By COLlive reporter
Mr. David Mintz, the food entrepreneur who founded a pioneering non-dairy brand of ice cream and cheese, passed away on Wednesday, 12 Adar, 5781.
He was 89.
David Mintz was born in Williamsburg and was known for his invention of Tofutti – a non-dairy ice cream substitute made of Tofu, which led to over 50 products including cheese, cream cheese and more – all non-dairy.
As founder of the Tofutti brand, sold in all the US states and in 30 countries, Mintz was a highly successful businessman—but first and foremost he was a Chasid, connected to the Rebbe with his heart, soul, and every fiber of his being.
Mr. Mintz was a tomim; in his youth, he was a student in Tomchei Tmimim (Lubavitcher Yeshivah) in its famous “Bedford and Dean” Brooklyn location.
Mr. Mintz retained his connection to Chassidus and the Rebbe when he entered the world of business, and he did not make a move without first receiving the Rebbe’s guidance and direction. He was zocheh to special kiruvim from the Rebbe, who guided him step by step on how to produce and market kosher pareve ice cream (and other products)—the first of its kind. Mr. Mintz received hundreds of answers from the Rebbe with guidance in every area of his life—both business and personal. In his later years, Mr. Mintz frequently visited the Ohel.
In the 1970’s Mintz was introduced to the Lubavitcher Rebbe by his brother, R. Isaac Gershon Mintz OBM, and he merited to receive many blessings and business advice over the years, to which Mintz credited his success.
In the late 1970s, Mintz asked the Rebbe for a bracha to open a kosher restaurant, Mintz’s Buffet, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. “The Rebbe gave me a beautiful bracha. He emphasized that I would succeed if I was very careful with the kosher products I used,” Mintz told JEM’s Here’s My Story.
The restaurant became a huge success, and he often did takeout and catering. When he refused to offer ice cream because it was dairy and the food was fleishig, people would tell him they would buy their own.
“That’s when the seeds were planted in my head,” Mintz said. “I started to do research and finally decided to make non-dairy parve ice cream which I could sell with a fleishig meal.”
During his years of failed experiments to follow his dream to create non-dairy ice cream, he received many brachos from the Rebbe.
“Whenever I met with the Rebbe I would mention what I was doing, and he would say to me, ‘You have to have faith. If you have faith in G-d, you can do wonders.’ So I kept trying,” Mintz said.
Mintz credited the Rebbe as saving his company, as he contemplated giving up many times. When he was offered the chance to move his restaurant to the Upper West Side of Manhattan, he again asked the Rebbe for advice, and received an answer that surprised him.
“The Rebbe says, ‘Absolutely not. B’Shum oifen nisht. Absolutely not. B’Shum oifen nisht,’” Rabbi Groner said. “The Rebbe says you should continue with your experiments with the parve ice cream and G-d will help you to be very successful. And your products will become so popular and so in demand that they’ll be sold all over the world.”
It was then that Mintz decided to go into experimentation full time. By 1981 he was distributing samples of Tofutti, which quickly became popular in large stores across New York.
Mintz also credited the Rebbe with providing him with business advice throughout his company’s rise, including taking the company public. “And it was all because the Rebbe gave me a blessing that I should be successful, and because his guidance saved me each and every time,” he said.
As he saw growing success in his business endeavors, Mr. Mintz starting giving large sums of money to tzedakah. For many years, he would write a $1000 check to the Rebbe every day – and on Friday, two such checks.
Mr. Mintz was one of the founding members of the famous Machane Israel Development Fund and one of the founding supporters of Bris Avraham. In addition, he helped found and support scores of Chabad houses, organizations, and schools, and he helped countless shluchim around the world. He was a pillar of support and extremely proud of his many nephews and nieces who serve as shluchim and shluchos around the US.
He sponsored the printing of Tanyas in over 100 cities, built mikvaos in cities around the world, and sponsored the writing of many sifrei torah for multiple Chabad Houses. He was on the board and a pillar of major support of JLI.
Most importantly, as all those who knew him can attest, all that he gave was always with a tremendous smile and great happiness.
In addition to being a major philanthropist, Mr. Mintz also liberally donated his product to worthy causes. He donated Toffuti products to many camps and mosdos chinuch. His ice creams, provided free of charge, were a staple at many Lag b’Omer parades. His office at Tofutti brands was constantly visited by representatives of various Chabad organizations—whether they were asking for ice cream, financial support, or simply advice and guidance. Oholei Torah elementary would send students on class trips to his office, where the boys would listen in fascination as Mr. Mintz related his miraculous stories and his journey that was guided by the Rebbe at every step.
He was a featured speaker at many events over the years, including Ohelei Torah graduating classes, Pesach programs, and JLI Retreats, sharing his fascinating stories about the Rebbe.
Mr. Mintz was the president and one of the founders of Chabad of Tenafly, New Jersey. Rabbi Mordechai Shain, shliach to Tenafly, reacted to Mr. Mintz’s passing with the following heartfelt words: “Dovid was a true and loyal friend. He was devoted to Chabad to the degree of complete mesiras nefesh and without any limitations whatsoever.”
He was predeceased by his wife Rachel.
Baruch Dayan Ha’emes.
Amazing lesson on bitachon!
I had the privilege of meeting him at the JLI National Jewish Retreat. I was overwhelmed by his utter humility. What an outstanding human being. BDE