Save the Deli

Sam Brummer: The Meaning of Mentch

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There are deli owners and there are Deli Men. How do you measure the worth of a Deli Man? He lives deli, he makes no compromises, and he preserves it for future generations.

By any accounts, Sam Brummer would be a certified Deli Man par excellence. After fleeing the Nazis from Poland in 1939, Brummer found himself in the Bronx, and learned the deli trade at Clifton Deli in Lakewood, NJ; Kartzmann’s in Newark, and the Globe, near Wall Street. Over the ensuing decades he moved into Hockey’s Delicatessen in Newark, turning it into Hobby’s, which he still runs today, with his sons Marc and Michael. When other white businesses fled downtown Newark, especially after the 1968 riots, Brummer stayed, an anchor of the community. When other delis supplanted homemade meats for stuff bought from purveyors, he insisted on curing corned beef and tongues in the store…slowly…in a low cure of salt, sugar, and spices. He works there every day, even after recovering from a recent open heart surgery.

By all accounts, a Deli Man of great renown.

But there’s a few crucial details left out. Because when Brummer came to America in 1939, he simply turned around and went back to Europe as a member of the US Army. On June 6, 1944, Brummer’s 29th Infantry Division landed on the bloody shores of Omaha Beach. “To stay in the water meant we were dead men – to survive, we had to get to the path on the beach that led up the cliffs. When we reached the beach, we had to get out of the truck and, while dodging enemy fire, move countless bodies out of our way in order to reach that path,” Brummer said. It was his first combat experience.

Fighting through Normandy, Brummer’s unit suffered 80 percent casualties. He lost the hearing in his right ear from the 105mm Howitzer he operated, but eventually they fought into Germany and ended the Nazi tyranny.

In honor of this, Brummer received the Bronze Star in 2006, but today at noon, at a ceremony in New York’s French Consulate, Brummer will be appointed a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor of the French Republic by the President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy.

If you want to thank Mr. Brummer for all he’s done, you can stop by Hobby’s deli in Newark, NJ.
If you can’t make it to Newark, you can support Hobby’s Operation Salami Drop, which sends salamis to American troops overseas.

Send a salami to your boy in the army. He may just be the next great Deli Man.

12 Responses to “Sam Brummer: The Meaning of Mentch”

  1. Laurie Says:

    Wow! What a hero, Sam Brummer. As we say in French, Felicitations!

  2. Jeome Kellert Says:

    My hat is off to Mr. Bummer in every respect. ‘Cause I was too young for WWII, and Korea, too old for Vietnam I have the greatest respect for those who did serve. And on top of it, he owns a Deli! Does it get any better than that?
    JLK
    Plymouth, MA

  3. Melinda Blau Says:

    Nice story. By staying in Newark , Sam created a “being space” for the whole community.

  4. jhersh Says:

    great story, but mr. brummer is a MENSCH, not a mentch.

  5. David Sax Says:

    Actually jhersh, if you consult Michael Wex, the foremost Yiddish expert, that’s the correct spelling.

  6. itzikl Says:

    Dear David,
    I’m delighted to have found your blog — thanks to today’s Times article. I am totally in favor of what you’re doing, and the subject is very important, it’s part of who we (East European Jews) are. I imagine you’ll be getting a whole new crop of readers now.
    Michael Wex speaks Yiddish very, very well, he knows a great deal about the language — but he’s not “the foremost Yiddish expert.” I’m not sure who is, but I don’t think even he would say he’s THE foremost.
    But even if he were, the question here is not exactly about Yiddish, but about how to transliterate Yiddish into English.
    There are two systems that are prevalent. One is the scientific standard, accepted internationally, for example, by library cataloguers, and by nearly all scholars of Yiddish. That is the YIVO system. According to YIVO, the word would be spelled mentsh.
    The other is to use German orthography. In that style, it would be spelled mensch. Today this is widely frowned on; it’s something like if you would trsnsliterate Russian into Polish spelling. Sure, the two languages are related, but it gives the impression that Russian is a form of Polish — which it isn’t.
    Michael Wex knows this perfectly well, but he has decided to fashion his own system, of which he says “I’ve tried to go for something as close to English as possible, strange as things might sometimes end up looking.” (JUST SAY NU, p.5.) So OK, Wex spells it “mentch,” but just so you know — he’s the only one who does.

  7. Albert Rech Says:

    Am Donnerstag um 20.15 spielt das deutsche Nationalteam gegen das schweizer Nationalteam. Wer wird gewinnen? Ich denke, die Schweizer machen das schon!

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  9. Michelle Says:

    I am trying to contact Mr Brummer as my father worked for him in the 1950′s – can anyone point me in the right direction?

  10. Sam Brummer Says:

    Awesome story. Good to know that other people with my name do some good in the world. I also work at a Deli (kind of… Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwich Shop)

    I am still trying to figure out what the last name “Brummer” means. I’ve heard it can be translated to “Grumpy”

  11. Gunita Sachdeva Says:

    I have found out a lot reading this article. Undoubtedly good information here. Blogposts including this make this website worth coming back to for even more material.

  12. çelik raf Says:

    Let’s all hop on a Concord and get some British Beef

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