Arrivals: The librarian and the gardener – but not what you think

A comprehensive Jewish historical archive and a scholarship built from a tragedy, the entrepreneurial Kleins settle on their next adventure in Jerusalem

When Manny met Adair, he said, ‘I picked her up on December 31, 1956, and we were engaged on March 10, 1957.’ (photo credit: Courtesy)
When Manny met Adair, he said, ‘I picked her up on December 31, 1956, and we were engaged on March 10, 1957.’
(photo credit: Courtesy)
If Manny and Adaire Klein did not have so many great-grandchildren living in Israel, the octogenarian couple might still be in Los Angeles – Manny tending his garden and writing his memoirs, Adaire directing the Simon Wiesenthal Center Library and Archives.
Instead, on April 12, 2013, they relocated – with the help of Nefesh B’Nefesh – to the Neveh Amit senior residence in Jerusalem, the city where their daughter Robin (Shoshanah) and her husband, Simon Kahn, have lived since 1992. The majority of the Kleins’ 15 grandchildren and all but two of their soon-to-be nine great-grandchildren live in Israel, so when it came time to move closer to one of their children, the Holy City made the most sense.
Despite leaving behind their beloved community and even their beloved Pomeranian, Honey – she’s in Baltimore being cared for by their daughter-in-law, Sandy – the Kleins are all smiles at their new home, with its spectacular vista over northern Jerusalem.
“We loved this apartment because of its view,” says Adaire. “And it has a gardening club; Manny misses his garden.” In fact, the rooftop garden is located right on their floor.
How Manny met Adaire
Manny was born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in the neighboring borough of Queens, in a traditional Conservative home as one of four children. One of his brothers was killed in action during World War II. Manny served 15 months in Germany during the Korean War, then came home to attend college and technical school before embarking on his first career as a broadcast technician.
He worked for WCBS TV and later WCBS radio.
Adaire was born in Leavenworth, Kansas, where her father was associate warden of the federal penitentiary.
The family relocated to northeast Pennsylvania and finally Columbus, Ohio. In 1949, Adaire became the first student from Ohio at Brandeis University in Massachusetts; she was a member of the fledgling university’s second class and earned her bachelor’s degree in Hebrew literature. Later, she earned her master’s in Near Eastern and Judaic studies with an emphasis on Jewish history – which prepared her well for teaching conversion classes in California much later in her life.
While Adaire was an undergraduate, her older brother Efrem wrote to say he wanted to visit her, with one catch: He asked if she would find a girl on campus to write him a letter first. Adaire’s best friend, Teresa Klein, agreed to write the letter, and in October 1951 she became Adaire’s sister-in-law. Although Adaire was the maid of honor, she did not have a chance to meet Teresa’s first cousin, Manny Klein – because he spent most of the wedding carving turkeys in the kitchen, shipping out to Germany shortly after the wedding.
However, Adaire did become close with Manny’s immediate family. Five years later, Manny’s sister threw a New Year’s Eve party and asked her brother if he would give Adaire a lift.
“So I picked her up on December 31, 1956, and we were engaged on March 10, 1957,” says Manny.
After their wedding that summer, the newlyweds lived near Manny’s family in Queens, then moved several times in the New York area and had three children: Robin, Dov and Gilah.
Tragically, Dov died five years ago. Manny planted a garden in his son’s memory at their synagogue in Los Angeles. In Israel, the Keren Dov Fund was established at the AMIT Kfar Blatt Youth Village in Petah Tikva, funding extra teaching hours to prepare students at the facility for matriculation exams.
Moving to California
In 1973, Manny was experiencing cardiac problems that his physician believed were stress-related.
“He told me I could take pills for the rest of my life, or change jobs,” he recalls. “Adaire’s brother Herschel said he’d help find me a job in California, and so we drove cross-country. When we reached New Orleans, Herschel called and said he had decided to start his own business, and I was going to work for him.”
In Los Angeles, Manny started out in retail, then worked for an employment agency and finally as a general contractor. Adaire taught Hebrew at Sinai Temple and worked part-time as a librarian for the synagogue’s significant Judaic collection.
In 1978, Manny came home from shul one day and told Adaire he had heard that the Simon Wiesenthal Center, established the year before, was opening a library.
Immediately, she applied for the as-yet unadvertised position of director, and was hired by then-museum director Efraim Zuroff, a noted Holocaust historian and Nazi-hunter who has lived in Efrat since 1980.
Coincidentally, Zuroff’s parents also retired to Neveh Amit.
“I started work on November 1, 1978,” Adaire relates.
“They handed me two boxes of 50 books and said, ‘Make a library.’ When I retired in December 2012, I left a collection of 85,000 books along with a major archival collection. For 34 years, I found my work meaningful and productive. It was hard to retire.”
Robin and Simon made aliya in 1992. Dov and his family settled in Baltimore; Gilah and her family in Milwaukee. Well before Manny retired several years ago, the children started encouraging their parents to move closer to one of them.
“Milwaukee is too cold in the winter, Baltimore is too humid in the summer and Israel was a long way away.
As long as Adaire was working, we stayed put,” says Manny. “Eventually we agreed to move, but where? Robin had the great-grandchildren, so we started to give some thought to Israel. At first, Adaire didn’t want to discuss it.”
Hebrew lessons
When they came to Israel two years ago for the wedding of Robin’s youngest child, they agreed to meet with a real-estate agent and check out three senior residences in Jerusalem that Robin had pre-screened before their arrival. After a few days spent at Neveh Amit, they signed a contract.
“The best thing about being in Israel is the presence of family,” says Adaire. “Robin and Simon have been marvelous. The thing I miss most about Los Angeles is our shul, B’nai David-Judea. If I could transfer our shul here, it would be heaven on earth.”
For a while, the Kleins were taking a taxi three days a week to a government-sponsored ulpan, but the schedule did not coordinate well with the activities they enjoy at Neveh Amit. They now they take private Hebrew lessons twice a week with a retired rabbi – separately, since Adaire’s Hebrew is more advanced than her husband’s.
Most people who make aliya at their age do not work as hard on acquiring Hebrew skills, but the Kleins explain that their Israeli great-grandchildren are not being raised as English-speakers.
“I joke with our 12-year-old great-granddaughter about whether she will master English before I master Hebrew, and I think she’s winning,” jokes Manny.