Andrew “Andy” Phillip Klein, president of Klein’s ShopRite of Maryland and a respected philanthropist and civic leader, was killed in a multi-vehicle accident in Harford County on March 11.
Klein, 65, who was national treasurer of the Jewish National Fund, was reportedly on his way to a JNF board meeting in New York City when a tractor trailer traveling south on Md. Route 24 failed to stop, crashed into multiple cars and caught fire at West Ring Factory Road.
Klein, a Forest Hill resident, was pronounced dead at the scene. Another victim, Tripp Johnson, 7, was pronounced dead at University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air. Three other victims were hospitalized for injuries.
The news of Klein’s death was met with profound sadness from all corners of Harford County and Baltimore’s Jewish community.
Orly Shalem, Maryland president of JNF, considered Klein a “dear friend and mentor. This is the saddest news ever. We lost a very special person. He lived for Torah, Jewish studies, singing, chanting. Andy was so generous. He continued his family legacy of giving to all Jewish organizations and whoever needed help. … The world is a much stronger place because of Andy and his good deeds.”
Klein was the eldest of three sons born to Klein’s Family Markets owners Ralph and Shirley Klein of Forest Hill. Andy Klein grew up in Bel Air, where he attended Harford Day School and was a member and religious school student at Temple Adas Shalom-Harford Jewish Center in Havre de Grace.
The Kleins’ family business had its beginnings in a small general store in Fallston established in 1925 by Ralph Klein’s parents, Maurice and Sara Klein. Ralph Klein and his brother, Michael, ran the store with their parents until they retired. In 2009, Klein’s Family Markets became part of ShopRite.
Rabbi Gila Colman Ruskin, spiritual leader of Temple Adas Shalom-Harford Jewish Center, said the congregation is “devastated” by Andy Klein’s passing. Rabbi Ruskin said Klein and his late parents were “incredibly generous to the congregation. In particular, they were committed to Jewish education.”
Rabbi Ruskin said it was Andy Klein’s devotion to Jewish education and the need for new religious school classrooms that led to the synagogue’s recent renovations.
“He raised money and he donated a lot, he spoke at High Holiday services, and he was the author of several letters that went out to the congregational community. He motivated others to contribute. … He really did love this congregation and was tireless in his devotion,” said Rabbi Ruskin.
She said Klein also donated time to tutor the temple’s b’nai mitzvah students, with whom he formed close and lasting relationships.
“Most of what Andy did was below the radar,” said Rabbi Ruskin. “I feel like no one knows everything he did, how many individuals he helped. He was quietly, anonymously, doing acts of chesed [compassion] all the time.”
In addition to his work for the congregation and the JNF, Klein was a generous donor to the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air. He also started the Holocaust education and commemoration program at the John Carroll School in Bel Air.
Louise Geczy, senior projects coordinator and organizer of Holocaust programming at the school, said she first met Klein when she came to the independent Catholic school 17 years ago. “All of us here, adults and students, are in shock today,” she said of Klein’s death. “It’s just overwhelming.”
Geczy said the school recently observed the 25th anniversary of its Klein-funded annual senior class visit to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. She said he also provided financial and logistical support for the school’s annual Holocaust remembrance day commemoration, and Klein spoke at John Carroll’s recent genocide awareness vigil.
“He’s literally affected hundreds and hundreds of lives at John Carroll,” Geczy said. “He just didn’t put himself in the foreground, he put what he was doing in the foreground. Just a very humble, self-effacing and genuinely good, nice human being. He was one of those individuals who really made a difference in people’s lives.”
Rabbi Kushi Schusterman, executive director of Harford Chabad in Bel Air, knew Klein for the past decade and studied Torah with him once a week. He described him as “larger than life. He cared deeply for the Jewish people, the Jewish world and its future, and for Harford County. He was very involved in the creation of the Harford Crisis Center [a mental health center], and very proud of that.
“He was a mentor to me,” Rabbi Schusterman said. “He guided me in a lot of tough decisions I had to make when I first came here. He also prevented me from doing certain things because I was young and stupid. He always said to me, ‘What are you doing? How are you reaching people?’ He always encouraged me, ‘Do more. The [Lubavitcher] rebbe would tell you to do more.’”
Klein was instrumental in the founding of Harford Chabad and a strong supporter of the organization.
“Anything Jewish in Harford County, Andy was involved with,” he said. “He didn’t like accolades, he just said, ‘Let’s get it done.’ He was a mentsch.”
Mentsch was also the word used by Baltimore attorney, doctor and lifelong friend Randal D. Getz to describe Klein. Although a decade younger, Getz said they carpooled together to religious school at Temple Adas Shalom with Klein’s two younger brothers.
“Andy was a wonderful guy, a model of philanthropy and care for the community and the Jewish people,” he said. “He was a great, all-around person. We all knew each other very well and go way back. His grandfather had a store that we all used to go to.”
Getz said he last saw Klein about three months ago at the Catholic funeral of a mutual friend in Harford County.
“We came in at the same time and sat next to each other,” he recalled. “He always had a friendly word, would ask you about your parents, your kids, and was always concerned about Judaism and Israel and the general community. When someone older passed away in the Jewish community, Andy would always lead services. He know how to daven well. He was very Jewishly knowledgeable.
“He was just a good soul.”
Klein is survived by his wife, Jayne Klein (nee Zion); his son, Marshall (Rachel) Klein, his daughters, Sarah Klein, and Rachel Klein; his brother, Michael (Clara) Klein and Howard (Susan) Klein; granddaughter, Sasha Ruth Klein; and many nieces and nephews.
Services for Klein will take place at Sol Levinson & Bros., 8900 Reisterstown Road., at Mount Wilson Lane, on Wednesday, March 13, at 1 p.m. with the burial to be held at Baltimore Hebrew Cemetery, 2100 Belair Road.
Donations in Klein’s memory can be made to the Jewish National Fund, 78 Randall Ave., Rockville Centre, N.Y. 11570 or the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health Foundation Inc., 520 Upper Chesapeake Drive, Suite 405 Bel Air, Md. 21014-4324.
The family will be in mourning at 107 West Jarrettsville Road in Forest Hill, Md. 21050, on Wednesday following interment, with a service at 7 p.m., and on Thursday starting at 2 p.m., with a service at 7 p.m.
Editor-in-Chief Alan Feiler contributed to this report.