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Articles of Faith

Barbara Bensoussan

In 1944, before being deported to a concentration camp, Reuven Chaim Klein buried a collection of silver family heirlooms under a house in Munkacs. Sixty-seven years later, with planning, siyata d’Shmaya, and guidance from the Munkacser Rebbe, this small treasure trove was unearthed — tarnished and bent, but miraculously intact.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It was an especially joyful gathering for the Klein family of Boro Park and Flatbush. The occasion was homecoming of sorts — not for a young woman returning from a year of seminary, or a bochur from a year in a faraway yeshivah — but for a group of long-lost, once-beloved candlesticks and other silversmith’s wares.

The family’s joy at recovering its long-lost treasures was so great that they couldn’t wait to share it with the rest of Klal Yisrael, along with the lessons in bitachon and emunas chachamim that emerged during their quest. The very next week they invited Mishpacha to hear their fascinating story, told by the very family members who first helped hide the silver, and who then sixty-seven years later uncovered the buried treasure.

Brothers Reuven Chaim and Yitzchak Klein, born a year and a half apart, are both short, slight, and bli ayin hara exceptionally spry for men almost ninety years old. The external similarities end there. Reuven Chaim, clean-shaven and spirited, loves to talk, bubbling with stories that stream out one after the other. Yitzchak, the younger brother, has a short gray beard, bright blue eyes, and a warm manner. He is content to let his older brother do the talking.

We meet in Yitzchak’s apartment in Boro Park, a small, immaculate space that still bears the imprint of his late wife. A modest breakfront is filled with silver and knickknacks. A side table proudly brims with photos of several generations of Kleins. Yitzchak’s son, Elozar, has joined us to help tell the story, in which he himself was a major player.

Reuven Chaim and Yitzchak are bona fide Munkacser chassidim. Both were born and raised in Munkacs. Their family’s rebbe was the holy Minchas Eluzar, Rav Chaim Elazar Spira, zy”a, who served as the Munkacser Rebbe for some twenty-five years until his petirah in 1937. Despite the disruption of World War II, they maintained their family’s connection to Munkacser Chassidus after arriving in the US. Yitzchak, who once owned a successful factory, to this day dedicates himself fully to the service of the present Munkacser Rebbe, helping wherever he can.

For the purpose of this story, Reuven Chaim and Yitzchak Klein trace their family history as far back as their grandfather, an outstanding talmid chacham named Reb Hersh Ber (Tzvi Dov) Klein.

“He was mesayeim Shas five times,” Reuven Chaim relates proudly, waving a finger in the air. “His house was in the center of town. People walking by would see him standing and learning by his shtender for hours at a time. At that time not so many people used a shtender to learn. He was a businessman, too; he had a glass factory.”  Reb Hersh Ber served both as a melamed in the talmud Torah and as the rosh kahal of the Munkacs Jewish community, under the Minchas Eluzar, and prior to that under his father, the Darkei Teshuvah, zy”a. “He knew the Minchas Eluzar quite well,” adds Reuven Chaim.

 

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