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Irving Karp, 99, language teacher, Jewish lay leader Nov. 3, 1911 -- April 24, 2011

Irving K. Karp, a longtime language teacher and a lay leader in local Jewish communities, died Sunday in Weinberg Campus, Getzville. He was 99.

Born in Brooklyn, Mr. Karp was a child when his family moved to Syracuse, where he received a Jewish education including the Hebrew language, which contributed to his determination to become a teacher of languages.

After earning a master's degree in German studies in 1932, Mr. Karp accepted a job teaching German and other languages at Lockport Senior High School. Though offered administrative positions through the years, he chose to remain in language classrooms during his 40-year career with the district.

Mr. Karp also taught English, French and Spanish. After learning Russian on his own, he taught that language, as well.

According to his family, he received several letters from former students overseas, thanking him for teaching them German -- which, some claimed, saved their lives.

During World War II, Mr. Karp continued teaching, served as an air-raid warden and worked at a radiator factory. He also served as the lay leader of Lockport's small Jewish community, leading services and teaching the children Hebrew.

In 1948, he, his wife, the former Anne Zendle, and three children moved to Buffalo. Mr. Karp continued to commute daily to Lockport to teach and also taught at Temple Emanuel Religious School in Buffalo (now Temple Beth Zedek in Amherst) and participated in Zionist organization activities.

In 1959, Mr. Karp received a Fulbright Fellowship to study in Germany during the summer. He also traveled to Russia, where he helped locate and aid Russian Jews seeking to emigrate.

Mr. Karp made more than a dozen trips to Israel between 1967 and 2004, including a study year spent there in the late 1960s. He and his wife raised money to dedicate a Beit Midrash (house of study) in the memory of Rabbi Isaac Klein, a beloved Buffalo rabbi and scholar.

In retirement -- and particularly after the 1998 death of his wife, to whom he had been married more than 65 years -- Mr. Karp's "family" included those with whom he recited daily prayers.

Survivors include two daughters, Mira Levine and Sharon Schwartz, and a sister, Lillian Drag.

Services will be at 1 p.m. today in Mesnekoff Funeral Home, 8630 Transit Road, East Amherst.

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