I can never forget that day in the year 2000. It was January and I was in Israel for the birth of my granddaughter Chaya Rachel, the daughter of my daughter Michal. This was Michal’s fifth child and she came quickly, so I actually arrived in Israel a few days after her birth.
I had planned to stay in Israel for three weeks, but only a week into my trip I received a call from my daughter Shandee telling me that my father was in the hospital and it didn’t look good. One by one, my children called and advised me to get on the next plane back. I did and arrived on Friday morning. My husband picked me up at the airport and we went directly to the hospital.
My father’s eyes filled with tears. He told me that he was afraid that he would never see me again, and if it brought me back to his side, he wasn’t sorry to be in the hospital. I was shocked. He had never spoken like this before.
I stayed for a few hours and then told him that we would return after Shabbos. We did, and he asked us to share some divrei Torah with him, which we were happy to do. He then gathered his strength and shared a dvar Torah with us in return. Torah was his life, and no matter the parshah, he had a ready Torah thought on it. That Shabbos had been Parshas Bo, and my father had wonderful divrei Torah ready for us.
“Bo” means “come,” and I believe that Hashem was telling him to come home to his heavenly reward. He died on Monday, two days later (the 10th of Shevat). A heavenly reward surely awaited him.
It’s hard for me to know where to begin in describing my father. He was devoted to his family. He consulted with my mother on everything and respected her advice. He was dedicated to me and my sister Hindy, and he took care of his entire family. Those were the days when families often lived together. My parents took this very seriously.
Mother’s father, Raphael Schreiber, lived with us, as did my Aunt Sylvia (Mother’s single sister). On the second floor lived my grandparents on my father’s side and my Aunt Rivie. When she married Uncle Harry, they lived upstairs as well and were later joined by their son Josh when he was born. Uncle Labie also lived upstairs until his marriage. When Zadie Raphael found relatives who had survived the Holocaust, he brought them over and they also lived in our house for a while. The house just seemed to expand because my father was dedicated to taking care of everyone.
When my father started his printing business, he made room in it for all his brothers and his brother-in-law. And they all worked side by side. They were a team, and I think that’s why they were successful. Of course, my Zadie Raphael also worked along with the young men. And they gave him the greatest respect.
In 1960, my father started The Jewish Press. It was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream – to launch a newspaper that would teach Torah and be a voice for Jews all over the world. No problem was too unimportant for him, and so The Jewish Press dealt with autopsies and Sunday blue laws and shechita and wearing a yarmulka at work, etc., etc., etc. Israel was also very important to him and he ran columns from rabbis in the Knesset to the prime minister himself. But the columns my father authored were Torah columns – “Questions and Answers,” “Tales from the Medrash,” and “Tales from the Gaonim.”
I still meet people who tell me they became Orthodox through The Jewish Press. And others tell me The Jewish Press was instrumental in saving them from very difficult situations. I recently read about one such person in an article in The Jewish Press about a shul called Shomrei Emunah. Its rabbi, Rav Friedman, told the article’s author that he had a close relationship with Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, and on a visit to him in Bnei Brak in the 1980s he learned of a man who needed a life-saving procedure that was very expensive. He needed around $10,000 a week.
Rav Friedman came back to New York unsure how he could possibly raise that amount of money. He decided to put an ad in The Jewish Press. “Amazingly,” he said, “every single week the money was raised with $8,000 a week coming from the ad he placed in The Jewish Press.” Rav Friedman said that he never expressed hakaras hatov to The Jewish Press and its readers and was now happy to be able to. Just one more zechus for you, Dad.
Another recollection, this one from Beth Sarafraz, who worked in the newsroom many years ago, as she was reminiscing with a former co-worker: “Do you have any idea what the Klass family created for every person working or writing for The Jewish Press? All these years later, we all remember Rabbi Klass’s unique enterprise as the happiest time of our lives. Reconnecting and remembering the people, the stories, and the mission is to feel yourself laughing through tears and wishing for a reset from Hashem to go back there again. Who can believe that it was decades ago? G-d bless The Jewish Press and your amazing family.”
I remember once passing by the desk of Arnold Fine who was with my father almost from the beginning. This was after my father was no longer alive, and I saw a picture of him taped to Arnie’s desk. He saw me looking at it and said, “Do you know why I continue to work here?” (he was already quite elderly). “It’s because of him that I come in every day,” he said, pointing to the picture.
My father treated his workers with respect – they were a team – and he never cashed his check before everyone else got paid. He didn’t just study Torah; he lived it. And he passed it on to us. Now for a more current story of hakarat hatov and The Jewish Press: My son Zevie Schwartz recently met Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon in Jerusalem, and he told him the following story. Shortly after the expulsion from Gush Katif, he started an organization called Taasukatif to support and help find jobs for the expelled settlers. We put in an article about this organization in the paper and included information on how and where people could donate.
Shortly thereafter, Rabbi Rimon got a call from a man who told him that he needed to speak to him urgently about the specific details of the organization and bank information. Rabbi Rimon gave him the information and this man told him that he wanted to do something very meaningful because he only had a few more days to live. He donated close to $300,000, and two days later he passed away. Rabbi Rimon told Zevie that he never had a chance to thank The Jewish Press for the part we played in that mitzvah. Yes, my beloved father, your vision continues to bear fruit, and with G-d’s help we will be able to continue in your footsteps.
Father lived to see three generations of family all living a Torah life. And all of those named after him, and all the rest of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren, continue his legacy. What greater beracha could anyone ask for?
May his memory be a blessing.