Photo Credit: Rebecca Kowalsky
Naomi with some of her female offspring.

The extended family of legendary co-publisher of The Jewish Press, Naomi Klass Mauer, recently held a glorious 80th birthday party for her in the Israeli town of Efrat, where some of her children and grandchildren live. The Jewish Press was established as a weekly by Naomi’s father, Rabbi Sholom Klass, together with his father-in-law, Raphael Schreiber, and his wife Irene, in 1960. The paper is now owned and published by Rabbi Klass’s two daughters, Naomi Klass Mauer and Hindy Greenwald (and her husband Jerry Greenwald).

Dozens of Naomi’s offspring attended an evening replete with memories, with adults and children of all ages present, hugging and reminiscing with Mom/Savta, some of whom came from America for the celebration.

Dvora Waysman (left) and Naomi Klass Mauer.
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Among those who spoke at the dinner was Dvora Waysman, a longtime close friend of Naomi’s and celebrated author of fourteen books, one of which, The Pomegranate Pendant, was produced as a film titled “The Golden Pomegranate.” She read the following poem.

To Naomi – On Your Birthday

Our friendship is a life-long one –
Already fifty years;
We met as newly-arrived ‘olim’
With all its dreads and fears.
We watched our children grow together,
And I wrote for the Jewish Press …
The value of our bonding
There’s no way to assess.
Even when you were in New York
And I came on a book tour
Often I was invited to stay with you
And my difficulties were fewer.

And now you’re back where you belong –
Jerusalem’s your home.
I know you love it dearly
And never want to roam.
I wish you many happy years,
Good health and inner peace.
The blessings that you’ve surely earned
Should continue, and never cease.
I’ll always remember your kindness to me
When I truly needed a friend.
Naomi, I love you with all my heart,
May our friendship never end!

 

Naomi with her sons Zev and Dovid.

I had the immense pleasure and honor of conducting a performance of my “Playback Hamra Theater” for Naomi and the family. In Playback theater, the conductor interviews audience members, who share their stories and memories, and the actors “play them back” through improvisational techniques, accompanied by a musician. Ruth Sokoloff from Efrat played the keyboard and the two actors were Helen Gottstein from Jerusalem and Asaf Friedman from Tekoa.

The stories were wonderful, some funny and some moving, and all about Naomi. Her offspring spoke about her dedication to the family while running a business, about her boundless love for all the children she was raising and for their children and grandchildren. They told stories about her dedication to getting them the best possible educations and, most of all, to her generosity with her time. They spoke of her tremendous faith in Hashem and how she passed on that bitachon to them.

They talked about the funny stories she invented about a monkey who had adventures and who always tried to do good deeds (and how each story was new), and about the experience of sitting around her during those stories, and how she was always totally there for them. They spoke about how she comforted them during the night, when they were scared. One of her oldest friends spoke about how they were friends before they were born, their mothers having been pregnant at the same time, about the wonderful times they had together, and how watching Naomi’s grandparents in shul was such an inspiration for her. Some storytellers spoke about her boundless hachnasat orchim.

Naomi with a granddaughter and grandson.

The piece de resistance was interviewing Naomi herself, who told the story about how she, after her mother’s urging, joined B’nei Akiva as a teenager and knew then she would live in Israel someday. She concluded with expressing heartfelt gratitude to her entire family and to Hashem, for blessing her with such wonderful offspring and for living in Jerusalem.

Naomi was presented by her children with a beautiful calendar created especially for her, with all the important family dates and with photographs.

Waysman wrote later to this writer: “The stories were ‘mimed’ with great emotional techniques, and unexpected improvisations… It was an unusual performance, and will be remembered for a long time afterwards, with appreciation.”

Naomi wrote to me later that “Your Playback actors greatly enhanced my Big Birthday party. We were all laughing and greatly enjoyed the performance.

“What is nachas? It’s having so many of my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren make this milestone birthday party for me, and express their love and appreciation to me.

“And in turn I cannot thank HaKadosh Baruch Hu enough for such nachat. My cup truly runneth over.”

Everyone present that evening will remember for a long time the stories about this woman who has become a legend in her time. She certainly has been an inspiration to me. We wish her good health, joy and nachat from all her offspring and from her work to keep the worldwide Jewish community aware and informed.

Happy birthday, Naomi!

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The author is an award-winning journalist, artistic director of Raise Your Spirits Theatre and the editor-in-chief of WholeFamily.com.