April 20, 2024
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KBY Honors the Memory of Eli Klein z”l

Over 150 men and women attended an azkara program honoring the memory of the beloved longtime director of Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh (KBY) in Israel, Mr. Eli Klein, z”l. The event was held on February 2 at the Yeshiva University campus in Upper Manhattan.

Starting in 1964, Mr. Klein served KBY with great distinction for more than 50 years, and is credited with developing the yeshiva’s beautiful campus and securing its position as one of Israel’s leading Hesder yeshivot today. He was widely trusted and revered as a father figure for the yeshiva’s extended family around the world.

Born in Germany, Eli Klein, along with his parents and siblings, escaped the Nazis and arrived in the United States in 1940. He studied at Yeshiva University, served in the U.S. military, and was director of Bnei Akiva of North America before making aliyah to Israel with his wife, Chava, in 1955.

The hour-long azkara program featured several prominent speakers. Rabbi Mordechai Willig, a rosh yeshiva at YU’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS), served as the master of ceremonies. Rabbi Willig had known Mr. Klein for more than 50 years, and revered him as a model of selfless dedication to KBY and its students.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Blachman, the dean of the KBY Overseas Students Program, described Mr. Klein’s unique personality. He compared Eli Klein to Rav Safra, a role model in the Talmud, for his ability to internalize classic qualities of holiness (kedusha) into his daily life. According to Rav Blachman, Eli Klein presented himself to the world as a distinguished, perfect gentleman, known for his understatement and reticent silence. Whenever he did speak, Mr. Klein’s words always commanded the deepest respect. Rav Blachman called Mr. Klein a role model for all who wish to make this a better world.

Rav Hershel Schachter, the rosh hayeshiva of RIETS, recalled Eli Klein and his family as neighbors and friends when he was growing up. Rav Schachter also shared his fond memories of several visits to Mr. Klein’s home on the KBY campus years later, and spending Rosh Hashanah there.

Rav Gavriel Saraf spoke on behalf of himself and Rav Aharon Friedman, both of whom were present to represent KBY as newly appointed assistant roshei yeshiva. Speaking in Hebrew, Rav Saraf noted that he had been a regular Talmud study partner with Eli Klein for the past 20 years. Their learning association had begun when Mr. Klein was 70 years old.

Rav Saraf believes that Mr. Klein was blessed to live long enough to complete the study of the entire Talmud with him as a reward from God for his many years of selfless dedication to the yeshiva. He was constantly aware of Mr. Klein’s deep love for Torah because whenever he studied Gemara, he would do so to a little song from his heart.

Manny Adler, of Teaneck, New Jersey, is a partner in the nationwide law firm of Blank Rome. He attended KBY 44 years ago, and spoke at the azkara on behalf of thousands of his fellow KBY alumni around the world. He recalled Mr. Klein treating him and all other KBY students as “young princes, bnei melachim,” who deserved nothing but the very best, and that Eli Klein dedicated himself to building up the KBY campus to meet that high standard. Mr. Adler also recalled that Mr. Klein always spoke of the roshei yeshiva and rabbis on the KBY faculty with the greatest reverence.

“With the passing of Rav Goldvicht (the founding rosh yeshiva), Mr. Bernard Hochstein (American Friends of KBY’s longtime president) and now Mr. Klein, we have lost our last link to the founding fathers of the yeshiva,” Mr. Adler said. “The first two were giants of Torah and philanthropy, and Eli taught us all profound lessons of derech eretz and ahavat Yisrael (courtesy and love for Israel), which will endure for eternity.”

Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh is developing plans for a permanent tribute on the yeshiva campus. The announcement of this tribute will be forthcoming. To make a tax-deductible donation in Mr. Klein’s memory, please contact the American Friends office at (718) 645-3130 or [email protected].

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