brighton Beach, Sholom became a handball champion, bringing in much needed funds by winning tournaments. But on Shabbos he could be found in the Young Israel of Brighton Beach, giving a Gemara shiur to men much older than his 24 years. (He would lead that shiur for more than five decades.)

And it was at the Young Israel that he met my mother, Irene Schreiber. She and her girlfriends were discussing what they hoped to find in a mate. All the girls wanted handsome and prosperous. My mother wanted a Torah scholar.

“In fact,” she said to her friends as she pointed to Sholom, “I want to marry him.” They were married in 1940 and in addition to a Torah scholar, she got a tall and handsome man with bright blue eyes.

With the financial help of his father-in-law, Raphael Schreiber, Sholom realized his dream of owning his own newspaper. Grandfather bought a few linotype machines and the Oceanside News was born – a few pages of local news for the Coney Island, Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach communities.

Sholom and his brothers put the paper together and he and my Mom gave it out door to door.

By the time I was a child, Dad had expanded, launching the Brooklyn Weekly. The type would be set at his office and then brought to a printer. As a young girl I enjoyed going to his shop and having linotype operators print my name out on a metal slug. I particularly enjoyed the stories Arnie Fine would tell me. He had recently come to work for my father, writing many of the articles in the newspaper.

The days were long and the work was hard. Dad worked day and night to make a living. His brothers Albie and Labie and his brother-in-law, Harry Rosenthal, worked alongside him. Many a morning as I was getting ready for school, Dad would come home to daven and then back to work he went. I don’t know when he slept or ate, but he never missed his prayers.

Shabbos was the highlight of the week. That is when my sister Hindy and I had his undivided attention. We sat at the Shabbos table for hours as Dad discussed the parsha and told us stories from the Midrash and tales of the Gaonim. When we finally went off to bed, he took out his precious Gemaras and learned long into the night.

Those were the years when families all lived in one big house, and so it was with us. On the main floor were my parents, Hindy and me. My paternal grandparents lived on the second floor with my Uncle Labie and Aunt Rivie. When Aunt Rivie married Harry Rosenthal, the new couple continued to live upstairs. When their son Josh was born, he was like a little brother to me. I was a teenager when they all moved out and I felt bereft.

In the attic were two rooms where my maternal grandfather and Mom’s sister, Aunt Sylvia, lived.

Mom and Dad took care of everyone and they didn’t see it as a burden. They were so proud they could fulfill the mitzvah of honoring their parents and caring for their families.

For Dad, the same ideal applied to hiring people at the newspaper. He brought in people from the Young Israel. When a friend lost a job and couldn’t find other work, Dad would create a job for him. Even when it was suggested to him that some of those people were perhaps not as productive as they should be, Dad refused to fire them. He was afraid they wouldn’t find other employment. He just worked harder to pick up the slack, and from the time I was a teenager I would go the office to help out.

 

* * * * *

The Brooklyn Weekly evolved into the Brooklyn Daily and by now Dad had his own printing press. He continued to work extremely hard, but his dream was not complete. What he really wanted was a newspaper with Jewish content – a newspaper with which he could make a difference in the Jewish world. To that end he had begun putting out a small local weekly called The Jewish Press, but his big chance came in 1960.

The Yiddish newspapers that had once played such an important role in the Jewish community were, by the late 1950s, either diminished or defunct. A number of rabbis from the Agudas HaRabonim, led by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein and Rabbi Simcha Elberg, called Dad to a meeting and asked him if he would fill the void by publishing a religiously-oriented Yiddish newspaper for Jews across the country.

I remember his discussion with my mother when he came home from that meeting. He recognized this was the opportunity he had dreamed of but said, “I won’t do it in Yiddish. I will publish a weekly newspaper in English that everyone in America will be able to read.”

Mom was swept along with his excitement. She told him to be sure to include in the pages of the newspaper the tales of the Midrash and the Gaonim that he was still telling us each Shabbos.

It was a huge undertaking, but he was not alone. With Mom, my grandfather, and my uncles at his side and the promise of support from his alma mater, Torah Vodaath, he announced, as the lead editorial in the first issue of the reconstituted publication put it, the “emergence of the former New York regional Jewish Press” as “the first national Orthodox English-Jewish weekly in the United States.”

That first issue was dated January 29, 1960 and contained 16 pages. A single copy cost a nickel; a one-year subscription $2.50.

Dad hired Rabbi Chaim Uri Lipshitz from Torah Vodaath to help with content and circulation. Arnie Fine, still with Dad from those very lean early years, soon started his “I Remember When” column. Dad wrote the “Tales of the Gaonim” and “Midrash and Talmud” columns, as Mom had suggested.

He also started a column of Questions and Answers on halachic issues. This became a highly popular feature. He once told me he’d answered many thousands of questions over the years. Dad carefully researched every question and listed the sources for each opinion, answering with the generally accepted point of view.

He favored the lenient approach in halacha, as it says, “koach d’hetera adif” – if a heter is permissible it is preferable.

It was Mom who brought some of the paper’s most popular columnists to The Jewish Press. During a summer at the Pioneer Country Club Mom met the newly married Esther Jungreis. After they spoke for some time, Mom suggested she write a column for The Jewish Press. The young rebbetzin wasn’t quite sure she could do this, but with her husband’s gentle encouragement, she agreed to try.

She started writing that column in the early 1960s and is still going strong all these years later.

It was also at the Pioneer that Mom met Dr. Morris and Shirley Mandel. Mom never went anywhere without The Jewish Press in her bag. She introduced the Mandels to the paper and it didn’t take much convincing for them to agree to write weekly columns, his focusing on psychology and hers on nutrition.

And Mom discovered a young rabbi named Meir Kahane, whose weekly articles and columns would be a mainstay of the paper until his murder in 1990.

In keeping with his desire to help Jews all over the country learn more about their heritage, Dad added more Torah columnists, including one by Rabbi Abraham Stone, a very young man at the time, whose column continues to run today.

Throughout the years, wherever I’ve traveled, I’ve met people who tell me they became religious through the pages of The Jewish Press. Others, who came from small communities devoid of a large Orthodox presence, have told me that as children they waited by their rural mailbox on Thursdays for The Jewish Press. What they learned from the paper was worth more to them than the teachings of the tutors their parents had engaged.

 

* * * * *

Almost from the beginning, a visit to The Jewish Press became a must for politicians seeking election. And when issues arose that threatened the Orthodox community, there was now a voice to fight back.

Over the years there were several attempts to outlaw shechita. Each time a new effort reared its head, The Jewish Press took a strong editorial position and worked with politicians and other public officials to beat it down.

Blue laws were another nemesis, and with the help of The Jewish Press, Sabbath observers were eventually allowed to keep their business open on Sundays.

The Jewish Press fought off attacks on yeshivas, championed the right of men to wear yarmulkes in the workplace, worked for legislation to limit autopsies on Orthodox Jews and helped Sabbath observers overcome job discrimination.

The New York State Division of Kosher Law Enforcement was instituted thanks in large part to The Jewish Press. The paper raised the issue of Soviet Jewry and kept at it years before it became a popular cause. More recently The Jewish Press was instrumental in the passage of the New York State Silver Get Law. Dad was personally involved in freeing a number of agunot.

For many years The Jewish Press was the lone English-language newspaper fighting for Torah Jewry. And it was the example and success of The Jewish Press that inspired others to publish English-language newspapers catering to religious readers.

Dad was a staunch supporter of Israel. He leaned to the right politically and was particularly happy when he had the opportunity to meet with Prime Minister Menachem Begin. My persuasive father even got him to write a column for The Jewish Press.

(Another columnist was Ronald Reagan. After Reagan was elected president, he invited Dad to meet with him at the White House. Dad brought along a copy of The Jewish Press that contained an article my mother had written about Nancy Reagan.)

After the Oslo accords were signed in 1993, Dad devoted hundreds of articles and editorials to the folly of that policy. It pained him deeply to see Israel go down what he perceived – correctly, it turned out – such a ruinous path.

 

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As The Jewish Press continued to grow, Dad’s life settled into a pattern. He would spend the first part of his day in his study at home immersed in learning and researching answers to the halachic questions that continued to pour in. At 3 p.m. he would leave for the office where he would work late into the night.

In due time Dad published three volumes of his Questions and Answers and one each of Tales of the Gaonim and Tales from the Midrash. Throughout those years he continued to give his Shabbos Gemara shiur at the Young Israel of Brighton Beach.

As The Jewish Press grew, so did our family. I married and gave my parents their first grandchildren. My sister Hindy married Jerry Greenwald and they too gave my parents the nachas of grandchildren.

Oh, how my father loved to sit with his grandsons and learn with them. And he was a stickler for chapter, page and verse. “Where is it written?” – avu shtayt? – he would challenge them. I saw my own boys carefully memorize sources when they went to learn with him.

Whenever his granddaughters came into his house his face lit up and his eyes shone with love. All the grandchildren basked in the love of their grandparents and wanted to make them proud.

Most of my children live in Israel and Dad was very proud of that. Most of my sister’s children are working at The Jewish Press. All of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren are shomrei mitzvos and all are carrying on his legacy of living a life of Torah and helping the Jewish people.

Ten years have passed since Dad’s death. We at The Jewish Press have worked hard to maintain the traditions he set forth. We continue to be a voice for Torah Jewry and on behalf of Israel. Those who remember the paper from its beginnings know that while many things have changed, many others have remained the same.

The 50th anniversary of the paper’s becoming the first truly national Orthodox periodical is a good time to thank our loyal readers, columnists, advertisers and all those who work behind the scenes. You’ve helped make The Jewish Press the nation’s largest independent Jewish weekly. We look forward to the next 50 years (and beyond) with the help of God and your continued support.

I picture my father now, at his table in the Yeshiva Shel Maalah (the heavenly yeshiva), learning Torah with his grandfather, his father, his brothers and his many friends. And when he looks down upon us, I hope he is proud and filled with nachas.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/50-10-the-jewish-press-and-rabbi-sholom-klass/2010/01/27/

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