By Steven Wenick
’T was the sixth night of Chanukah, and what do you know, he was sitting in front of me with cheeks all aglow. He was round and jolly, with a beard white as snow, sporting a red cap on his head just in case it would snow.
So what was he doing sitting and eating in a kosher (Chalav Yisroel & Pas Yisroel) restaurant, with all its chatter and clatter, as he nibbled on treats from a chipped porcelain platter?
Well he wasn’t Santa that’s for sure, unless the jolly old fellow had taken to wearing tzitzit. He was just an elderly gent enjoying snacks and a steaming bowl of onion soup at the Vegetable Garden Restaurant in New York’s Garment District. “How’s the soup?” I asked him as I left the restaurant.
“Delicious,” he said, with a twinkle in his eye.
“Where are you from?” he asked as I headed toward the door. I told him Cherry Hill and his expression told me that he didn’t know where that was so I added, “It’s near Philadelphia”. That coaxed only a slight smile from his lips; he was clearly unimpressed. By that time my granddaughter Tal had finished gathering her stuff and caught up to me. I told the gent that she was my granddaughter. He asked her where she was from, to which she replied, “Israel”.
Not unexpectedly he began speaking to her in Hebrew with a very distinct American accent. After a bit he reached into his pocket, took out a shiny Susan B. Anthony silver dollar and gave it to her with a nod. She did not want to take it but he insisted saying, “It’s Chanukah gelt and if you don’t want to accept it for yourself then take it and be my shaliach (messenger) and give it to the first needy person you see when you return to Israel”.
Tal took the gelt and flung her scarf around her neck. As we started out of the restaurant, the elderly gentleman reached into his wallet, took out a business card and handed it to me, saying, “Happy Chanukah to all and to all a good night.” The card read, “Millinery Center Synagogue, 1025 Ave. of the Americas, New York, NY, Rabbi Hayim S. Wahrman”.