Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

14 Sivan 5767 - May 31, 2007 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











HaRav Naftoli Klein zt"l

By Betzalel Kahn

Rav Naftoli (Theo) Klein, one of the pillars of the community and a prominent educator in France, passed away on Erev Shavuos.

The deceased was born in Paris in 5673 (1913) to the Klein family, which was among the founders of the city's first chareidi kehilloh. His grandfather, Dr. Naftoli Klein, an eye doctor, was in touch with HaRav Yisroel Salanter when he came to Paris. His great-grandfather was HaRav Shlomo Ze'ev Klein, the rov of the Colmer in Alsace, who fought hard against the Reform Movement. His mother's father was a famous chareidi physician from the city of Milhaus, Dr. Reuven Mayer, many of whose offspring were involved in restoring the crown of Torah to French Jewry.

In 5688 (1918) his father, Rav Alexander Klein, decided to move to Strasburg and his family joined the Kagnak kehilloh, where his uncle, HaRav Emanuel Meir Braunsweig Hy"d, served. His personality had an impact on the city's chareidi youth, especially Rav Naftoli. At the Rav's behest the Yeshurun youth movement was started, maintaining close ties with Agudas Yisroel Youth in Switzerland. Rav Naftoli served as one of the leaders of Yeshurun.

During World War II HaRav Avrohom Deutsch started a yeshiva ketanoh in Limoges, a city in the center of France, and Rav Naftoli joined its teaching staff. Despite the dangers the yeshiva remained in operation almost throughout the war. In 5701 (1941) and 5702 (1942) Yeshurun leaders, including Rav Naftoli, managed to organize a summer camp for young people scattered throughout occupied France. The camp saved hundreds of youths from spiritual ruin and served as a foundation for the movement's activities after the war. During this period Yeshurun set up a project that was unique in occupied Europe: a series of Torah correspondence courses that prevented many Jews in outlying towns from being severed from Torah study and mitzvas.

In 5705 (1945) he married his wife Esther (Edith) Orner, a Viennese refugee, whose father was close to the Admor of Chortkov. After the war they moved to Colmer, where they organized shiurim and educational activities to strengthen young Jews in Torah and mitzvas. They also ran Yeshurun, whose crowning achieving was the summer camps in the Alps in an atmosphere of Torah and kedushoh. Many of the campers were exposed to Torah for the first time in their lives.

In 5725 (1965) Rav Naftoli's family moved to Strasburg, where they expanded their activity. They assisted the Friends of Yeshivas HaNegev and later the Yad Sarah Association, and Rav Naftoli was even made president of the small kehilloh on Zilberman Street.

In 5750 (1990) they moved to Eretz Yisroel, settling in Jerusalem's Bayit Vegan neighborhood. In Eretz Yisroel Rav Naftoli continued giving gemora shiurim and maintained set times for Torah study.

In Teves 5766 (2006) his wife passed away and after his own passing on Erev Shavuos he was buried in Moshav Yesodot, where some of his relatives lie. Rav Naftoli Klein zt"l is survived by a dor yeshorim — sons, daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren — in Eretz Yisroel and abroad.


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