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Mark M Lichterman

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Books by Mark M Lichterman
A Jewish Bronx Tale
By Mark M Lichterman
Last edited: Sunday, December 12, 2010
Posted: Sunday, December 12, 2010

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Mark M Lichterman

• A Jewish Boycott
• Betrayal in Benghazi
• Did You Know?
• The 2000 Year Old Man
• Social Security History
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Desperate for help, Mr. Sickser ran out of the store and stopped the first youth he spotted on the street. "Young man," he panted, "how would you like to make a little extra money? I need some help in the store. You want to work a little?"


The  South Bronx  in 1950 was the home of a large and thriving  community, predominantly Jewish. In the 1950s the  Bronx  offered synagogues,  mikvas, kosher bakeries, and kosher butchers -- all the comforts one would  expect
from an observant Orthodox Jewish community.

The baby boom of the  postwar years happily resulted in many new young parents. As a matter of  course, the  South Bronx  had its own baby equipment store, Sickser's. 

Sickser's was located on the corner of  Westchester and Fox, and specialized in "everything for the baby" as its slogan ran.

The inventory began with  cribs, baby carriages, playpens, high chairs,changing tables, and toys. It  went way beyond these to everything a baby could want or need. Mr. Sickser,  assisted by his son-in-law Lou Kirshner, ran a profitable business out of the  needs of the rapidly expanding child population.

The language of the store  was primarily Yiddish, but Sickser's was a place where not only Jewish  families but also many non-Jewish ones could acquire the necessary for their  newly arrived bundles of joy.

Business was particularly busy one spring day,  so much so that Mr. Sickser and his son-in-law could not handle the  unexpected throng of customers.

Desperate for help, Mr. Sickser ran out of  the store and stopped the first youth he spotted on the street. "Young man,"  he panted, "how would you like to make a little extra money? I need some help  in the store. You want to work a little?"

The tall, lanky black boy  flashed a toothy smile back. "Yes, sir, I'd like some work." "Well then,  let's get started."

The boy followed his new employer into the store. Mr.  Sickser was immediately impressed with the boy's good manners and demeanor.

As the days went by and he came again and again to lend his help,  Mr.Sickser and Lou both became increasingly impressed with the youth's diligence,punctuality, and readiness to learn. Eventually Mr. Sickser made him a regular employee at the store. It was gratifying to find an employee  with an almost soldier-like willingness to perform even the most menial of  tasks, and to perform them well.

From the age of thirteen until his  sophomore year in college, this young man put in from twelve to fifteen hours  a week, at 50 to 75 cents an hour.
Mostly, he performed general labor: assembling merchandise, unloading trucks and preparing items for shipments.  He seemed, in his quiet way, to appreciate not only the steady employment but  also the friendly atmosphere Mr.Sickser's store offered.

Mr. Sickser and Lou  learned in time about their helper's Jamaican origins,and he in turn picked up a  good deal of Yiddish.

In time the young man was able to converse fairly well with his  employers,and more importantly, with a number of the Jewish customers whose  English was not fluent. At the age of seventeen, the young man, while still  working part-time at Sickser's, began his first semester at City College of  New York. He fit in just fine with his, for the most part Jewish  classmates, hardly surprising, considering that he already knew their ways  and their language.

But the heavy studying in the engineering and, later,  geology courses he chose  proved quite challenging.The young man  would later recall that Sickser's offered the one stable point in his life  those days.

In 1993, in his position as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of  Staff , two years after he guided the American victory over  Iraq  in the  Gulf War, General Colin Powell visited the  Holy Land . Upon meeting Israel 's  Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir in Jerusalem , he greeted the Israeli with the  word  "Men kent reden Yiddish" (We can speak Yiddish).

As Shamir, stunned,  tried to pull himself together, the current Secretary Of State continued chatting in his second-favorite language. Colin Powell never forgot his  early days working at Sickser's.


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Reviewed by Annabel Sheila 12/20/2010
Very interesting stuff, Mark! Enjoyed...

Your friend,
Reviewed by Patrick Granfors 12/14/2010
Great (sneaky)story Mark. You seriously should be writing for PBS and the History Channel. Patrick
Reviewed by Kathleen McDonald 12/14/2010
Markie!!! What a wonderful story. I enjoyed it so very much.

Reviewed by Reginald Johnson 12/13/2010
Thank you, Mr. Lichterman, for sharing this marvelous story. It should serve as a reminder; in all of us, there is some of us.

Warmest regards ...

Reginald V. Johnson

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