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DNA 19 Bricks copy


Bricks—Rochelle Bears Witness

Bricks — Rochelle Bears Witness

One of the best lessons I learned from my father was about commitment. He worked alongside his bakers, and they loved him. I was twelve when my father decided to convert his coal ovens to gas. The new ovens would have rotating shelves so each loaf would bake evenly. 

Everything about coal was messy. It was delivered in big barrels by burly men in coveralls and head coverings, looking scary at best. They rolled the barrels through the front of the store, leaving coal droppings. This always seemed to happen at an inopportune time, like when the store was packed.

The old ovens were brick, and over a lot of years those bricks baked a lot of beautiful, delicious bread. My father had to keep the bricks. They were the secret of moist bread with a flavorful crust — ancestral memory. To do the oven conversion, my father picked Passover week, because during Passover, Jews don’t eat bread. The bakery was closed and the ovens were off. I went with him to see if the ovens had cooled down and it was safe to touch the bricks. My father and his bakers carefully removed the old bricks from the ovens and stacked them on the floor, waiting to reline the new ovens. One of his bakers who worked side-by-side with him for years, Victor Leibowitz, laid down and kissed the bricks. It was the only time ever I saw my father cry, and I loved witnessing this very real emotion.