We all know that KIND bars are your favorite snack on the go, but do you know the story behind this incredible brand, not to mention its Jewish connection? Today we offer a sneak peek from Do the KIND Thing: Think Boundlessly, Work Purposefully, Live Passionately, which was written by the CEO and founder of KIND Health Snacks, Daniel Lubetzky. The book will be available tomorrow, so be sure to pick up a copy!
Being the son of a Holocaust survivor marks you and makes you acutely conscious of our human frailty. My burning commitment to build bridges [between people and cultures] stems from a survival instinct: to prevent what happened to my dad from happening again to other human beings. Part of the reason I exist today is that my grandfather and my father were always kind to people.
The birth of KIND and its social mission [to make the world a little kinder] were stirred by this history. When brainstorming brand names for the healthy fruit and nut snack bar we were going to make, the name KIND particularly spoke to me because my dad’s essence, the reason he had survived the Holocaust, and the way he had lived afterward were all connected to compassion. He treated everyone as an equal, whether a bank teller or the bank president. His life taught me that kindness and empathy are the foundations on which humanity will stand or fall.
Looking back, his entire story was a string of kindness. He [my father] was born in 1930 in Riga, Latvia, and raised in Kovno, Lithuania, where my grandfather, Sioma, had a small business making corsets. My grandmother, Rosa, told me a story about my father that sums up his ability to empathize and his kindness. When he was four or five years old, a poor child knocked on the door of the family home in Lithuania. It was a cold winter night, and the child was asking for food. My father went into the kitchen to make the other child a sandwich. As he piled onto the sandwich everything that he himself would want to eat, my grandmother told him to hurry, because the child wouldn’t wait, but would go beg somewhere else. When my father returned to the front door with the sandwich, the child was gone. He ran out into the street, barefoot in the snow and without a coat, to find the other boy and give him the food.
As he grew up and war approached, my father frequently got into scrapes with local kids who would shout anti-Semitic taunts and otherwise bother the Jewish kids. When the Nazis invaded Lithuania, life for the Jews quickly worsened. My dad was nine years old when the war started.
Massive pogroms swept Lithuania as the German occupation took hold. A huge percentage of the Jews were killed at the time. One day, the porter took Germans dressed in military uniforms into my father’s apartment. They harassed and threatened to shoot my family; then they took my grandmother into another room. My dad was too young to understand what may have happened when she came out crying. He remembered that they eventually pushed everyone out of the apartment into the garden downstairs and said, “We are going to shoot you.” The porter then whispered something to the soldiers, and they walked away. The porter told my family to go upstairs. Then he came up and said, “Open up.”
In an interview my cousin Serge Bluds recorded with my dad about this incident, here was my dad’s recollection of what the porter then said to my grandfather:
“Lubetzky, I want you to know that to every apartment of this building I brought the Germans and I made them kill every Jew here. Except you. And to you, I let you live because you were a person who always would offer me your hand, shake my hand … you would give me a little bottle of vodka, would talk to me like a decent person, and this is why I don’t want you to die, because you are a good man.”
Then my dad continued, “This was a very important lesson to me at the time. To remember that even such an animal like this guy recognized that someone was humane to him and it paid off to be humane and not be, you know, with your nose in the air.”
The porter then commanded my family to leave the apartment before he changed his mind.
As horrible as the incident was, it was not lost on my father that my grandfather’s thoughtfulness toward others had spared his family.
My father, his family, and the remaining Kovno Jews were herded into ghettos, where they were kept under horrible and humiliating conditions. Those who survived were sent to a nearby concentration camp, which produced tinder from the local forests to feed German tanks during wartime gas shortages. That was where my father and his family ended up.
But even amid the worst circumstances, the human spirit shows itself. My father never forgot a German soldier who took risks by throwing at my dad’s feet a rotten potato that provided him the sustenance to go on. Although he could have gotten in trouble for helping a prisoner, that soldier risked his own safety to feed my dad. My dad always said that potato — that fleeting moment of kindness — helped him stay alive.
My dad had the rare strength of being able to recall that dreadful chapter of his life without letting it embitter him. He lived a life that was fulfilled, optimistic, and positive, and, as much as it emotionally drained him, he frequently spoke about his Holocaust experiences, so that we may never permit such tragedies to befall humanity again.
Today, building bridges between people and cultures is especially important, both within companies and throughout the larger world, given all the challenges we will face in the coming years. The only way we can win against those challenges is to recognize that we have to fight on the same side. My vision is eventually to build a global movement of citizens who are proud of their own heritage as well as of our shared human values. I recognize how hard a road it will be… but are we going to give up and not try? We cannot afford to just stand idle.
From the book DO THE KIND THING: THINK BOUNDLESSLY, WORK PURPOSEFULLY, LIVE PASSIONATELY by Daniel Lubetzky, the CEO & Founder of KIND Health Snacks. Copyright © 2015 by Daniel Lubetzky. Reprinted by arrangement with Ballantine, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.
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