My husband was sitting Shiva for his mother in Lakewood, NJ, in 5766 (2006), when he was approached after the prayers one morning by an elderly gentleman. "I see that you are a Lubavitcher Chassid. May I tell you a story that happened to me with the Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe?..."

My name is Mordechai Grunwald. I grew up in Hungary, in the city of Munkatch (Munkacz). Although there were no Lubavitch chassidim there, I knew and respected Lubavitch because my Rebbe – the holy Munkatcher Rebbe – held very highly of the Baal HaTanya and the other Chabad Rebbes.

"I haven't immersed in water—but I've immersed in fire..."I lived through The War and all its horrors, including a stint in Auschwitz. After the war I spent time in a DP camp, got married, and had a child. In 1949, under the sponsorship of HIAS, I finally was able to come to America. They gave us a place to stay in a hotel in Manhattan, together with a number of other Jewish immigrant families. We were glad to be there, but it was very difficult for us, with our minimal knowledge of English, to find jobs. Months passed by, but I could not find work.

Every morning the Yiddish newspaper arrived at the door of my room. On Sunday morning, the 11th of Shevat, the headlines announced that the Lubavitcher Rebbe had passed away, and the funeral would take place in front of 770. I decided to go, and found a friend who wanted to come with me. We had absolutely no money to get there, but we spoke to a number of people, and someone finally gave us enough money to pay for a taxi.

When we arrived at 770, there was a huge crowd of people there. Over a loudspeaker, someone was announcing that only those who had immersed in a mikvah that morning were allowed to touch the Rebbe's coffin. I hadn't—but I pushed my way forward to the casket anyway. Someone stopped me and asked if I'd been to the mikvah that day. I pulled up my sleeve and showed him the number tattooed on my arm. "I haven't immersed in water—but I've immersed in fire..." He stepped aside and let me through. As I touched the holy casket, I whispered "Rebbe, parnasah (livelihood)." I even managed to carry the coffin a few steps, all the time whispering "Rebbe, parnasah."

I managed to get to the cemetery, and with much pushing and shoving (after all, I am also a chassid...) made my way to the front and was able to put my hands on a shovel. With each shovelful of earth that I threw on the grave, I whispered "Rebbe, parnasah. Rebbe, parnasah..."

After the funeral I walked from car to car to see if I could find a ride back to my hotel. At one point I struck up a conversation with a gentleman, and found myself telling him that I also needed a job. He told me that he wasn't going to Manhattan—but he handed me a card and said "If you want to work, come to this place tomorrow morning, and you will have a job."

I went there the next morning, and worked at that job until I retired. As far as my fellow immigrants in the hotel—it took them many more months until they were able to find work…"