My friend gave me a package of Papa Ben's Mandelbroyt. All I knew about mandelbroyt (or mandel bread if you prefer) is that my great-grandmother used to bake it and that my dad likes it. So I looked up the company, "Papa Ben's Kitchen."
Let me tell you about Ben Lesser.
"Papa Ben" was born in Krakow, Poland in 1928. His father, Lazar, owned a chocolate company famous for their chocolate covered wafer cookies. Lazar shared his love of baking with his son, and during family holidays they made Mandelbroyt, which became the family tradition for special occasions.
His father's passion for baking, which was instilled in the family, allowed the family to survive outside the ghettos for a portion of WWII. Using the stone oven in their cottage, Ben and his father worked together to prepare the finest baked goods for family, friends and their surrounding village. But in September 1947, after the war tore apart his family, Papa Ben arrived in Brooklyn to reunite with his only surviving family member, his sister, Lola. Ben moved to Los Angeles with little money in his pocket, but with the determination and the excitement to succeed.
America gave Ben opportunities he never dreamed he'd have; an education and a successful career in the real estate business and he met the love of his life, Jean, and together they raised two beautiful daughters, Sherry and Gail.
With the expansion of his family, and inquisitive grandchildren wanting to know the family history, Ben rediscovered his long lost passion for baking. Sharing the best memories of his childhood, including the secret family recipes, he was able to heal the wounds of the past and bring hope to the future.
It's a really sad-but-lovely story and though it's rooted in a far different background, it reminds me a little of my grandmother and baking with her. I still love to bake and need to do it more often.
Papa Ben's Kitchen is also dedicated to the remembrance of the Holocaust. The Zachor Holocaust Remembrance Foundation is a non-profit organization founded by Ben Lesser, that supports Holocaust education, remembrance and tolerance of and for all people. The Foundation's mission is to ensure that the tragedies of the Holocaust will never be forgotten. As part of the commitment to this cause, a percentage of profits from Papa Ben's Kitchen are donated to the Zachor Holocaust Remembrance Foundation.
You guys, Holocaust rememberance day is in April but don't feel like you have to wait that long. Let this story touch you and contribute today. Or buy some mandelbroyt. Bottom line, that stuff is DELICIOUS.