After surviving two wars, the Nazi invasion of Hungary and the Holocaust, a 99-year-old man died Saturday afternoon after being hit by a car on his way to synagogue, family members and the police said.
On Saturday, Jack Mikulincer, who had turned 99 about two weeks earlier, was crossing Oriental Boulevard in Brooklyn in his electric wheelchair, making his weekly trip to the Manhattan Beach Jewish Center to observe the Sabbath. Mr. Mikulincer was known as the gabbai of the synagogue, leading its day-to-day operations.
As he crossed the street, Mr. Mikulincer was hit by a BMW, a spokesman for the New York Police Department said, and was taken to Coney Island Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The driver of the vehicle stayed on the scene, the spokesman said, and the police investigation is ongoing.
“I still don’t believe I’m never going to see him again,” said Elke Weiss, 36, one of Mr. Mikulincer’s grandchildren. “He was such an amazing person.”
Mr. Mikulincer was accompanied by one of his closest friends, Jehuda Lindenblatt, 85, who said they met up at Mr. Mikulincer’s house to head to the synagogue as they did every Saturday. Minutes later, Mr. Mikulincer was dead. Mr. Lindenblatt said he was only a few feet behind him.
Mr. Lindenblatt, who is also a Holocaust survivor, said his friend’s death has been especially painful for him.
“I saw so much death in my life, piles of people,” Mr. Lindenblatt said. “It never hit me that much like it hit, this one.”
Mr. Mikulincer was born on Jan. 20, 1923, in what is now known as Ukraine, one of eight children. He fought in two wars, once with the Russian Army during World War II before being confined in the Stanisławów Ghetto, and once with the Israeli Army during Israel’s war for independence.
These were dark periods of his life he was often reluctant to discuss, Ms. Weiss said.
In Israel, Mr. Mikulincer met and married his wife, Frantiska, an Auschwitz survivor, before moving to New York. Family and friends described Mr. Mikulincer as charismatic, lively and devoted to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
He could also be stubborn, Ms. Weiss said, resisting anyone who offered to help take care of him and refusing to move to a nursing home.
“I can’t believe my grandfather, who survived so much, was killed in a car accident,” Ms. Weiss said.
For many years, he owned a bakery in Brighton Beach called Aviva Bakery, named after one of his daughters. Though he made everything from nut cake and rainbow cookies to mandelbrot, he was especially famous among the family for his brownies, Ms. Weiss said.
Ms. Weiss said one of her favorite memories of her grandfather was the first time she had a Skype call with him. As her mother connected the call, he peered into the screen, thinking he was looking at a picture of his granddaughter. When she waved, she said, he jumped in surprise.
“He said, ‘You can hear us?’” Ms. Weiss said, laughing. “He said, ‘I’m a very modern man, but this is magic.’ I mean, he remembered horse-drawn carriages.”
He stayed active even as he got older, going for bike rides and long walks. He was also an avid painter, Ms. Weiss said, and enjoyed History Channel documentaries about Israel and the end of World War II.
In recent years, one of his favorite things to do was tread the boardwalk on Manhattan Beach with Mr. Lindenblatt — Mr. Mikulincer in his electric wheelchair, Mr. Lindenblatt on foot. The two met 51 years ago, when Mr. Lindenblatt moved to a house one block from Mr. Mikulincer’s bakery.
Mr. Lindenblatt said he and his friend sometimes reflected on all the times they escaped death over the course of their lives. Both had endured much pain and suffering, he said, adding that what Mr. Mikulincer would tell him to do after mourning is exactly that — to survive, and to keep moving forward.
“Men like this you cannot find,” Mr. Lindenblatt said. “I am happy I spent with him the years. He was unbelievable. If you meet him, you love him instantly.”
He was a well-known figure in his community: On his 99th birthday, in lieu of an in-person celebration, Ms. Weiss said her grandfather was inundated with so many phone calls that the family joked that when he turned 100, Mr. Mikulincer would need a private secretary.
“It’s amazing, how somebody who had so much bitterness in his life made our lives so sweet,” Ms. Weiss said.
Susan Campbell Beachy contributed research.