Avrumi Gross (name changed) was known far and wide as a true baal chesed.

He was the children of Holocaust survivors who settled after the war in New York. They were members of the fledgling Satmar chassidic community.

Avrumi went to cheder and grew up like many young children of immigrant parents. On one hand there was a desire to become a “real American”; on the other hand, his father was resolute that Avrumi follow in the ways of his chassidishe family.

As many young people do, Avrumi struggled during his adolescence over his true identity. His desire to seek out the temptations of America was a constant inner conflict for the young man.

At 16, he made a decision.

He informed his father that he was leaving Brooklyn and the insular, protective eye of the community.

As he packed his things and was preparing for his departure, his father walked over to him.

He hugged Avrumi with all his love and then stepped back, opened his wallet, and removed an item never before seen in the Gross home — a $100 bill.

This was 1967; to give you an idea of how much money that was for a Holocaust survivor who was struggling to makes ends meet, $100 in 1967 equals $749.31 in 2018.

One can imagine the look of amazement on Avrumi’s face as his father removed the $100 bill from his wallet.

His father looked at his son and said the words that would echo in Avrumi’s mind for the rest of his life.

“Avrumi, I always kept a hundred dollars in my wallet for unexpected emergencies. Your leaving the house certainly qualifies as one. Please take this hundred dollars and remember, no matter what you do or where you are, how you dress or how you act, I want you to know that I love you unconditionally and my door is always open to you. You will always have a bed here to sleep in and a hot meal to eat. Take this money and keep it with you so if and when the time comes that you want to come back, you will be able to. And never worry, I promise you, the door will always be open to you, whether you are Avrumi or Allan, whether you have peyos or blue jeans, my door will always be open for you.”

Avrumi’s father had never attended parenting classes.

He had never read a book on modern parenting methodology.

He was a graduate of the school of ahavas Yisrael that met in Auschwitz, and after completing three years of instruction there he knew that unconditional love for his son was a necessity of life.

He pressed the $100 bill into his son’s hand, kissed him on the cheek and silently said a kapitel Tehillim.

The next four years were a period of spiritual turmoil for Avrumi.

He dabbled and experimented with different lifestyles, but somehow, he kept coming across the unused $100 from his father.

After four years of searching, he reclaimed his heritage.

He never returned to a full chassidic lifestyle; but he did return to a total and sincere commitment to Yiddishkeit.

Avrumi Gross eventually became a businessman, and a multimillionaire to boot, yet his true passion was being a pillar of chesed and tzedakah of global impact.

Countless people owe their physical survival to his compassion and generosity.

Over Pesach a friend of his asked him, “If you had to name one thing that made you who you are today, what would that be?”

Without hesitating, Avrumi pulled out the worn and tattered 50-year-old $100 bill.

“It was this bill and the knowledge that my father’s door was always open. That is what made me who I am today.”

 (Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 715)