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Special to the JTA Klinghoffer’s Boyhood Friend Says He Was Killed ‘because He Was a Jew’

Maurice Blond, a boyhood friend of Leon Klinghoffer of New York, the only passenger on the Italian cruise liner Achille Lauro to be murdered by the Arab terrorist hijackers, said today that there was “no question” that Klinghoffer had been slain “because he was a Jew.”

Blond, who is chairman of the Board of the Israel Bond campaign’s New York Division of Organizations, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that Klinghoffer was a regular contributor to New York synagogues and was always “very generous” in giving to Jewish causes.

Blond said his friend has been very active in the Brotherhood Synagogue in Greenwich Village where Klinghoffer had resided, and a consistent contributor to synagogues on the Lower East Side where the two men had been active as youths in the Grand Street Settlement House, a gathering place for Jewish immigrants. Blond said that Klinghoffer had been “a great believer in Judaism.”

Klinghoffer and his wife, Marilyn, had celebrated their 36th wedding anniversary on September 18 and had at the time talked excitedly about the cruise they would take, Blond recalled. Marilyn was not aboard the ship when the terrorists seized it and later shot Klinghoffer and threw his body overboard. She had remained in Egypt with other passengers to go sight-seeing.

‘THIS IS JUST SAVAGERY’

Blond said that the news of his death, after initial reports that none of the passengers nor crew members had been hurt during the two-day ordeal, was “the worst thing” for his family and friends to have to accept.

Klinghoffer’s daughters, Ilsa and Lisa, stayed in the bedrooms of their homes, crying inconsolably after receiving the tragic news. Friends and neighbors who had been rejoicing with the family after receiving word that the ship was released with no one harmed, were horrified and distraught to learn of Klinghoffer’s death.

A family friend, Benson Imberman, said, “This is just savagery. This was a pleasant man who would sit in his wheelchair in front of the building (where he had resided) and greet people. If you wanted to chat, he would chat with you. He never intruded, though.”

Carol Hodes of Woodbridge, N.J., whose mother, Millie, was one of the cruise passengers, said, “I can’t believe it. Why would they pick on him? He was an elderly man, such an innocent victim.”

Klinghoffer was confined to a wheelchair after suffering a paralyzing stroke. Some of his friends speculated that the terrorists had ordered him to move and when he didn’t or couldn’t do so fast enough, they shot him.

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