1:00 AM, on Seventh Avenue in Manhattan. The three of us were waiting for a cab. Finally, one pulled over and the driver said, "Where to, ladies?"

While we were driving, the driver, a man with a heavy accent, asked us, "Are you Jewish?" Reluctantly, we responded, "Yes."

It was then that I noticed the name on his ID card: William Guttman. Who was William Guttman, driving a cab through Manhattan on the night shift? Finally I asked him, as he had asked us, "Are you Jewish?"

"With a name like Guttman, what do you think?" The notion that we could have mistaken him for anything but a Jew seemed to stir up in him a distilled pride.

"Where are you from?" I asked, figuring Russia, or perhaps Morocco.


William Guttman was a survivor. "My parents lived in Budapest. I was four years old when they took us. My mother worked in the Frau Lager (women’s concentration camp), and then they put her in the gas chamber. My father died in the labor camp. I never really knew my parents. I don't even know if I have brothers or sisters.

"This is who I am," he continued in a matter-of-fact manner. "I went to an orphanage after the war, and the Red Cross brought me to America. I had no family when I came. I married an Israeli woman, but we were not religious. I don’t wear a yarmulke, and I work seven days a week to help my son become a doctor. He finishes medical school in two months."

"You must be so proud of him."

"Yes. I’m not religious. But I have a lot of mazel (luck)."

I wondered, how does a Jew who survived Auschwitz think that he has mazel? He then asked us, "Are your parents Chasidim?"

The Chasidim of our families got lost somewhere between the shtetl and suburbia a long, long time ago. But, we told William Guttman, we ourselves were Lubavitchers.

We asked him if he had heard of Lubavitch. "Lubavitch, I know it well. I have a mazel’dike dollar from the Rebbe. He's the best Rebbe in the whole world. I went to him, he gave me a dollar and told me that I'll have mazel and my son will have hatzlocha (success). Everything since then is good. Everything for me since I spoke to the Rebbe is good. I wouldn’t give away my dollar, even if it was the last dollar I owned."

There was a deep sincerity, a power of conviction, in the broken English that he stammered.

"The Rebbe was from Hungary," he claimed. "Did you know?"

I was going to correct him and then thought better of it. The Rebbe was from Hungary to a Hungarian Jew. And from Brazil. And from Hong Kong. And from wherever the Jew whose eyes he looked into was from.

And again he repeated, "I’m not religious. And my wife is not religious," he continued. "But when the Rebbe was in the hospital, she called there every day to see how he was doing. When he passed away, we cried for three days.

"He is like a father to us…."