I found it very telling when I received a phone call from a contributing writer at the Detroit Jewish News the day after Jack Aronson passed away. She said she was working on an obituary for Jack, but was confused. I asked what she was confused about and she told me that she was having trouble verifying if Jack was Jewish. I started to laugh.
Jack Aronson was not Jewish. But I immediately understood why she was confused. The man was so beloved throughout the Jewish community and he received loving tributes from notable Jewish leaders in the immediate hours after his death that it was not surprising this Jewish News writer had begun working on his obituary before realizing that he wasn’t a member of the Jewish community — at least not officially.
I looked up to Jack Aronson. Both literally and figuratively. Jack was a big man. He was tall, but he loomed even larger when it came to business. And to the community. And to philanthropy. In the food industry, he was legendary.
The first time I met Jack, I told him about my kosher certification agency. He said he wasn't happy with the agency that Garden Fresh was using and so I jokingly told him to have his people give me a call. Not long after that, I received a call from his manager to set up a meeting. Before that meeting ever took place, Jack had sold Garden Fresh to Campbell's for almost a quarter billion dollars. What stuck with me is not that Jack actually followed through and had someone contact me, but that several people told me that he had contacted them to learn more about me and Kosher Michigan. Jack did his research.
In April of 2019, Jack called me and said he was ready to work together. He invited me to Great Lakes HPP in Taylor to show me his innovative food freezing and drying machines. After the tour of the facility, we went to a conference room and talked. Well, mainly Jack talked. I listened. This went on for a couple of hours. Jack told me the inside scoop on selling his company to Campbell's and how he had recently tried and failed to buy it back.
He talked about eating healthy and how he was going to beat cancer in any way necessary. We talked about family and community, entrepreneurship and philanthropy. He was a wealth of information.
One of the last times I talked to Jack was at the beginning of the pandemic when we were under the stay-at-home order. Knowing that people were struggling, he was determined to give away thousands of meals. He contacted me to let me know that he could have his delivery guy drop off a free meal box at the home of anyone I knew who was having a difficult time during the quarantine.
I shared this information with my Facebook friends and several people took Jack up on his offer, having meals delivered to elderly parents and co-workers who were in need. It should be mentioned that Jack was in the middle of a cancer treatment when he called me. That was Jack — always caring about others.
Kosher certifying Great Lakes HPP was a gift for me because I got to know the great Jack Aronson. May his memory endure for blessings for his family and for everyone who knew him.
Rest in peace, Jack. I am a better person for having known you.