August 9, 2021 ~ 1 Elul 2021
Elias Klein, 96, died Monday, August 9, 2021, in Louisville, Kentucky. An internationally recognized scientist, his mentorship profoundly shaped the work of many, who remained devoted to their former teacher over the years.
A loving and beloved husband, father, grandfather, and, most recently, great-grandfather, Elias kept family at the center of his life. Behind his quiet and gentle demeanor stood a brilliant intelligence and a generous heart. And always deeply important was his Judaism.
Elias was born October 26th, 1924, in Leipzig, Germany to Jentla and Josef Broniatowski. A brother Alexander (Sascha Dov) followed in 1930. At the age of seven Elias’ life was upended when his mother died of influenza. As was customary his father re-married a year later and brought his wife Sarah and her son Isidore into the family. However, with the rise of Nazism it became more and more difficult for the boys to go to school. Josef heard about a program to bring Jewish children to the United States sponsored by the German Jewish Children’s Aid. Elias and Isidore qualified (Sascha Dov was too young), and in November 1934 the two boys sailed to New York, were placed on a southbound train with a chaperone, and arrived the next day in Atlanta, Georgia.
Elias learned English quickly and began school immediately. His foster mother thought “Elias Broniatowski” too difficult to pronounce and suggested that he take his stepmother’s maiden name of Klein. He agreed but put his foot down about changing his first name. During these difficult years, he and Isidore were passed through three foster families in Atlanta before moving to New Orleans, Louisiana, but Elias and Isidore continued to receive letters from their parents in Plauen. After the family was deported in November 1938, the letters came from Czestochowa, Poland, the Broniatowski family home. Over the next three years the letters from Elias’ parents became increasingly desperate and at last stopped. Only after the war did he learn that they and Sascha had died in the Warsaw Ghetto. With the approach of the war, Elias realized that as a foreign national, he could be deported as an undesirable alien. Fortunately, enlistment in the U.S. Army gave him a fast path to citizenship.
Elias served in the 87th Chemical Mortar Battalion, Company D, which saw combat in the D-Day invasions, in Operation Cobra, the Battle of the Hürtgen Forest and the Battle of the Bulge. His final combat service was, ironically, the liberation of Leipzig, the city of his birth.
Upon his return to the US, Elias asked a beautiful young woman he had known before the war, Beverly Aronowitz, out on a date. The result was a deeply close, loving partnership of 70 years. After they married in 1948, Beverly persuaded Elias to use the GI bill to attend Tulane University where he completed his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in four years with the highest honors, including Phi Beta Kappa—an astonishing feat. He became a research scientist and had a successful career studying textiles.
After leaving textile research in 1967 he became director of the Gulf South Research Institute in New Orleans. With his remarkable powers of self re-invention, Elias then turned his research to artificial membranes for use in hemodialysis (the artificial kidney). He achieved international scientific prominence when his team invented the artificial kidney membranes used in all dialysis treatment facilities today.
In 1981 he and Beverly moved to Louisville so he could join the University of Louisville faculty. He served on the Medicine and Chemistry faculty until 2005 when he retired. In his retirement years he took pleasure in travelling the world with Beverly, reading scientific journals and in the progress of his granddaughters and news about his great-grandson.
He is survived by his daughter, Meryl Klein (Barbara Loevy); his sons, Jon Klein (Laura) and Jerrold Klein (Eva) two grandchildren, Rachel Chaimovitz (David) and Sarah Klein and his great-grandson Leavitt Chaimovitz. His memory is a blessing for them and for all who knew him.
The family would like to extend its deep gratitude to all the caregivers with Carmelita’s Quality Care for the loving care they provided and particularly to Carmelita Clay for her compassion and love of Dad.
Graveside services will be held at 11 a.m., on Thursday, August 12th Adath Jeshurun Cemetery, 2926 Preston Highway. Masks are mandatory. The service will be live-streamed on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/HermanMeyerSon/
Expressions of sympathy may be made to:
- Congregation Adath Jeshurun of Louisville, https://www.adathjeshurun.com/Donate
- Birthright Israel Foundation, P.O. Box 21615, New York, NY 10087 https://birthrightisrael.foundation/donate
- The National Council of Jewish Women, https://ncjwlou.org/donate/
- The Montessori Torah Academy of Louisville, https://montessoritorah.org/donate/