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January 20, 2017 / 22 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Young Israel’

Local Executive Attends OU Conference

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Reva Homnick, of Young Israel of Hollywood, addressed her colleagues on “Navigating the Transitions of Lay and Professional Leadership.”

Forty executive directors, including Reva Homnick of Hollywood, attended the Fourth Annual OU Executive Directors Conference, presented by the OU’s Karasick Synagogue Services Department.

The event, with the theme “Communication: Strengthening Communities, Strengthening Shuls,” was held in Baltimore last month at Suburban Orthodox Congregation Toras Chaim, and Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion Congregation.

The plenary sessions during the intensive three days indicated the range of responsibilities that executive directors are called on to handle and how wide their array of skills must be.

Shelley Benveniste

Kashrut/Yashrut: And The Alternative Solution Is…

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

It’s a basic principle. When rejecting the proposed solution to a clear problem, give an alternative.

On May 3, Agudath Israel of America issued a statement critical of the soon-to-debut Magen Tzedek certification under Conservative auspices. Magen Tzedek’s seal certifies adherence to high standards regarding labor, treatment of animals, safety, environmental concerns and corporate integrity in the products that bear its seal. The statement’s basic point is valid; its failure to concede the problem and to offer an alternative solution is not.

The claim on Magen Tzedek’s website is that its certification represents the new “gold standard of Kashrut.” This seems disingenuous. The claim might also lead one to believe the certification is meant to render typical kashrut certification unnecessary – though the group’s leadership has stated that its certification is not meant to do so. Such a conclusion would obviously undermine the very institution of kashrut. Thus the Agudah’s criticism.

However, it should be – and likely has been – noted that Rav Yosef Breuer, zt”l, already addressed some of these concerns from a different angle than the Agudah in his statement about glatt kashrut and glatt yashrut (uncompromising straightness).

The Torah, says Rav Breuer, “insists further on a conduct of uncompromising straightness (‘Yoshor’) which is inspired not only by the letter of the law but is guided by the ethical principle of honesty which then, would deserve the honorable title of ‘Yeshurun.'” (For the full article see www.aishdas.org/asp/2006/03/rav-breuer-glatt-kosher-glatt-yoshor_21.shtml.)

For Rav Breuer, “‘Kosher’ is intimately related to ‘Yoshor.'” This differs from the Agudah’s approach in its statement – namely, that the concerns of the Magen Tzedek certification “have nothing to do with kashrut.”

Yet while they are “intimately related,” Rav Breuer does not equate kashrut with yashrut, as certain statements by Magen Tzedek come very close to doing. And the concerns of the Agudah explain why. Such an equation performs a disservice to the strict halachic nature of kashrut.

The Agudah can reject Rav Breuer’s assertion of the intimate relationship between kashrut and yashrut. But since it recognizes that lack of yashrut in our community is a problem, it should be offering an alternative.

And the Agudah does recognize the need to address our own failings in the area of yashrut. Of note, in 2009 the organization invited the renowned criminal defense attorney Benjamin Brafman to address it on topics of yashrut in business dealings.

That said, the Agudah fails even to mention this urgent need in its statement. If it is taking bold steps to correct the problem, it needs to tell us what they are.

Done properly, certification of proper yashrut standards on food makes sense. Absolute equation of yashrut with kashrut does not. The Agudah expresses concern with the Conservative movement’s version of such certification but says nothing about Orthodox alternatives like the Tav HaYosher (run by the group Uri L’Tzedek in America) and the Tav Chevrati (run by the group Bema’aglei Tzedek in Israel). Such organizations are imperfect, but at least they are addressing the problem.

The Agudah need not support such organizations, but it should offer an alternative to them – whether with its own yashrut seal, with high profile yashrut campaigns, with new educational curricula, or with whatever its leaders deem necessary. Do it your way, but something bold needs to be done. It is simply insufficient to say that these concerns “are well covered by governmental regulations and other areas of halacha.”

True, yashrut is subsumed under halacha; the question is whether we are putting it forcefully at the forefront of the educational and public agenda. And can we afford to leave it up to the government to enforce its regulations on us – with handcuffs and on the nightly news? We need to figure out a way on our own – if not to enforce yashrut, then at least to promote it more forcefully.

Rabbi Yehuda Septimus is the mara d’atra of Young Israel of North Woodmere (New York).

Rabbi Yehuda Septimus

May The Brain Death ‘Controversy’ Die A Dignified Death

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

There has been a bizarre, unfortunate and hurtful conversation taking place in the public domain (including every imaginable forum) regarding the halachic viewpoint on brain death.

This has undoubtedly been spurred by a comprehensive halachic work of great effort and significance that was recently published through the Rabbinical Council of America’s Va’ad Halacha. Written by wonderful and accomplished talmidei chachamim, it takes its place in our beautiful “yam shel Torah” with many other fine halachic works, including those that strongly disagree with it.

Having cared for patients, been at their bedside as a physician and clergyperson, and sadly at times had to pronounce their death, I think it is very unfortunate that the ensuing debate from this critique has not produced a greater kiddush Hashem. And even more regrettably, that it has engendered the opposite.

It would be arrogant of me, despite my rabbinical position and many years of medical practice, to try to elucidate the halachic questions and answers regarding brain death. Other, much more qualified individuals (no false modesty) have already done so. Suffice to say, to me, brain death is a very clear medical and halachic issue. Great gedolim have paskened on each side of this controversy.

This controversy does not, and cannot, have a simple scientific resolution, despite what anyone may claim. Science does not and cannot answer metaphysical questions. The definition of death according to science is, however, open for debate and can change by popular vote of the appropriate academies or respective legislative bodies.

On the other hand, halacha is immutable, although its ramifications, based upon the available facts, may change. The “halacha lema’aseh” may in fact be different today than years ago for many issues, because of technological advances and/or better understanding of the problem. Halachic analysis requires taking the best scientific evidence available and using the halachic process to provide “lema’aseh” answers to real questions posed.

Based on this unbiased straightforward approach, indeed the only possible current resolution to the brain death halachic controversy is “Ailu ve’ailu divrei Elokim chaim.” There simply is no overriding clear-cut halachic reaction that all gedolim agree is the correct lema’aseh response. And that is the one incontrovertible fact that seems to be forgotten amid all the tumult. Therefore it is very sad for me to see this beis midrash “controversy” itself take on a life of its own.

Why have I spoken up now? It is extremely difficult for me to remain silent when I see gedolim disparaged in the lay press (or worse, by other rabbis and talmidei chachamim) because of a presumed lack of either halachic or medical knowledge. None of the eminent poskim quoted on either side of this controversy would ever pasken a shailah without speaking with knowledgeable physicians who actually treat and care for such patients.

A posek must obtain state of the art medical information, upon which he then paskens. “Da’as Torah” alone does not give a rav the right to pasken something he does not understand or have knowledge about – and, in fact, no gadol would ever conceive of doing so. I have heard from my rebbeim that the Rav (HaRav Y.D. Soloveitchik, zt” l) took a watch apart in shiur one day to understand its physical workings so he could pasken a shailah regarding its use on Shabbos. People forget that physicians disagree, and our understanding of science is not foolproof. Contradictory medical opinions will lead to different piskei halacha.

However, strong differences of opinion should never culminate in strong language against individuals, regardless of how wrong one believes their position to be. BeisShammai and Beis Hillel argued about even greater practical questions of their day – questions that affected the core of Jewish life – yet I defy anyone to find a single offensive personal castigation by these “ba’alei machlokes” against another individual. Their machlokes was never personal; it was a machlokes lesheim shamayim, not a machlokes lesheim personal aggrandizement or secondary gain.

Not every person (or rav) is entitled to a halachic opinion. Having knowledge in one area of science or halacha does not automatically provide expertise in another area. How much more so (kal va’chomer), then, the need for individuals to refrain from proffering opinions on matters about which they are not qualified. And the vast majority of Jews are simply not qualified to render a halachic opinion on brain death.

Rabbi Dr. Aaron E. Glatt

Tolna Rebbe Visits L.A.

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

The Los Angeles community recently hosted a weeklong visit by the Tolna Rebbe of Yerushalayim. The Rebbe visited all the main Jewish communities from Pico-Robertson to Hancock Park, and the San Fernando Valley.


Upon arriving in Los Angeles, the Rebbe met with the city’s rabbis at the home of Rabbi Elie Ryzman, followed by his address to a communitywide gathering. He stressed the importance of caring for others, working and bonding with one’s children, and being a part of the Jewish community.


Tolna Rebbe giving a berachah to a Los Angeles Toras Emes Academy student. 

(Photo credit Rabbi Arye D. Gordon)



During his stay, the Rebbe visited the large throng of Yeshiva Rav Isacsohn Toras Emes Academy talmidim, followed by an appearance at Yeshiva Birkas Yitzchak. He then addressed the mechanchim of Los Angeles, offering them inspiring ideas on how to be better mechanchim. The Rebbe also spoke to the large Hebrew-speaking community of Israelis and others living in the Valley.


Other stops by the Rebbe included more yeshivos and communities, leading to his Shabbos stay in the Hancock Park area. After a Friday night tish, the Rebbe spoke on Shabbos morning at the Young Israel of Hancock Park and participated in a motzaei Shabbos communitywide melaveh malkah.



Tolna Rebbe (left) and Rav Yakov Krause look on as Sidney Teichman

writes the last letters in the new sefer Torah.



            On the Sunday before his departure, the Rebbe delivered a shiur at Rabbi Zvi Ryzman’s home. The shiur preceded a hachnasas sefer Torah dedication and presentation by Sidney and Marcia Teichman to the Young Israel of Hancock Park. The hachnasas sefer Torah’s program included the completion of the writing of the letters, an outdoor parade, dancing in the shul, listening to the Rebbe’s words, and partaking in a seudas mitzvah.

Rabbi Arye D. Gordon

‘My Father’s Soul Was Burning To Help Klal Yisrael’: Amos Bunim Discusses the Legacy of His Father, Irving Bunim

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Irving Bunim (1901-1980) is probably best known among Orthodox Jews for his best-selling, three-volume Ethics From Sinai commentary on Pirkei Avos.

Bunim, however, was far more than the author of a popular book. He served as Rav Aharon Kotler’s right-hand man and was one of the prime movers and activists in such organizations and institutions as Young Israel, Chinuch Atzmai, Torah Umesorah, Vaad Hatzalah, and the Lakewood Yeshivah. His son told The Jewish Press that when his father died, Rav Moshe Feinstein, the prominent American 20th-century halachic authority, told him, “This is not an aveilus d’yachid [a private loss]; this has the halacha of aveilus d’rabim [a public loss] because your father represented the rabim of Klal Yisrael.”

In advance of Irving Bunim’s 30th yahrzeit (December 11 this year), The Jewish Press spoke to his son Amos, who in 1989 wrote a biography of his father, A Fire in His Soul.

The Jewish Press: Why did you title your book A Fire in His Soul?

Bunim: Because my father’s soul was burning to help Klal Yisrael. The Young Israel movement would be the best example. At that time [in the 1920s] the Conservative movement was getting very strong and people did not understand the difference between Orthodox and Conservative. My father did, and the fire in his soul told him he had to make sure the world understood the difference and that a movement must be created to take care of the problems of the day without Yiddishkeit being compromised in any way.

And Young Israel fulfilled that function?

Yes. There were no shuls being built with mechitzahs in those days except Young Israel shuls. That was one of Young Israel’s main thrusts: to try to make sure that every shul being built would have a mechitzah.

Almost all the day schools and mikvaos in America were also only built because of the Young Israel movement. If it wasn’t for Young Israel, I don’t know if the gedolim who came to America [after World War II] would have found people to join them in their efforts. Reb Aharon Kotler used to come to the Young Israel dinner because he felt this was a movement that could relate to what he was doing.

Today some Orthodox Jews see Young Israel as left wing, and not as Orthodox as some other Jewish institutions and organizations.

In those days it was the only Orthodox movement. My father-in-law, Edward Silver, who was the district attorney of Brooklyn, told me that if it wasn’t for Young Israel he would never have been a shomer-Shabbos Jew.

You write in the book that some people within Young Israel wanted to align the organization with the Conservative movement. Why?

Because in those days most Orthodox rabbis did not speak English and did not relate to the public. The Conservative movement, however, had rabbis who spoke English and were able to teach Torah, and so many people in Young Israel wanted to move closer to it. The person who really made sure that didn’t happen was my father.

During World War II, your father served as chairman of Vaad Hatzalah. At one point the Vaad had plans to ransom 300,000 Jews from Heinrich Himmler, the Reichsfuhrer of the SS. Can you talk about that?

In 1944, the Vaad’s representatives in Switzerland were Isaac and Recha Sternbuch. They were working on a deal with Mr. [Jean-Marie] Musy, who was the former president of Switzerland and who had a very strong relationship with Himmler. Himmler agreed that for every $17 sent to an account he set up, he would save one Jew from the concentration camps. He even said he would show his goodwill and save a trainload, 1,265 Jews, from Theresienstadt and two train loads, 1,638 Jews, from Bergen-Belsen without being paid for it. Incidentally, on that train from Bergen-Belsen was the Satmar Rebbe.

The Vaad tried everything to raise the money Himmler wanted. The total was $5 million, and Himmler demanded a down payment of $1.2 million. Getting permission from the American government to wire money to the Nazis was another hurdle. The Vaad worked tirelessly, but the deal was eventually killed by Saly Mayer, who represented the Joint Distribution Committee in Switzerland. He was against bribes and ransom, and was not going to allow these things to happen. He got a message to Hitler about what was going on, and Hitler stopped the deal with Himmler.

In the book, you quote an American Jew who told your father he didn’t want to donate funds toward ransom money that might be used to buy weaponry that would kill his son in the American army. Didn’t this person have a point?

This was an opportunity to save 300,000 Jews. It’s not necessarily true that this money would have been used to kill Allied soldiers. It was a case of vadai [definitiveness] versus safek [doubtfulness].

Ransoming Jews was not the only time your father and the Vaad tried unconventional tactics to save Jews.

They tried whatever they could. There was a person by the name of Rabbi Yosef Farber, who was the head of Heichal HaTalmud in Eretz Yisrael and was trying to get his family out of Poland and bring them to Israel. He went to the Jewish Agency to get a visa and Joseph Schwartz, who was the head of the Jewish Agency at the time, said to him, “Rabbi, the law is that to get a visa you must have at least 5,000 dollars.” He said, “I have 5,000 dollars.” He asked him, “Where did you get the 5,000 dollars from?” Rabbi Farber told him that my father had put the money into his account. Joseph Schwartz said to him, “In this organization we do not do anything that’s not 100 percent legitimate, and therefore we’re not going to give you that visa.”

Rabbi Farber came to my father in tears and said, “You have to help me.” The next day my father invited three people to lunch who were very influential: Leon Gellman, the president of Mizrachi; Abraham Goldberg, the president of the ZOA; and Ephraim Kaplan, one of the foremost Yiddish writers of the day. He told them the whole story and asked them to go to the Jewish Agency and get Rabbi Farber the visa. They said, “We don’t know if we can do that.”

At that point my father got very upset and said, “The Jewish Agency has a big window on 5th Avenue on the ground floor. If you don’t go to the Jewish Agency and get that visa, I will throw a rock and break the window.” They asked him, “What good will that do?” He said, “The New York Times is going to come down and ask me why I broke that window and I will tell them one Jew doesn’t want to save the life of another Jew.” They said, “But Mr. Bunim, you’re not crazy, you’re not going to do something like that.” He said, “I take a shevua that I’m going to do it.”

Rabbi Farber got the visa.

In your book, you write at length about your father’s close relationship with Rav Aharon Kotler. Can you provide some details?

Reb Aharon always called my father his shutaf. He called him his partner in hatzalah and his partner in building Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, New Jersey.

Reb Ruderman [rosh yeshiva of Ner Yisroel] told me that Reb Aharon would not have become Reb Aharon in America if not for my father. All the doors were closed to Reb Aharon. Everybody felt that [a European-style yeshiva] didn’t belong in America, it was archaic. The person who opened all the doors for him to get support was my father.

What was it about Reb Aharon that led your father to become so devoted to him?

Reb Aharon was nonpolitical. His only motivation was two things. As he said when he came to Pennsylvania Station from Europe on April 23, 1941: “I came to America for two purposes – to save as many Jews as I can [from the Nazis] and to rebuild the Torah that was destroyed and decimated in Europe.” My father’s main purpose in life was to see that everything he did was with honesty and integrity, and, therefore, when he saw a person like Reb Aharon, who had no political motivations whatsoever and was only driven by his feelings forKlal Yisrael, he related to that.

A Fire in His Soul is about your father, but you mention in the book that you started assisting your father in some of his activities when you got older.

I was very active in Torah Umesorah and Chinuch Atzmai, and was very active with Reb Aharon. I used to go on very important missions with Reb Aharon, some of which were missions impossible.

Can you elaborate?

When I was 26 years old, Reb Aharon called me up and told me there was a whole group of Jews who had lived through the Holocaust who had gotten involved in smuggling gold. He wanted me to meet with the judge and ask for rachmanus. I said to Reb Aharon, “I’m 26 years old, I was never in court in my life, why are you sending me?” I argued with Reb Aharon for 15 minutes until finally I asked him, “Rosh yeshiva, are you telling me this b’geder da’as Torah and emunas chachamim?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Then I have no choice.” He said, “That’s right, but I want to tell you one thing: whatever you do in life, if you do it with emes you’ll always succeed.”

So I had no choice, but the odds against me were probably a million to one. I walked to the federal court and told the person behind the information desk that I wanted to schedule an appointment with Judge Lynch. He said he couldn’t call Judge Lynch since he had no secretary, and the only way I could get to Judge Lynch is if I knocked on his door myself. I knocked on the door and the judge opened it and asked me, “Why are you here?” I said, “I am here representing the chief justice of Jewish law.” He said, “Who is the chief justice of Jewish law?” I said, “His name is Rabbi Aharon Kotler and he is the head of the most prestigious rabbinic seminary in the world.” He said, “Come in.”

So I came in and I said to him, “Your honor, there’s no way in the world that you can judge these people like you would judge an American. These people were in concentration camps. How can you expect them to respect human law when they saw there was no respect for human life?”

It’s a long story, but at the reading of the verdict the judge accepted my logic and the sentence was suspended. When I heard the verdict, I ran out and I called Reb Aharon. I never heard such simcha in my entire life.

Elliot Resnick

Israel’s Rebirth ‘A Boring Story’ To U.S. Jews: An Interview with American Zionist Hero Dr. David Gutmann

Monday, March 29th, 2010

In 1947-1948 I lived in Boro Park where, against parental and rabbinic advice, I joined a Zionist group. By 1950 I was packing machine-gun parts for Israel in a home not far from the Young Israel. But what I did as a child does not compare to what my friend and colleague David Gutmann did for love of Zion at that very time on the dangerous open seas.

Dr. Gutmann was a 21-year-old Jewish-American volunteer sailor for Aliyah Bet, the name given to “illegal” Jewish immigration into British-controlled Palestine (1934-1948). Hundreds of boats tried to run the British blockade. One was stranded on the Danube and its passengers later sent back to Vienna and executed, another boat was bombed by the Soviets.

Once Hitler was defeated, British disdain for Jews quickly became visible. Some Jews made it, many (more than 1,600) drowned, and most were captured and imprisoned on Cyprus. The British actually sent some boats right back to Europe, to Germany, as was the case with the SS Exodus. This public relations fiasco backfired; my friend Ruth Gruber’s on-board photo of the SS Exodus made the cover of Life magazine.

The Jewish Press recently met with Dr. Gutmann. Although he is no longer young, he is a large and sturdy man, a solid presence. He is also very witty. His generation of heroes is mainly gone but he is still here.

The Jewish Press: How did you become a sailor?

Dr. Gutmann: I served in the U.S. Merchant Marine during World War II.

The ship manifests list you as serving on two ships, the Paducah-Geulah and the Ben Hecht. Were they the same kind of boat? Who served with you?

I served first on the Hecht, after that on the Geulah. I was an engine room oiler on the Hecht, a second engineer on the Geulah. The Hecht was purchased and run by the Irgun. She was a German-built twin-diesel luxury yacht originally named Abril (April). She sailed for the U.S. Navy on anti-sub patrol during World War II.

After the Brits left Palestine, the Hecht/Abril became part of the Israeli navy and was used to launch frogmen against Egyptian naval craft off Gaza. Last I heard, she was running tourists between Naples and Capri.

The Hecht/Abril’s crew was a mix of Jews and non-Jews, kids and veteran seamen, crazies and idealists . We ended up in Acco (Acre).

The Geulah was purchased and run by the Haganah. A twin-screw steamship built around 1905, she served during World War II as, I believe, a gunnery-training vessel on the Great Lakes. She was scrapped in Naples in ’49. The Geulah’s crew was more decorous than the Hecht’s complement. A mix of veteran sailors (Jews and non-Jews), and Zionistic college kids.

We also had a few exiled Spanish loyalist sailors and our second mate was Don Miguel Boeza, who had been high admiral of the loyalist navy. Our captain was Rudy Patzert, an old commie married to a Jew. He wrote a book about the voyage – Running the Palestine Blockade. Our Haganah commander was Moka Limon, a legendary hero of Aliyah Bet who later became admiral of Israel’s navy. He was the guy who pulled off the legendary “boats of Bordeaux” operation. We all ended up in the Cyprus prison camps.

Would you consider writing a memoir?

Depends on the kind of memoir. I wouldn’t want to deal with the whole operation – too much I don’t know. Perhaps something more personal and anecdotal. I’ve got a few good stories.

Are Jews still eager to hear your stories?

Despite the fact that I’m willing to speak without honoraria, even during 2008 – Israel’s 60th anniversary year – the response from heads of congregations was at best tepid. And since then, perhaps one in three rabbis show interest. Some who showed initial interest never followed up. Nowadays, they might suggest 10-minute gigs at men’s club breakfast meetings.

Why the disinterest?

Rahm Emanuel reportedly said, “I’ve had it with Israel.” I think a lot of Jews now feel that way. They’re tired of worrying about Israel, unendingly, from crisis to crisis . The Palestinians are the heroes of our victim-adoring age; accordingly, many liberal Jews have come to believe the Palestinian “Nakba” revision, the lies that turned a miracle into another Jewish blood libel.

But whatever their politics, modern Jews have little sense of history. I speak about the ’48 war, and the lies about it that are now believed by too many Jews. For most U.S. Jews, the ’48 war is an old and perhaps boring story. They saw “Exodus”; they don’t want to see it again. They don’t realize that history is the present, and that [post-Zionist] revisionist history is central to the attack on contemporary Israel. It is one of the manifold attempts to bring it down, first morally and then physically.

Did you stay in touch with others from Aliyah Bet?

Yes. I was one of the founders of the now defunct American Veterans of Israel organization. I held office and attended their reunions in Israel and the States. But that was then. Most of us are dead now, and I haven’t had a drink with an old shipmate in years.

Bob Levitan, our captain, participated indirectly in the breakout from Acco. With his Leica, he took ID-type photos of all the Irgun and Lehi prisoners, and these were later used in the phony ID cards issued to them prior to their escape.

What similarities, if any, do you see between American Jewish attitudes in the 1930s and 1940s and today?

In the 1930s and ’40s, American Jews sanctified FDR. Now they are equally loyal to Obama. Despite their growing awareness of the Holocaust, during World War II American Jews for the most part stayed silent – very few mass protests and very little covert action. “FDR will save the Jews.”

My fear is that too many contemporary Jews are preparing to repeat this pattern. They will not embarrass the great and good Obama with their selfish concerns for what they view as a victimizing country – Israel – that no longer deserves their loyalty. Too many will follow Obama’s lead and stay silent while Israel is weakened or even destroyed.

Dr. Phyllis Chesler

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.


* * * * *

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.

Naomi Klass Mauer

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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