Brooklyn’s Orthodox Scream for Kosher Ice Cream
For the ultra-Orthodox Jewish children of Brooklyn, the familiar Mister Softee ice cream truck jingle holds less allure than the tune that booms from the Kosher L’Mehadrin Bazel Ice Cream Truck, inviting them to “make a bracha,” or blessing, and buy an icy treat, reports The Jewish Daily Forward in a profile of the company’s founder, Yaniv Bazel.
“They always come at me, in Yiddish, shouting for free ice cream,” Yaniv Bazel said while leaning against a popcorn machine in his hot-pink ice cream truck, in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. “They drive me crazy!”
It’s all in a day’s work for Bazel, 24, the Lubavitch co-owner of the Kosher L’Mehadrin Bazel Ice Cream Truck. Though there are hundreds of ice cream trucks that tour the city streets in the summer, this truck is different from most. It is among the few that hold a strict kosher certification allowing them to cater to a specific — and ice cream hungry — sliver of New York children: the ultra-Orthodox.
Bazel started his business in 2006, with two other teens — his brother and soon-to-be brother-in-law, both 17-year-old Israelis, The Forward reports. He now has family members driving six trucks, and Bazel’s father flies from Israel to the U.S. every summer to lend a hand.
Bazel’s ice cream comes from Mehadrin Dairy, which also makes pareve products — which are meat- and dairy-free, and can therefore be eaten with meat or dairy.
“We want to be big, like a kosher Mister Softee, with 600 trucks all over the city,” Bazel said. “We’re not trying to sell to people that don’t keep kosher, because they already have enough ice cream trucks. We’re looking at Jewish customers.”
The brothers spend their summers driving the six Bazel ice cream trucks around New York, splitting their time between Brooklyn and the Catskills. They offer everything from ice cream and slushies to popcorn and cotton candy, and often cater camp gatherings and birthday parties. And, of course, to the ice cream hungry Lubavitchers in Brooklyn.
“Everyone’s favorite is the soft serve, but we get a lot of people ordering the slushies, because they are pareve,” Bazel said, referring to the plastic jugs of rainbow-colored slushie syrup lining the floor of the truck.
Like Mister Softee’s inescapable tune, the Bazel trucks’ song has become a part of the landscape in Brooklyn’s Jewish neighborhoods.
No self-respecting ice cream truck travels without a catchy jingle and so, as Bazel rounds each bend, he presses “play” on his iPod and a hearty male voice booms from the truck’s speakers: “Come and make a bracha [blessing], a bracha, a bracha… today. We’ve got ice cream and ices, and boy you’ll love our prices…. The kosher ice cream truck is here!” As the words waft through the Brooklyn air, the verse is then repeated in Yiddish.
“That song! It means the kosher ice cream truck is here,” said Miles Walser, a non-Lubavitch resident of Crown Heights. Though he has never tasted the kosher fare, it took him only a week of living in the neighborhood to learn the entire song by heart.