Meet the Jewish Mister Softee

Kosher Ice Cream (and Sprinkles) Wins Pint-Sized Fans

By Hannah Rubin

Published August 22, 2012, issue of August 24, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
Video: Nate Lavey


“Give me it for free,” a group of young boys yells in Yiddish, giggling merrily, as their tzitzit strings dangle.

The man standing in the ice cream truck grins down at them. “No, give me money,” he replies.

The negotiation continues until an older sibling finally comes over with a wrinkled fistful of dollar bills.

“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.

In 2006, Bazel had no ice cream experience and one lone truck — a small school bus painted bright pink, designed with clip art pictures of ice cream cones and with “Bazel” written across it in swirling letters. He recruited his brother and soon-to-be brother-in-law, both 17-year-old Israelis, to venture into the project with him. Since then, that original truck has become a family business. Bazel now has a fleet of six trucks, each one stocked with freezers and ice cream machines. Every summer, his father flies in from Israel to help man the trucks, and he’s hoping to get a visa for his youngest brother to join them in the United States.

“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.

Mehadrin Dairy, a strictly kosher company in Brooklyn that makes both dairy and pareve ice cream, currently supplies Bazel and his family. While the men offer a plethora of toppings, they stick to the classic flavors of the ice cream itself, selling only chocolate and vanilla.

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.

Catering to the ultra-Orthodox comes with its own challenges. Bazel bemoaned his Hasidic clients in Williamsburg, who constantly question the truck’s kosher status. When he is in the neighborhood, he speaks in the broken Yiddish that he’s picked up over the years.

As the truck stops on the corner of a rundown residential block on Crown Street, Yisroel Blank, his young son, Yosef, and the two children to whom he teaches Talmud come up to the window, asking for three slushies.

As the strawberry slushie gets placed in his son’s hand, Blank whispers, “I want to hear a bracha first!”

Contact Hannah Rubin at rubin@forward.com


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.