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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Rebbetzin Irene’

Remembering A Dear Friend: Rebbetzin Irene Klass, a”h

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

What is it about a diamond that makes it the most valuable gemstone known to man? For one, it is known for its superlative physical attributes, mostly due to the strong covalent bonding between its atoms, giving it an extraordinary toughness. It also possesses remarkable optical qualities, being largely resistant to impurities, which gives the stone a pure and lustrous appearance. Finally, when properly honed and cultivated by adding multiple facets, its innate beauty is further enhanced and accentuated. This description, I believe, applies equally to my very dear friend, Rebbetzin Irene Klass, a”h; she was like a diamond in every respect, and a rare one at that.

My first experience with Rebbetzin Klass goes back to 1990, when I was invited by the New York Mets to open one of their ballgames by singing the national anthem. To the best of my knowledge, it was a first for the Mets, and perhaps in the history of baseball, that an anthem singer at a Major League game would be wearing a yarmulke. My close friend, Chaim Kaminetzky, who thought it too auspicious an occasion to let go unnoticed, called The Jewish Press, hoping they would assign a reporter to cover the event. We were fairly confident the newspaper would deem it sufficiently newsworthy, but what we didn’t expect, was for Rebbetzin Klass to declare that she herself would be present in the Shea Stadium Press Box to cover the event, and that she would also be writing the article. After completing my anthem duties on the field, I took a hike up to the press box to pay Rebbetzin Irene a courtesy visit, which marked the beginning of a warm friendship that continued until her passing.

It is no surprise that Rebbetzin Klass knew very little about baseball, but what did take me a bit by surprise was her child-like eagerness to experience something new – even at her rather advanced age (in fact, the first sentence of her article was a quote from her husband, the eminent Rabbi Shalom Klass, a”h, which was: “You’re joking, aren’t you?”). But this was the world of Rebbetzin Irene Klass, and it was a big world indeed, where nothing escaped her keen interest and curiosity.

Rebbetzin Irene’s antennae were always up, not only when it came to new experiences, but also when there was someone out there in need of kindness or a helping hand. I learned this soon after our relationship began, when she called me to request that I sing at the wedding of a young lady who recently arrived in the United States from the former Soviet Union. It was then that I learned three things would always be true when Irene Klass asked me for a favor. One, it would never be for herself; two, it would be very worthy of my time, and three, she would not be taking no for an answer. After a few such occasions, I came to understand how Rebbetzin Irene Klass employed her powerful role as matriarch of The Jewish Press – that is, directly and forcefully, but always politely and quietly.

Just seeing Rebbetzin Irene invariably boosted your spirits. She would greet you with the usual twinkle in her eye, and then would promptly turn and sing your praises to the person next to her. But one had to be careful not to be deceived, as this was not your typical “sweet old lady.” Though quite petite in stature (she was barely 5 feet tall), when it came to defending the Jewish People, she instantly morphed into a lioness protecting her cubs. Anyone who had the temerity to express an opinion to Irene Klass that offended her ironclad principles would be cut down to size very quickly, and those who mistakenly tried it – did not do so again.

Whenever we spoke, Rebbetzin Irene never forgot to inquire about my family, my daughter in particular, who was critically ill during the early years of her life. After nearly losing our daughter so many times, my wife and I learned very quickly to appreciate every day we had with her, and thus birthdays in particular became grand milestones. In one phone conversation with Rebbetzin Irene, which took place shortly before my daughter’s birthday, I joyfully informed her of our impending occasion. “Ira, what are you doing for her, for this special occasion?” She inquired. “We’re making a birthday party for her, of course!” I replied. “Not enough” she retorted without missing a beat. “This year, you’re going to do something special,” and then told me to expect a phone call. Within an hour, I received a call from Dovid Nachman Golding (aka “Ding”), Uncle Moishy’s manager, who informed me that he was under strict instructions from Rebbetzin Irene, and all he needed was a time and place. That Sunday, just in time for the party, Uncle Moishy was at my door.

Remembering Two Special Readers

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

As I was saying…

With apologies to the late Jack Paar, who uttered those words his first night back as host of the old “Tonight Show” after a three-week absence in 1960, the Monitor returns this week after its own little hiatus.

A number of readers called or e-mailed over the past several weeks, anxious for the column to resume. I thank all who wrote or called for their kind words. Every writer thrives on knowing that his or her work has found an appreciative audience.

Speaking of appreciative readers, the Monitor lost two of them almost simultaneously one year ago, and this week’s column is dedicated to their memories.

From the moment I started at The Jewish Press some fourteen years ago, Irene Klass treated me more like a family member than an employee, calling me regularly not just at the office to discuss the paper but at home as well, for reasons both professional and personal.

She always wanted to know what was going on in my life, and she did so in a manner that never seemed prying or intrusive. She would call my wife on occasion just to tell her how much I meant to The Jewish Press and how happy she was that I was part of the paper. She always made me feel that coming to The Jewish Press was the best decision I ever made – something I feel to this day.

Irene – whenever she called she would always say “It’s Irene”; not “Rebbetzin Klass” or “Mrs. Klass,” just “Irene” – would make a point of letting me know whenever an article or column of mine resonated with her. And while I’m certain there were times she didn’t agree with something I wrote, she never told me so. There was no second-guessing with her; if she knew you had the best interests of The Jewish Press at heart and you were doing whatever you could for the betterment of the paper, that was good enough for her.

When The Jewish Press endorsed Republican George W. Bush for president in 2000, a number of readers made their distaste known, with several threatening to cancel their subscriptions. These readers – thrilled that the Democratic nominee, Al Gore, had chosen not just a Jew but an observant Jew, Sen. Joe Lieberman, as his running mate, and worried that the younger Bush had inherited his father’s less than warm feelings toward Israel – couldn’t understand our endorsement.

I had only recently been invited to join the editorial board and Irene knew I was one of the members who’d pushed for the Bush endorsement. Even though the majority of members felt as I did, I was still the new kid on the block, and as the negative feedback mounted (there were plenty of positive responses as well, but the naysayers had all the passion), I had to wonder how Irene felt. Almost as if she sensed my discomfort, she called to tell me not to give it any thought – the paper had made its choice and would survive a few canceled subscriptions.

Irene’s son-in-law Dr. Ivan Mauer, the husband of Jewish Press associate publisher Naomi Klass Mauer, always found time, despite a busy medical practice, to call with a compliment or a friendly suggestion. He’d invariably begin every phone conversation with, “I know you’ve got more important things to do than talk, but I just wanted to quickly tell you…”

Whenever he would drop by the old offices of The Jewish Press, usually to pick up Naomi from her second-floor office at the end of a workday, he made a point of taking the elevator up to my office on the third floor just to say hello.

A voracious reader, Ivan devoured not just books but periodicals of almost every variety. He had a particular interest in political magazines and subscribed to just about all of them. He never missed a Media Monitor column and relished trying to set me straight when he disagreed with me.

Even though Dr. Ivan and Rebbetzin Irene are no longer here in the physical sense, I can’t help but think they’re still part of the readership of The Jewish Press. I know I sense their presence whenever I sit down to write a column.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/media-monitor/remembering-two-special-readers/2011/12/07/

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