Rabbi Klaperman: How Can Someone Sit in Shul and Talk About the Yankees?


klapermanBy Rabbi Yair Hoffman

In the previous two issues of the 5TJT, we interviewed members of America’s greatest generation-those who came of age during the Second World War and witnessed the destruction and subsequent rebuilding of

the Jewish nation. They saw it all, touched us all, and, most importantly, led us through it all. They were our rabbis.

We continue now, interviewing Rabbi Gil Klaperman. Rabbi Klaperman was a chaplain for the Allied forces during the Second World War, when he was 24 years old. His Canadian chaplain’s uniform, with three pips on the shoulders (indicating he was a captain) surrounded by Stars of David (indicating that he was a Jewish chaplain), made him appear to others as a three-star general!

In terms of growth in our Five Towns community, however, it was no mere appearance. Rabbi Klaperman, the founding rabbi of Congregation Beth Sholom, was and is a high-ranking general in our community. From almost nothing, he carefully persevered and helped build a remarkable Torah community. He was one of the many who quietly helped orchestrate the greatest rebuilding of K’lal Yisrael since the second Churban.

YH: What issues would you have addressed this past week in a Shabbos Shuvah derashah?

GK: One of the things that has always bothered me was how people could be sitting in the shul benches and talking about the Yankees and the stock market. I’d like to think of it as a big corporation, and they suddenly discovered that you have been embezzling money. You readily admit it-but then you start talking about the Yankees!

You are confessing to crimes, and you don’t know what your future is-and you speak of the Yankees and the market? People have to know, whatever it is that they are doing they should think about what the “ashamnu” is.

YH: Are there other points you would address?

GK: Yes, I would speak about really truly appreciating and loving Eretz Yisrael. There is not enough hakarah for what it is. Even here [in the more Zionistic area of the Five Towns], we do not have enough recognition of what Eretz Yisrael truly means and is bichlal. We talk about it every day, and we daven for it, but we are not cognizant in our davening as to what it is. Eretz Yisrael is beset with enemies every day. That bum gets up in the UN . . .

YH: What should be done on a practical level?

GK: People here in the Five Towns have to get together and do something. People here have to offer tangible support and create more appreciation and awareness of what can be done.

YH: How come there is not so much Eretz Yisrael-oriented activity in the Five Towns?

GK: I really don’t know. There is a general apathy that must be combated somehow.

YH: Well, Rabbi Klaperman, why don’t you start an initiative?

GK: I am 88 years old. Baruch Hashem I am thankful that I am alive.

YH: Churchill did his best work when he was older . . .

GK: If there were others that would help, I certainly would. We have the z’chus now of being in a generation where we finally have Eretz Yisrael under Jewish leadership. We need to get younger people to take leadership roles for K’lal Yisrael, for building our yeshivos, for ensuring that all Jewish children are in yeshivos and for Eretz Yisrael. Parents that send their children to yeshivos are heroes . . .ashreihem mah tov chelkeihem.

YH: How can we inspire our community to take active and leadership roles for K’lal Yisrael?

GK: I love this shul (Congregation Beth Sholom.) I helped build it. It is filled with remarkable, wonderful people. Not all of them were talmidei chachamim, but they were and are good Jews. Let me tell you for example about Herbert Tenzer. He helped save his people in the Vaad Hatzolah during World War II. He was a businessman in real estate. On Purim once in 1950 or so, I stopped by to drop off mishloach manos that my wife baked. He was reading the Megillah at home. Can you imagine? A major real estate mogul who could have been in his office. No. He was reading the Megillah at home.

We talk about project Birthright to get people into leadership roles and to care about Eretz Yisrael, but what happens to these kids when they get back? Parents that send them to yeshivos are the future of our nation.

YH: What about the problems facing the Jewish people as a nation. What would you have to say about that in a Shabbos Shuvah derashah?

GK: We no longer have role models. The intermarriage [rate] is a disaster. Once it becomes accepted in our families, then it is okay. This is something that has changed over time. Once, intermarriage was anathema. Now, it is somewhat accepted, and that cannot be. For Reform Jews all is muttar, but within our own community it is a growing problem that we should be concerned about. And the best response is with a solid chinuch.

But more than that, we have to tell our children that it is great to be a Jew. We have to make them feel it, inside and outside. We have to be that role model that shows this. We have to develop a dedication within our children from knowledge and from commitment. It must come from us first so that we can be a role model for our children. Once we have this, then we can take on the other problems-assimilation, the Islamists taking over the world. There is an ignorance in the beauties of Torah out there, an apathy. This must be combated, and the only way to do it is through chinuch and instilling the joy and pride of the Torah way of life.

So, my friend, Yair, do you have enough?

YH: Not yet . . .

GK: What, are you writing a book there?

YH: Well, I get paid by the word.

GK: Oh, I see, so to help a Yid with his parnassah let me go on . . . [laughter]

YH: Rabbi Klaperman, it was a joy and honor to meet you. I am sure the readers will all agree.

The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com.

{Larry Gordon’s Five Towns Jewish Times/Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. hmm, I love eretz yisroel, I just hate that big heresy-formed-state that stuck itself there – does that mean I have no hakara? Does helping jews make you a valid thing that must be loved and appreciated? Christians also do favors for Jews – america supports Jews more than israel probably, and gives them more rights, plus it doesnt stop them from being observant like the government of israel does(need we mention the teimanim-kidnapping and payos-cutting?) – yet no one says we should love the hereticval ideas that america has

    One can have ahakaras hatov without believing in something. Big difference. Maybe most of 5 towns has an apathy because it’s hard for a Jew to have love for something so non-jewish? Maybe they cant relate to something that is only jewish in language and name?

  2. You see Rabbi Klapperman’s ahavat yisrael just coming out of the computer screen! Thank you 5tjt and matzav for recognizing this great man. Thanks also to Rav Hoffman!