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Major Philanthropist Miriam Klein Dies at the Age of 93

July 30, 2009 By:
Aaron Passman, Staff Writer
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Miriam Klein

Miriam Klein, who with her late husband Raymond, was a longtime philanthropist in the Philadelphia community and in Israel, died July 23 at age 93.

Her husband died in 1995 at age 79. The pair were married for more than 56 years.

Together, the Kleins helped create the Raymond and Miriam Klein Branch of the Philadelphia Jewish Community Centers, which quickly became and remains a fixture in Northeast Philadelphia.

While she is perhaps best known to most Philadelphians as one half of the namesake of that institution, to those closest to her, she was simply "Mim."

"There was no hold on her generosity" for friends, charity and the community, said longtime friend Ruth Wilf.

The two first became close several decades ago while active at what is now the Gershman Y, at the corner of Pine and Broad streets in Center City.

Several hundred people gathered for the July 26 funeral at Congregation Adath Jeshurun in Elkins Park, the Kleins' spiritual home, according to the religious leader there, Rabbi Seymour Rosenbloom. He said over the phone that his congregant's passing in some ways marked "the end of an era."

Although Klein was most recently a resident of Center City, the family remained longtime members of A.J. (she and her husband were married there in 1939). After her husband's death, Klein and her son, Stephen, dedicated a new sanctuary at the synagogue in 1997 in his memory.

"She was of a generation of leaders that was very exceptional in the congregation -- in terms of their character, their love of the synagogue, and their devotion and generosity to the congregation," said Rosenbloom.

The couple had made many significant donations to A.J. over the years, he added.

Rosenbloom -- who's been at the congregation for more than three decades -- continually returned to the words "grace" and "graciousness" when describing Klein, saying that she and her late husband always had a "strong sense of continuity, history and building for the future," working to ensure that the institutions and opportunities they benefited from would be available to subsequent generations.

'Small, but Mighty'
The daughter of American-born German Jews, the former Miriam Kline was raised in the Oak Lane section of Philadelphia. She met her future husband at the age of 17.

In his eulogy, son Stephen Klein described his mother as the cooler, more pragmatic one of the pair. She also ran a strict home, he noted.

"She may have been small, but she was mighty," he said.

Klein served on a number of boards and committees throughout her long life, including a stint as president of the Women's Association of A.J.; a board member of the Federation of Jewish Agencies Women's Council; and a life member on the boards of the Women's Division of the American Society for Technion and the Women's Auxiliary of the Philadelphia Geriatric Center (now the Madlyn and Leonard Abramson Center for Jewish Life).

She also contributed to the building of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, and was a regular at concerts there.

Klein was also said to have been a talented pianist who could play by ear.

The Kleins were active philanthropists abroad as well. They provided a major gift to the Tel Giborim neighborhood in Holon, Israel, where the Raymond and Miriam Klein Community Center now stands.

That city -- which lies south of Tel Aviv -- is also home to the Klein Family Sports Center.

'Lively and Independent'
Andre Krug, executive director of the Klein JCC, first met Miriam Klein when he became director of the facility five years ago.

Krug recalled her as having been lively and independent, yet always aware of the diverse area the Northeast Philadelphia JCC serves, as well as its important position as the Jewish community around it ages, disperses and declines in affluence.

"She was not a hands-off person," he continued. "When she was involved in something, she was involved with her heart, with her hands and with her purse. She had this amazing kind of combination of what I would describe as a true volunteer."

In addition to her son, Klein is survived by a brother, Harold W. Kline; three grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. She was predeceased by another son, Warren Klein.

Donations in her memory can be made to: the Klein Branch of the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Philadelphia, 10100 Jamison Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19116.

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