Rabbi Yaakov Klass says that he believes his father was blessed with long life because of his meticulous care for his own parents in their declining years, citing the maamar Chazal which says that arichas yamim is the reward for kibud av v’aym.
Reb Anshel worked hard all his life. He had a knack for business. His talents as a salesman were essential to the development of The Jewish Press into the first successful English-language Orthodox newspaper in the United States.
For many years, Reb Anshel was the “outside” man generating the advertising revenue which supported the efforts of his younger brother, Rabbi Sholom Klass, a”h, as the “inside” man in their publishing enterprises. Starting in 1948, they published a secular morning daily newspaper called the Brooklyn Daily, which competed with the much larger and better-known Brooklyn Eagle. About a decade later, the Klass brothers, with the help of Sholom’s father-in-law, Rafael Shreiber, began thinking of printing the first Orthodox English-language newspaper in the United States. The original Torah content by Sholom Klass made The Jewish Press unique, and established it as a lifeline of communication among English-speaking religious Jews throughout the country. Anshel was very proud of his critical role in helping to make The Jewish Press the premiere publication of American Orthodox Jewry, but he preferred to remain in the background, allowing others to claim the credit.
He was innovative in developing advertising business for The Jewish Press from prominent local Brooklyn merchants on 86th Street in Bay Ridge and 13th Avenue in Boro Park. His two sons, Arthur and Yaakov, eventually followed in his footsteps, coming to work at the paper.
With the passing of Rabbi Sholom Klass, Reb Anshel’s son Yaakov assumed responsibility for providing the Torah content which has made The Jewish Press unique and continues its proud tradition of service to the community and Klal Yisroel.
Reb Anshel remained devoted to the success of the paper, working diligently on its behalf until he was well into his 90’s. After giving up his advertising work, he undertook the important behind-the-scenes task of maintaining the newspaper’s archives, and continued to perform the task diligently almost to the end of his life.
Reb Anshel was born on Market Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1911. Not long thereafter, his parents, Moshe and Ethel Klass, moved their family of seven children to McKibbin Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and, like many Jews of that era, struggled economically to make a living. Ethel was a member of a distinguished family of Torah scholars. Her great-grandfather, Rav Yaakov Epstein, was a celebrated gaon, who could trace his lineage all the way back to the Maharal of Prague. For years, all 30 members of the extended Epstein family, including Reb Anshel’s mother Ethel, lived in the same house, and for many years, the Epstein family circle was an important influence in the life of the Klass family, including Reb Anshel.
In those years, many young Jews did not have the luxury of being able to pursue their education. Reb Anshel was one of many who were forced to drop out of school early and go to work to help support their family. At one point, young Anshel left his parents’ home in Brooklyn to take a job at a Jewish-owned business in Fall River, Massachusetts. Even though the business was open on Shabbos, the owner valued Reb Anshel so much that he did not require him to come in on Shabbos as long as he agreed to come in on Sundays to make up the time. While in Fall River, Reb Anshel became active in recruiting members for the minyan in the local shul, and he was a great financial help to his family by sending most of his wages back to Brooklyn.