More Than 1,000 People Attend Funeral of Leon Klinghoffer
Menu JTA Search

More Than 1,000 People Attend Funeral of Leon Klinghoffer

Over 700 people jammed the main sanctuary of Temple Shaaray Tefila here today to attend the funeral of Leon Klinghoffer, murdered by terrorists aboard the Achille Lauro cruise ship two weeks ago. Hundreds more milled around outside the synagogue before and during the one-hour service.

Rabbi Harvey Tattelbaum spoke at the service about how Klinghoffer was young in spirit and how his family life was his source of great strength. He had great setbacks and tragedies, the rabbi said, but “overcame” them with his good humor and close family ties.

Talking about Klinghoffer’s murder as a “Holocaust of one,” Tattelbaum spoke about the need for people to unite to fight against the disease of terrorism and against the PLO. He spoke, too, about the three miracles that had followed the murder: the sea giving up his body, the Syrians releasing it, and the U.S. catching the terrorists who hijacked the ship.

Charlotte Spiegel, who grew up with Klinghoffer in the same building on the Lower East Side, described him as a “gentle, humble and patient” man. She spoke of the “back-breaking labor” he and his brother had done in the hardware store they owned on the Lower East Side.


Calling Klinghoffer a “study in human courage,” Spiegel described how he had learned to write with his left hand after his stroke 10 years ago. “He didn’t want to be a hero,” she said. Calling the terrorists “depraved killers,” she said that the death of this one man “shattered the lie of the PLO.”

Klinghoffer’s daughters, Lisa Arbitter and lisa Klinghoffer, both talked about how their home was a “refuge” where they played the piano, sang, and celebrated the Jewish holidays with joy. They recalled the joys of celebrating the Sabbath and how Klinghoffer would bring home a special strawberry shortcake on Friday nights. Ilsa Klinghoffer ended with the words, “Oh, Daddy, you worked so hard and never complained.”

A family friend, Cantor Michael Davis, who grew up with the Klinghoffer daughters, chanted the El Moley Rachamin prayer. Another friend of the daughter, Neva Small, who had starred in “Fiddler on the Roof,” sang a song at the funeral.

Maurice Blond, a boyhood friend of Klinghoffer, told the JTA how his parents started out with a small hardware store on Avenue D on the Lower East Side. The family “lived in back of the store,” he said. After the parents’ deaths and the growth of the business, Klinghoffer and his brother moved the store to Avenue A and Fourth Street. Klinghoffer and his wife Marilyn lived nearby.


Blond, who is chairman of the Board of the Israel Bond Compaign’s New York Division of Organizations, said that Klinghoffer “wouldn’t take guff from anybody.” He said that when Klinghoffer, who stood 5 feet 8 inches, served in the U.S. Army during the war and a non-Jew of six feet five inches called him a derogatory anti-Semitic name, Klinghoffer took him on. The soldier “broke his jaw and made him deaf in one ear.”

Because “as a Jew, he knew anti-Semitism,” he became very involved with the work of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in California and the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith in New York. He also contributed to Beth Israel Hospital.

Blond said that after Klinghoffer suffered his first stroke, he refused to give up his mechanical skills he was the inventor of the “Rotobroil” — continued moving around and tried to keep working. “He struggled with his paralysis,” said Blond. “He refused to lie down and become a cripple.”


Former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin sent a message of condolence to Marilyn Klinghoffer and the family which read:

“Permit me to be among those who express to you deep condolences after the barbaric murder of your good valiant husband. All the Jewish people in Israel and the diaspora and all men of good will, are with you and your family in your grief. May God console you.” The statement was made available to JTA by Hart Hasten, president of the Herut Zionists of America.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund