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Op-Ed: A Letter from Nobody

Dear Crown Heights,

I am a procrastinator, and should’ve written this letter about a year ago when I needed to, but I did not. I am ashamed, this was always my plan, to thank him publicly, but I have not. And now, I believe, is the perfect opportunity to do so.

My wife and I were down in the dumps financially. I’m not a gezhe nothing, my parents aren’t rich, she doesn’t get discounts at any of the crown heights stores because our parents know the owner, or because our families donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to the yeshivas and girl schools. In fact, we’re nobody’s. We’re both BT’s and we really didn’t have much money on either of our side.

We did, however, have two beautiful kinderlach, B”H. Getting to my point, when we tried to line up things in our lives to make more money, when we tried to make it work, at every corner, we met a red light. No success. That’s how G-d planned it. Well, what is a young couple with two children to do?

BTW, for those scoffers who leave annoying comments, let me just clear up right now, my wife had a full time job, and I was in college back then as a full time student.

Before things got really bad, we shopped at the Shuk all the time. We weren’t always destitute. But here we were broke, and hungry. Our car had just been towed away for parking tickets that couldn’t be paid — thank you NYC — our previous car which we bought with tax return money broke down, my wife had no way to get to work. If the dumps are all the way on the bottom, then we were there.

Above all else, we were hungry. We needed food, but G-d knows how high the cost of food got. So I stopped going to the Shuk or any place. I started going to food pantries. It got bad, folks, really bad. One day, after our junk car got towed away, and things were really bad, I went to the Shuk, and looked Shloime Ifergan in the eyes, and half jokingly said “You don’t have any dead-broke-discounts, do you?” Shloime simply smiled a very warm smile, a very reassuring smile, and replied “Go get whatever you want from the store. Anything you want, and come to me afterwards”

I figured he’s giving me an awesome opportunity to save some serious cash, and went and got whatever I thought would raise our spirits for Shabbos. I got some awesome stuff that day, and my wife of course prepared it really well, and there were guests, B”H.

The secret here is folks, that Shloime, after I came with a shopping cart that was already throwing up from all of the food I packed into it, simply said when I got to him “Have a good Shabbos.” “But I didn’t pay yet, Shloime.” He came close to me and whispered “Don’t worry about it. Don’t even worry about it.”

It was embarrassing, yes, but I felt so relieved, like G-d in heaven brought me to this man so he could help. I didn’t tell my wife how I got all this stuff. But Shloime really cushioned our fall. AND NOT JUST ONCE.

Each week for a few weeks more, he would extend the same Chesed to me and my family. And finally, when things started picking up a bit, financially, we started to pay. But not full prices. NO NO NO. Knowing my situation, he would give me amazing discounts. Like 30 to 50 percent off the entire purchase. AND THIS WENT ON FOR A YEAR, PEOPLE. A YEAR.

Well, B”H, we’re well now financially stable, I finally finished school, and am now still a nobody, you won’t recognize me in the street as a somebody, and we may cross each other’s path every day, or daven Shacharis, Mincha, and Maariv together in 770 every single day. But for about 52 consecutive weeks, 2 years ago, To an Ish Chesed, a Ba’al Rachmanus, a true Shalom Bayis, and life saver like Shloime Ifergan, I was truly a somebody.

Shloime, You probably remember me, unless of course there are countless others who you quietly helped along the path of your business dealings, but you do remember me, if these details are familiar, and you know who I am, I ask that you don’t make an issue out of it the next time we see each other. I would be embarrassed, and I hope I haven’t embarrassed you in any way, shape, or form during this letter. May The Ribono Shel Olam truly bless your family with every Brocho possible.

With love,
Nobody

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54 Comments

  • 2. Mendle wrote:

    Wow! Is all I can say. (This is the only positive thing about the frum community!)

  • 4. bb wrote:

    Shloimy,Shai and Miriam are ALL of them MENTSCHN and they should be bless with only revealed good and I really hope they will be able to keep up their store and not to sell it to anybody,and other “frum” people should learn from their middos and try to emulate the ahavas yisroel in this example.

  • 5. CH Resident wrote:

    It’s nice to hear that there is still a store in CH who actually cares for their customers…

  • 6. Penina Metal wrote:

    You are a very special person because you are taking the time to give Hakoras Hatove to a phenomenal human being: Shloimie. Please don’t call your self a nobody, it really bothers me when people label themseves, as BT’s, or whatever. A Jew is a Jew and that’s it! Stop with the labeling!

    Shloime and his eishes chayil, Miri are remarkable human beings, always willing to help another person in a kind, eidel way. One feels welcome in their store. Their smile is worth a million.

    If they leave, I for one will feel that I have lost members of my family!

    Penina Metal

  • 7. not a CH-er wrote:

    B“H there are people who are baalei chesed. One name that comes to mind is the unforgettable Shimshon Stock zt”l. There wasn’t a single person that Shimshon didn’t love with his entire heart and soul. We need more people like Shimshon.

  • 8. Nuuuuu! wrote:

    Hashem should look down and bring us Moshiach already, look at how truly kind and selfless someone can still be with all the garbage going on in the world.

    May Moshiach come NOW!

  • 9. YM wrote:

    I think this is a beautiful and inspiring story.

    I just think it would be better if you leave out the “im a nobody, unlike the somebodies who get free passes” Hashem gives to each their own lot, and even though I’m also not a somebody, I think it’s important to realize the grass is not always so green on the other side. There are plenty of people who come from “somebody” families who also don’t do well. Let’s not make this a crown heights class warfare type thing.

  • 10. from a Gezhe family wrote:

    This was an amazing story, and we should all learn from this. Shloime Ifergan saved this mans family. I think that from this story we should all learn a valuable lesson. Bali Teshuvas choose this lifestyle and we were born into it. We should be nothing but respectful and kind to these people. People think that being Gezhe is really the thing buts, hate to break it to you its not. To the author, thank you so much for writing this,it was very courageous, and we should all learn from you.

  • 12. thankful wrote:

    I’ve heard he’s done similiar things for countless people. Hashem should bless him for all the good he’s done.

  • 13. Very Grateful CH-er wrote:

    Just to add to your story…

    I too have been at rock bottom for quite some time now, being a single mom without stable financial support. I too shopped at the Shuk, but with voucher coupons from the Stock family’s chesed fund.(G-d bless them all for their generosity.)

    There were weeks when I had no money to pay for basic groceries for my large family, and the Shuk always accepted whatever vouchers I had, and waited patiently (sometimes for weeks and even months), until I was able to make the next payment.

    Yet, Shloimie NEVER harassed me or even asked for the money. He knew I would pay as soon as I could. Many times, I told him that I am so grateful for his kind and understanding attitude, and that I would never transfer my business elsewhere, even if I had lots of money to do so.

    Shloimie, you probably won’t even know who is writing this letter, but it seems to me, that there are way more people like us and those in the above letter, than the Crown Heights Community are aware of.

    On behalf of my family and myself, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your kindness, generosity and understanding during our darkest moments.

    G-d bless you, and much hatzlocho in everything you do.

  • 15. save our community wrote:

    So true!
    I think we need to support such people in our community , and not create a monopoly in our neighbourhood , which would raise prices .Hes a great person , and we need to buy only from such people

  • 16. a poshitar yid wrote:

    Thank you for story , i never posted anything before but i had to on this story because most often people say bad things about people but we live in the rabbi house
    and we must care about one in other like the rabbe did this story whould make the rabbe smile

  • 17. bk wrote:

    From shlomie to shai to all the workers, They always have a smile on their faces never complaining, always there to help. I am not saying goodbye bec. I hope things work out and you stay. You are the best! Keep up the great work. Shabbat Shalom!

  • 18. touched wrote:

    Thank you for sharing. I’m crying. May no yid ever have to worry about these things anymore.

  • 19. Thankfull wrote:

    Finally something positive in ”Kahn Tziva”.
    Thankfully I have never experienced what its like to be hungry or not being able to provide the necessities and please G-D never will.
    But its heartwarming to know there are people who care.

    Being newish to crown heights I have heard a lot of horrible stories about money going to the wrong people.

    If you could Please list all the legitimate charities that help families in Crown Heights for either food shelter or medical so I and other can start or continue to support them it would be appriciated.

    May we all be blessed with health parnosa and happiness.

  • 20. NOBODY # 2 wrote:

    We all need to learn from this story – and put the morals into MAASEH B’POEL!

    Shloime needs us now more than ever! WE SHOULD NOT LET HIM DOWN, JUST LIKE HE NEVER LET ANYONE ELSE DOWN!

    We need to do whatever is necessary that Shloime should continue his wonderful store and be able to do chessed and mitzvos as he was doing until now.

    If you never bought at the SHUK before – start NOW!!! It’s a great place, and the prices and customer service can’t be beat!

  • 21. true wrote:

    He gave us “unlimited” food when we needed it (not because of lack of money but another crisis which i dont want to get into now)

  • 22. Boruch N. Niissim HaKohaine Hoffinger wrote:

    BS“D
    I shop at the Shuk.
    I am very happy to hear about Shloimie’s generosity, B”H
    I must say, however, that I completely agree with Penina Metal’s comment that calling yourself a ‘nobody’ is wrong.
    Not only is it wrong, it’s saying that those who aren’t rich are ‘nobodys.’
    This whole idea of the rich being ‘somebody’ and the poor (Poorer) being ‘nobody’ smacks of ‘avodah zarah.’
    Many of the world’s (Chabad also) rabbonim, rebbeim and Jews (Not to mention non-Jews.)were rich (Very!), poor, etc.
    The Bal Shem Tov was born in a ditch – his family was extremely poor!
    Money rises and falls. There are countless ‘rags to riches’ stories and, of course, the opposite.
    Nobody knows how rich or poor they’ll be in, lets say, ten years from now.

  • 23. anash wrote:

    Please don’t call yourself “knowbody”, as a ffb lubavitcher, lubavitch is run by 10 percent of people who are either gezer,shpitzt,rich or shluchim! Its about time for the “regular” lubavitcher to stand up and let other peoples voices heard! Keep up the struggle

  • 24. a shliach wrote:

    with all you putting down the owner of empire kosher, you should know he is also a mentch, before i went out on shlichus he helped us out more than most crown heightser’s and he did it with a smile. I WAS TOUCHED.

  • 25. yehudi = to thank wrote:

    Oy, vee gut zu sein a Yid! Ma tov chelkanu! This story is inspiring, both for the fact of the kindness, and for the fact that the writer chose to acknowledge the kindness. Both Yidden are deserving of praise.

  • 26. in tears wrote:

    If you think you’re a nobody, you’re ersht a somebody.

    If you think you’re a somebody, you’re takeh a nobody.

    –Zohar

  • 27. rj wrote:

    yidden are the best. thanks for sharing, you brightened my day. may all yidden have what they need in abundance!

  • 28. To a Shliach wrote:

    I read all the comments and only saw praise and positive. Why do you write something negative which is untrue. Noone “put down” anyone. People were just praising Shloimy. You’re welcome to write your own article to thank and praise whoever you want. But don’t “put down” (especially as a shliach, the Rebbe once said ‘unzere inyon is tzu ufhoiben’), “Vekol hapoisel bemumoi poisel”.

  • 29. sara wrote:

    BRAVO shloimy, even if i dont know u and i dont know the “shuk” where is it??? sorry im french so i dont know this shuk, but i wish i can come soon to C.H. and buy in THAT shop!!
    i thought this kind of story was only in the old story books for kids

  • 30. Sholom dov hakohen wrote:

    I have never been to the shuk infact I don’t know where it is, I live very far away , but this shlomie has inspired me, and it was not his word that have touched me, it’s the storeis being told about him

    There has been a terrible attitude towards low income and BT people in our general greater community it’s a fact a very sad fact, I have a large family which have marreid into BT FFB GEZE and THE VERY RICH I have it all in one big happy family, in my family we have no choice but to get along and respect eachother, becouse our parents made no comments or distinction between all of the above catagoreis, it’s so sad that it is our rebbe’s and our way of life wich is based on ahavas Yisroel and never the less we as a general community suck at ahavas Yisroel, yes there are many nice and good people but as a community? We suck, look at satmar they are known as goimlei chesed these are people that are also known as having no tolerance for others but we who are known as the biggest Jew lovers of ALL times we? We can’t even see the face of the starving child on Kingston ave, it’s time for change we need change and we need it now va’ani hamaschil, every single one of us must take upon themselfs trastick changes in ahavas Yisroel now not later we need to pick up the phone and help a friend or a random person and give a helping hand to bring thus golus to a final end.

  • 31. asdfghjkl; wrote:

    I am so inspired by this and hope to increase my generosity. Thank you VIP for writing this!

  • 32. ex-crown heightser wrote:

    Wow!!! I have chills and I’m soooo not surprised!!! I can takke say, Shloimy and his wife, are the nicest people, real mentschen , no question about that
    I shopped at the shuk for quite a few years, and they were always super nice
    So pleasant to hear good agbout other people!!!

  • 33. Me wrote:

    I wish I was on the level of considering myself a nobody, (bitul) and not a somebody. It is truly a level to strive for. Thanks for sharing your story!

  • 34. a witness wrote:

    shloimi gave me food free !!!
    for more then one and a half year …
    hashem should give him all the brochos bepoal mamesh

  • 35. anonym wrote:

    wow!!! beautiful story… i wish him and his family much success with everything. i hope he is able to keep the store afloat for many more years, due to his big heart and being a major baal tzedakah!!!

  • 36. Somebody wrote:

    All I can say is that this story toched me so much, that I am going to do all my grocery shopping at Shuk.

  • 37. mendy wrote:

    This story inspired me to look out for hungry children in crown heights.
    Thank you.

  • 38. What-s up with using geszha wrote:

    What in the world does geszha or not-geszha have to do with this story??? Or having a job??? Or being able to pay your bills???

  • 39. chana wrote:

    I have met shlomo a few times during the past few years, as I am a good friend of his in-laws for many years…everytime I came into the store, and when he saw me, there was always a big smile of recognition and willingness to help me with any questions or concerns, and we barely know each other…but it is simply so refreshing, quality customer care, a priceless commodity
    chana schoenberg

  • 40. Londoner wrote:

    What a wonderful story. I also have never been to the Shuk, as I leave in England, but It certainly made me think what a great man this Shloimi must be. IYH when i go to Crown heights soon, i will do my (little)bit of shopping there instead of Kingston Ave, which is the only place I really know!!!

  • 41. yosef wrote:

    what does gezhe have to do with it? alot. lots of gezhe ppl feel they are on top, but the fact is most of the time theyre not, b.c in simple terms, they did nothing to earn it. we all start out at zero, and as we grow older we grow, literally. just because you have a name, it does nothing for you! you have to work on yourself. you, not your father and not your grandfather. This story touched everyone, rightfully so. it should inspire many more people. and hopefully this is the spark to ignite crown heights in a good way..

  • 42. Another overdue Thanks to Shloimy wrote:

    I am a bigger procrastenator, I owe Shlomy a big thank you from over four years ago!
    When I asked him for a loan to help me during a dificult time, he GAVE me money! which really helped.

    THANK YOU SHLOIMY!

    Let’s all do some Chessed NOW to perpetuate the Goodness, and make a real difference! and have in mind that it is to become better prepared for MOSHIACH!

  • 43. wow! wrote:

    wow! how touching! I’m glad I shopped at the shuk for such a long time! a similar thing happened to me recently…we’re behind on rent (husband lost one job due to reession) and someone just paid most of one months rent for us….we have no idea who it could be..!! I wish I can be on the giving end!

  • 44. save the shuk wrote:

    The story of Shloimie and his outstanding generosity should be preserved for prosperity as an example of how to treat one’s fellow yid.
    The example of a BT being a nobody should be not-allowed. I hope that the writer of the letter teaches his children that they are the most important people on earth, at least in his house and that he will protect them to the utmostfrom anyone who would doubt their worth. They should never know that there are those individuals who would look down on them simply because they are not gezshe. Someday, when they might find out, it probably will not matter to them but he should move heaven and earth that they not hear that until they are old enough to understand it.

  • 45. rs wrote:

    how can we help him keep the store?
    it needs change though
    shloimie u can do it
    work with francisco
    he is yr man
    shy too
    get rid of the workers who are lazy
    re arrange the store – needs a face lift
    get something happening in the deli section
    dont sell
    the area is building aeound the shuk
    it is a diamond mine
    but shloimie, u need to say no sometimes, it’s ok to say no.
    there are organizations that help pple in distress
    keep the business
    roll up yr sleeves and try again
    but only with concrete changes
    u didnt return my call
    please call
    rs

  • 46. Penina Metal wrote:

    To a Shaliach:

    By giving Hakores Hatove to Shloime it therefore follows that we are putting someone down? Huh?????

    In the Three Weeks it behooves us to get more in the habit of giving credit where credit is due, of being Dan L’Kaf Zchus, etc. Perhaps then we will FINALLY be following the heartfelt directives of the Rebbe and we can bring the Geula that we so desparately need.

  • 47. fp wrote:

    this is why hes broke and has to sell he is the only store that feeds so many for nothing it is going to happen people unless we all stand together as one it is going to happen if id win the lottery now all the ffb will gladly come knocking at my door look around there is ffb and bt getting married now i have been in crown heights for 35 years as a bt came here as a bt am proud to be one but money is the thing that matters to so many what we forget as we chase that is that Hasham decides what and how much a person has we all in the end go to the same place theres no special place keep for bt or ffb so lets wake up before its to late help each other work together instead of against each other as long as i have mine in fine we act like we dont know whats going on when we hear about jews with no food clothes or basic needs wake up jews are suffering all over stop living beyond your means shimishon stock told me many times no money no guests he helped so many people after we hear someone dies or has it hard we shake our heads the time to act is now look around you and see for yourself and try to help someone if you can and stop putting people in a class system we as lub are better then that i think as for the writer of this letter you are not less then anyone keep your head up daven and i will daven dont look to people look to Hasham thats what you can count on we are all in the same world together as one the Rebbe cried so many times about ahavas yisroel wake up and do something now

  • 48. fp said it all....I think! wrote:

    fp……amazing, you said all the above without a pause!!!!! I was panting after I read it all.

  • 49. SAVE SHLOIME-S STORE wrote:

    START SHOPPING AT THE SHUK PPL. MAYBE IT’S NOT TOO LATE

  • 50. aaaa wrote:

    Guys, lets puts our hands around each others shoulders and smile to each other.

  • 51. Yoseph wrote:

    Oy, as a single father of six I also hit rock bottom, twice. Shloimeh helped me like a brother, and with care ….. Not only did he give us the free food and papergoods but he also did it with a smile and even helped me carry it too my car!

    I’m not ffb, I am a simple bahl Teshoovah I’yh.
    Later that week when I saw him in 770 he didn’t say anything, just a pushiteh “Good Shabbos”, and with a smile.

  • 53. nebach doesn-t help!! wrote:

    Helloooo!!! its not gonna help if youj just say thgis is such a nice story bla bla shlomie is such a nice man….YOU HAVE TO SHOP THERE!!! where are all these poor people going to go if the shuk closes down….by shopping in the shuk we a giving tzedaka!!! take ur maiser money and just shop there!!!

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