My mother, Irene Klass, was one of the most remarkable women I have ever known. She was small in stature, but a giant in mitzvot. She was brilliant, but also wise. She was deeply religious, but humble in prayer.
Mom was only five feet tall but she looked very sweet standing alongside my six foot father. She was petite, but she was full of spirit. She always dressed modestly, and she was one classy lady.
A giant in mitzvot; her chessed knew no bounds. Whether it was a child coming from Israel for delicate surgery, to an agunah who needed a lawyer, Mom was the first to contribute. When she learned of a couple needing funds to complete an adoption, she was on board. Through their good friend Zalman Arye Hilsenrad, my parents sponsored a poor family in Meah Shearim. I told her that the father of that family smokes and she should stop sending them money. She told me that it is her job to give tzedaka, not to tell them how to spend it. I don’t think that there was anyone who turned to her for help that she ever turned away empty-handed.
Mom and my father were partners in all that they did. The Jewish Press was their dream and they both worked to make it a success. They agreed to create jobs for friends who were out of work and thus giving them a parnassa. How many times I can hear her telling my sister Hindy and me, that giving a job to someone in need is the highest form of tzedaka. Of course, my mother never left home without a few copies of The Jewish Press, which she happily gave to people with whom she struck up conversations.
Both of our parents took care of their own parents but they didn’t see this as chessed. This was fulfilling the mitzvah of Kibud Av v’Em.
If she thought of a shidduch to be made she didn’t waste a minute, but was on the phone trying to see it through.
Mother was brilliant. In spite of a very difficult childhood she skipped grades a few times. She enjoyed telling us that when she was in high school her literature teacher used to ask the students, “Are Irene Schreiber and I the only ones in the whole class who understands Shakespeare?” She quoted whole sections of Shakespeare and poetry of the masters. Hindy, many times quotes some of the poems that Mom did.
She was a true intellectual, as was my husband, and she enjoyed sparing with him over famous quotations. She had a photographic memory and whatever she learned, she retained.
Wisdom, however, is different than pure brilliance. She raised us with her great wisdom. She quoted Pirkei Avos to us to bring home a point. So I knew parts of Pirkei Avos before I ever learned it. Hindy was a very obedient child and never got into trouble. I, however, had a few situations in school. My mother always took my side while reprimanding me and pointing out what was wrong. In that generation, the parents always sided with the teacher and never gave their child a chance to explain. Not Irene Klass. In fact, the principals hesitated to even call her down because she would give them a lecture on proper child rearing.
There wasn’t anything that I was afraid to ask my mother, and no matter the question she always gave me the honest answer. Honesty was one of the principles of her life. Honesty is so lacking today. She spoke the truth, and sometimes what she said wasn’t popular. But that didn’t matter. She wasn’t trying to be popular she was just trying to be a G-d-fearing Jew.
She was religious to the essence of her being. She asked herself, Would G-d be proud of what I am doing? She told me that if I always ask myself that question, I will know how to act.
Every morning after her prayers she would go out onto her porch, look upwards and speak her heart to Hashem. I believe he answered her prayers. I know that she got a lot of nachas from all of her grandchildren. With her wonderful memory she was repeating to me things that my children said when they were little, long after they were married. I have pictures taken a few years before she died of five generations, Mom, me, my daughter Shandee, her daughter Chani and Chani holding her baby, and another of Mom, me, Shandee and her son Rafi, his wife Leora and their baby Shmuli. On my refrigerator I have a picture of Mom holding her first two great-grandsons that were named after my father, Sholom Yuval and Gavriel Shalom. And Hindy has many photos of Mom with Hindy’s grandchildren. Those are the rewards in this world. I believe that my mother is also reaping the rewards of the tzadeikes that she truly was, in heaven.
May her memory be for a blessing and may all the little girls that carry her name bring credit to her.