| Always on Me |


Is there something you always carry on you, even if it’s seen better days?


Project coordinator: Rachel Bachrach

Illustrations: Menachem Weinreb


Wherever I go, I bring candy. Yes, candy.

My grandfather Itzu Grunberger a"h was a legend of a man, a survivor of Auschwitz and an askan and pillar of his community, literally. Zaidy built the first mikvah in Queens, New York, and his shtibel, the type filled with Yidden from a different world, was one of the first in his Kew Gardens Hills neighborhood. Zaidy and Bubby were involved in the bikur cholim, hachnasas kallah, chevra kaddisha, and so much more.

But another thing — maybe not as big a deal — my Zaidy was known for was always having cases of candy in his trunk. It wasn’t enough that he was the candy man in his shtibel — he’d give candy to any Yiddishe child he met, wherever he went, because Zaidy’s greatest joy was seeing the smiles of pure Yiddishe kinderlach. Even when he traveled to Eretz Yisrael, he made sure to have candy in his rented car for the children there.

When children approached him — and they flocked to him, because they knew his car contained goodies for them — he would hold down the button on his remote clicker, a cool innovation at the time, and the trunk of his blue Mercury Grand Marquis would pop open so dozens of little hands could pull out a treat.

Zaidy never verbalized why he did it, but to us it was clear. For someone who lived through the starvation of the war and stared evil in the eye, the glow of pure Jewish children meant our nation’s very survival; the opportunity to put a smile on their faces with a simple candy was Zaidy’s greatest revenge.

I learned from the best. I too am the candy man in our shul. And aside from having that zechus, I always have a stash of lollipops and Airheads in my pockets — and in my car, too.


Yosef Wartelsky is a founding member of Kehillas Bais Yisroel in Far Rockaway, New York, and the director of Camp Maaminim in Swan Lake, New York.

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 860)

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