Iconic baker mourned

Tributes have poured in for Mendel Glick, who passed away aged 94.

THE Jewish community has farewelled bakery pioneer Mendel Glick, who passed away on Sunday, aged 94.

Glick, the cheerful face beneath the white baker’s cap, whose smile conjured up the aroma of warm bagels and challah, is part of a brand baked into the identity of Jewish Melbourne. He was at the business on his last waking day.

Mourners at Springvale Chevra Kadisha last Sunday. Photo: Peter Haskin.

But he very nearly did not survive the Holocaust. Born in a village near the Polish-Czech border, he entered his first concentration camp aged 12. He was sent to six camps.

At Buchenwald, a leg ailment from an insect bite nearly brought him to a Nazi camp doctor who, unknown to Glick, dispatched ailing Jewish inmates with a deadly injection. But the doctor had gone on a break, and Glick walked around the back of the infirmary where a cart of corpses changed his mind about seeking medical attention.

Arriving in Melbourne in 1949, Glick used catering expertise learned at a postwar US military kitchen, and bought a Kooyong Road bakery and a recipe for kichel. He later opened his Carlisle Street kosher bakery business. The transition from a single bakery to a retail empire was masterminded by son Nathan Glick, general manager, who oversaw the first Glick’s cafe, in Glenferrie Road, Malvern in 2000. Glick’s later spread across Melbourne, from Bentleigh to Flinders Lane. In 2005, Glick’s expanded to Sydney.

Along the way, Mendel Glick found time to help others. For example, he supported Jewish Care Victoria’s appeal, with a message printed on challah wraps: “Nobody can do everything but everybody can do something.”

The beaming baker on the wrap, who popularised the authentic European boiled bagel in Australia, until very recently worked hard in the business, arriving before sunrise to roll dough and serve behind the counter.

Glick lived for his family and the bakery, and never took holidays. “Why would I?” he reflected to The AJN in a 2014 interview. “What can I say? I’m a happy man.”

His daughter Nechama Bendet told The AJN her father “worked three jobs after arriving in Australia, saving up to buy the Kooyong Road business … He built a bagel empire, now eight shops. He worked over 15 hours a day, well into his 90s and was at Glick’s on his last waking day.”

“But his true legacy is not the bagels. His large family led lives that made him very proud,” she said.

Laid to rest at Chevra Kadisha Springvale cemetery, Glick at one time was the last survivor of his family. But he is now survived by his wife Sarah, 91, and nine children, among over 170 descendants.

PETER KOHN

For full coverage, see this week’s AJN