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Riots fail to chase out Jack Feldman
Rochester, N.Y. - Nothing can bring people together quite like food.
At the brick-fronted store on the corner of Joseph Avenue and Eiffel Place, that food is seafood.
"I think it's great," said customer Lorraine Murray. "It's been here as long as I can remember."
Since 1954, to be exact.
Eddie Felder started working there shortly after it opened.
"This is where everyone gathers, they come to the fish market," Felder said.
They come because of Jack Feldman, who started the business several years after surviving Auschwitz.
They come because they know he's always given fish and fries to anyone even if they don't have the money to pay for it.
"No question because I know what hunger is," Feldman said.
Then came the riots of 1964.
While people stormed down Joseph Avenue breaking and looting, Feldman's African-American employees stood guard outside the store.
"Those employees saved my store. No window was broken," Feldman said.
Many other businesses, though, were vandalized.
Joseph Avenue was brimming with businesses those days as Jewish and Italian immigrants opened up shop along the Joseph Avenue corridor.
Most of the businesses didn't reopen after the riots.
Jack's Fish Market did.
"I couldn't leave," Feldman said. "I grew up here."
So did Feldman's son, Irving, who now runs the day-to-day.
"I know the customers' kids, I know them, I know what's going on," Irving Feldman said.
Father and son kept the shop on Joseph Avenue even after a couple of teenagers shot Jack during a robbery in 2007.
"The two kids that did it, they used to sit down and my father would feed them," Irving Feldman said.
Jack recovered and his family's dedication to the Joseph Avenue neighborhood didn't waiver.
"I went through a lot, I know what war is, that's why you've got to treat people good, even today, even tomorrow, I'll always be the same," Feldman said.
He'll continue bringing people together through faith in the power of good and, of course, the fish and fries.