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  • Häagen-Dasz was chosen as a tribute to Denmark's examplary treatment of its Jews durimng the Second World War | Photo: PXHere
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The scoop of blessing

Kay Wilson - 9 November 2021

A few weeks ago, the ice cream company Ben and Jerry’s made a racist decision and informed their customers that they will be boycotting Judea and Samaria. With Israelis now checking other options for the sweet tooth, the less pretentious Häagen Dazs unexpectedly leapt into the limelight because the murky Ben and Jerry scoop brought an astonishing act of kindness into the light and a link between their competitors Häagen-Dazs and the rescue of Denmark’s Jews during the Holocaust.

“The murky Ben and Jerry scoop brought an astonishing act of kindness into the light”

It was 78 years ago in 1943, on the eve of the Jewish New Year that the people of Denmark carried out the most unique national act of courage in support for the Jewish people throughout the whole of World War II.  While every other nation were overwhelmingly bystanders or at worse perpetrators, Denmark and her citizens refused to remain silent. The citizens executed a plan to save the country’s Jews.

The universities closed for a few days to enable students to help with the daring operation overseen by the resistance. In addition, the Danish police also refused to cooperate with the Nazis and the Chief Rabbi Marcus Melchior was secretly informed of the imminent Nazi roundups. This meant that when the Jews gathered in synagogue for the Jewish New Year, he skipped the important service and ordered his people to leave their homes and flee for their lives. But not without the help of the Danish resistance who had prepared hiding places and arranged for fishermen to transport 99% of the Jewish community in small fishing boats to nearby neutral Sweden.

“With the help of the Danish resistance 99% of the Jewish community was saved to nearby neutral Sweden”

Danes and Jews financed the daring operation and this nation-wide effort which saw that over 7,000 Jews were evacuated to safety. Less than 500 Jews were unable to escape. These few elderly and sick were too frail to run and were caught by the Gestapo. They were sent to Theresienstadt, a ghetto and concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. Even when there, the Danish public voiced their objections and sent their Jews food via the Red Cross.

Now to the ice cream.

A decade before the outbreak of World War II,  Reuben and Rose Mattus, two Polish immigrants, independently arrived in USA where they met, married and started making ice pops and ice cream bars. Years later, as the ice cream market flourished, to outwit his competitors Reuben started to make a new richer and creamier kind of ice cream. 13 years after the Holocaust had ended, the couple were so successful that they had already formed a new ice cream company.

For the name of their enterprise, they chose the Danish-sounding name Häagen-Dazs,  as a tribute to Denmark’s exemplary treatment of its Jews during the war. They even added an umlaut (absent in Danish), and put a map of Denmark on the carton.  And best of all, the name Häagen-Dazs actually means nothing. Reuben just chose it as a thank you to the nation of Denmark for their exemplary courageous rescue of Jews.

The Ben and Jerry’s racist scoop turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It just lead more Israelis to become aware of the amazing deeds of Denmark. So whenever we lick our Häagen-Dazs ice cream we will remember the courage of this nation and always be thankful for these amazing friends.

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