My Father the Butcher
Closing ThoughtsShaindle's Shpiel

My Father the Butcher

Family ties between father and daughter help preserve Jewish Identity through food.

Shaindle Schmuckler

Shaindle Schmuckler spreads her energy and humor as a regular contributor to the Atlanta Jewish Times.

It was a lovely Thursday evening, I was a newlywed preparing dinner for my groom.

Suddenly, there was a firm knock on the door of our one-bedroom, one-bathroom, adorable apartment with the yellow-and-white kitchen and large living room in an old Jackson Heights building.

A rather deep voice shouted: “I’m Henry the cop. I’m a friend of your dad.” My father the kosher butcher.

Gene opened the door while I meekly stood behind him, and indeed it was Henry (not his real name) the cop. Yes, my family called him Henry the cop. We were that close.

“You’re parked on the side of the street where the Department of Transportation is scheduled to clean tomorrow,” he said. “Better move your car to the other side. I’d hate to give you a ticket for blocking the cleaning trucks.”

Henry was kind enough to make weekly meat deliveries to my father’s customers who lived along the route to Henry’s home. He also was instrumental in keeping my dad’s kosher butcher shop safe and untouched by the hands of hungry burglars. Henry’s family loved the delicious meat from my dad’s shop.

At the end of our first year of marriage, this girl from the Bronx and boy from Brooklyn relocated to Baton Rouge, the home of Louisiana State University. The cultural shock and trauma of this move are a story for another time and place.

My mother-in-law’s deep concern for our health was heartwarming. She insisted we look into what shots were required to protect ourselves from the diseases a place like Louisiana would have.

Our persuasive powers were never more powerful than in the conversations that followed. We never got shots, and, needless to say, none was required. Louisiana was and still is in the United States.

Although we did not need shots, we did need to eat. How would we sustain ourselves without a kosher butcher who could tell me how to cook whatever I was buying?

Along came my father the kosher butcher.

My handsome, creative, great-dancer dad did some investigating. You can be sure of one thing: His daughter and son-in-law would not go hungry; he would never allow it.

Dad discovered that the airlines had planes that specialized in carrying freight. Perfect! He would freeze a large package of various meats and ship it to the New Orleans airport, an hour door to door from our married-student housing.

Clever, right? That was my father the kosher butcher.

So every couple of months we would drive to the New Orleans airport in a Studebaker we called Black Beauty to collect our goodies. We were always surprised that my dad’s kosher meat was so much cheaper than the treif meat at the A&P.

By the way, given that I was a butcher’s daughter, you would think I would know my meats. I could not tell rib steak from lamb chops. Seriously.

Upon discovering that our non-Jewish neighbor was paying more for treif meet than we were paying for kosher meat, I was shocked. I told my dad and asked him whether he could send them meat — they would, of course, pay him.

For more than 3½ years, my dad helped support our neighbors and us by keeping us well fed.

It took many years before my father the kosher butcher revealed all this to me. I had no way to repay him for this incredible kindness except to give him four granddaughters who would inspire us all to be better people.

My father the kosher butcher was a businessman first, a butcher second. But he always gave young brides frequenting his shop a significant break on their total bill.

So how could he afford to help Henry, help young brides, help his daughter and her neighbor, help some of the shopkeepers on his block and countless others?

My father the kosher butcher put the frozen liver he was sending us on the top of the frozen meats in the package. The liver would defrost, making the entire package appear damaged, and the airline would reimburse all shipping costs if your package arrived damaged. My father the kosher butcher.

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