five towns

Beth Shalom’s Rabbi Klaperman zt"l, 96

An early builder of Jewish Five Towns


Rabbi Dr. Gilbert Klaperman zt”l, an early builder of the Five Towns Jewish community, was niftar on Tuesday. Services held Wednesday morning at his shul, Congregation Beth Shalom in Lawrence.

“He was a builder,” his wife, Susan Alter, a former Brooklyn councilwoman, said on Tuesday. “It says in the Bible that there is a plan for everything under the sun. And it’s now time to mourn a builder who built not only a synagogue, but an entire Jewish community where there was none. … No matter where he was in the world his congregation was the dearest thing to his heart.”

Rabbi Klaperman 96.

When he arrived in Lawrence in 1950, “it was a nice little goyish town,” he told in 2011. “We were the first and only synagogue. Today there’s a shteeble on every corner.”  

“He was essential in the development and growth of the Five Towns Jewish community over the last 70 years, helped establish not only the first Orthodox synagogue in our community but in Nassau County,” said Rabbi Kenneth Hain, spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Sholom. “He also helped create the important infrastructure — such as the Hillel (now HAFTR) school, the establishment of the eruv to enhance Sabbath observance, and he was a founder of the Five Towns Vaad Hakashrut.”

“He was a man of great intellect and vision who will be deeply missed by our synagogue and many thought the world,” Rabbi Hain said.

Rabbi Klaperman met his first wife, Libby Mindlir, at 16. He said that the most formative time in his life was when he was student at Yeshiva University and studied under Rabbis Samuel Belkin and Joseph Soloveitchik. There is a Libby M. Klaperman chair at YU.

Rabbi Klaperman served the Lawrence congregation until 1988, and has since been rabbi emeritus. Before coming to the Five Towns, he held pulpits in Charleston, SC; West New York, NJ; Kingston, and Ontario, Canada.

In retirement, he was an officer and general counsel of Rapitech Systems, a computer software firm; assistant district attorney in Kings County, general counsel of the city’s  Department of Business Services, and a member of the Law Department of the Housing Authority. 

“He was a very strong person, but a very nice person … a major Jewish leader with great fortitude,” said Alan Gerber, The Jewish Star’s “Kosher Bookworm” columnist and a resident of Cedarhurst.

Rabbi Klaperman was chair of the New York Conference on Soviet Jewry during the time of the Leningrad trials and their near tragic outcomes, holding a steady hand during conference proceedings and leading the delegation to Washington to receive assurances of U.S. government support for those being victimized by Communist anti-Semitism, Gerber recalled. As a result, the prisoners were ultimately released and settled in Israel, he said.

Among his survivors are Susan Alter; children Joel Klaperman, Frieda Klaperman and Carol Morrow; stepchildren Beth Alter and Shira Alter, and sister Sylvia Tuchman.

The family will be sitting shiva at the Klaperman residence, 64 Muriel Ave., Lawrence, until Tuesday morning, Feb. 20. The minyan schedule posted by Beth Sholom is: Shacharit (including Rosh Chodesh) 7 am; Mincha/Maariv 5:20 pm. No visits after 9 pm.

Carol Morrow will continue sitting shiva in Manhattan on Saturday night, Sunday afternoon and evening, and all day Monday.

Jeff Bessen is editor of the Nassau Herald. The Jewish Star and Tyler Marko contributed to this report.