Sudden Passing of R’ Mendy Klein z”l

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It is with shock and sadness that Matzav.com reports the sudden passing of R’ Mendy Klein z”l, one of the Torah world’s greatest philanthropists and askanim, after suffering a heart attack. He was 65 years old.

Mr. Klein, one of our community’s leading activists, was constantly focused on the needs of others and did immeasurable work for the tzibbur. His commitment to Klal Yisroel was an inspiration to one and all.

Mendy, who resided in Cleveland, was a child of Holocaust survivors. Prior to the World War II, Mendy’s father, Armin, was a successful businessman in Hungary. His father was taken away and spent several years in Hungarian forced labor camps before eventually being sent to Auschwitz. A year after Armin was taken there, his wife and their three children were sent to Auschwitz, where they passed away.

Mendy’s mother, Jolan, had also been taken to Auschwitz, where she would cheat death twice. The first time, the gas chambers malfunctioned. The second time, her planned killing was interrupted by a surprise visit from the Red Cross.

Nine days before the Russians invaded Auschwitz and liberated its prisoners, the Nazis ordered all able-bodied prisoners to participate in what became known as “The Death March.” That 35-mile trek was designed to move the prisoners farther inland and away from the fast approaching Russians. Armin and a few other men realized that they would not survive the brutality of such a long trek, so they hid in a barracks. They thought it would be better to die in place than to perish in the wilderness somewhere. It wasn’t long before a Nazi captain entered the barracks to make sure it was empty, only to discover him and the other men hiding.

The captain asked the men why they didn’t join the march, imploring them with the question, “’Don’t you know I have to kill you?’” Armin responded that the Nazis already had killed them. The captain then threw down his weapon and began to weep. He wailed how his family, too, had been ruined by the Holocaust. The Nazi would not let anyone in the barracks, ensuring the men’s safety. At 4 o’clock that morning, he would tell the men the Russian army was there and they were free.

Armin and Jolan did not know one another until they met in a displaced person camp after to their liberation. They married, determined to build a new life. They lived in Budapest until the night the Soviets invaded Hungary. On the leil haSeder of that Pesach, they fled to the United States.

Armin and Jolan Klein’s three children and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren served as a rebuke to the Nazi’s genocidal plans.

At age 16, Mendy borrowed money from his father to buy a taxicab and launch a taxi business in New York City. Later, he ran a produce business at Cleveland’s Northern Ohio Food Terminal for 13 years. Mendy started Safeguard Properties in 1990 and shepherded its growth into the largest privately held mortgage field services company in the United States, with more than $500 million in annual revenue and more than 700 employees.

Mendy was noted for his tzedakah through the Robert and Ita Klein Charitable Foundation. Mendy and his wife, Ita, threw their support behind Jewish causes, focusing on Torah education, day schools, Jewish community organizations, and more.

Mendy was a supporter of so many mosdos in Cleveland and beyond, giving generously to further Torah education, impacting hundreds of mosdos and organizations, not to mention the many individuals he assisted.

Mendy was slated to be honored at the upcoming Agudath Israel of America dinner. Unfortunately, now, the honor will be presented in his memory instead, paying tribute to a remarkable askan, who had a giant heart and a sensitive soul, and was devoted to the support of Torah and the success of Klal Yisroel.

R’ Mendy suffered a heart attack today as he left the Hebrew Academy in Cleveland.

The levaya will be taking place tomorrow, Erev Shabbos, at noon, at Yavneh High School, located at 2475 S. Green Road in Beachwood, Ohio. The aron will be flown after Shabbos to Eretz Yisroel for kevurah there.

Yehi zichro boruch.

{CB Frommer-Matzav.com Newscenter / Photo: Courtesy of Cleveland Jewish News}

15 COMMENTS

  1. BDE. What a shock. Such a great man, a true mensch, with a heart of gold, to be taken away from Klal Yisroel so abruptly
    May he be a meilitz yosher for Klal Yisroel

  2. Bd”e the Cleveland community will not be the same with out a man who supported- and single handily saved one school. Who supported the chessed organizations. Who was behind every big project.
    He should continue his work from down here, and be a mailitz yosher for klal Yisroel and the Cleveland community.
    Bouruch Dayan Haemes.

  3. Bde
    What an irreplaceable loss. He was an emmesdika baal tzidaka. This has been an extremely difficult last few weeks for Kllal Yisroel. We have suffered so many niftarim starting with the Chosson and Kalla on Chal Hamoed.

  4. Oy vey! Cleveland has lost two giants of Chesed in just the last 6 months.
    First R’ Moshe Reuvain Barkan Z”L and now R’ Mendy Klein Z”L! May they both be Maylitz Yoshur for all of Klal Yisroel.

  5. BD”E
    A GADOL HADOR IN CHESED!
    The news brings tears to my eyes and pain to all who knew him and benfited from him in a collective and personal way. May his special wife and wonderful children all find comfort in the merit of the endless chesed he’s done for all of us! I can’t even begin to explain how hard this must be for the entire Kehila of Cleveland and Klal Yisroel beyond! We can only Trust Hashem as R’ Mendy did so and leave it to Him to understand how such an unreal tzaddik can be taken from us at such an early stage. May Hashem give strength to his family and all his loved ones to push forward in such trying times! Gevalt!

  6. One of the greatest men of the generation. Even among other generous supporters of Jewish life, Mendy stood alone. More than resources, he also gave of his time and wisdom, actively participating in organizational life.
    He was a beloved figure in the community, bridging the gaps along the entire spectrum of the broadקר Jewish community. He famously established the “unity hakafa” on Simchas Torah, in which all the shuls of the community joined together to dance as one united community. Only Mendy had the clout and respect among the entire city to start and sustain such a beautiful concept.
    He was active in, and well-known and respected by, the Cleveland Jewish Federation. He promoted the concept of responsibility (“achrayus”) to the entire community, regardless of observance or affiliation.
    He not only loved Jews, but he also loved Eretz Yisrael. He has property in Israel, visited there often, and famously championed the renovation of Kever Rachel into an area safe and suitable for Jews to visit and pray.
    Mendy has a delicious sense of humor, and would use it to great effect to set people at ease at social events or in rancorous board meetings. In a Kiddush or a Simcha, Mendy was the first one to role up his sleeves and help set up tables and bring out food. What a lesson it was, to see that. For so big a man, nothing was too small.
    Each and every one of Mendy’s children and their spouses are themselves active and admired individuals in the community. Far from children of “privilege”, Mendy and Ita raised sons and daughters of noble character, each of them, in their own unique way, already carrying on the legacy their great father left them with.
    When we emerge from the shock and numbness are all currently struck with, the tributes will pour forth from around the world. We will hear from organizations and individuals, well-known and obscure, religious and unaffiliated. A thousand years may pass before we see the likes of him again, universally loved by an entire generation.
    יהי זכרו ברוך

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