To your left, as you enter Confectionery!, a vegan sweets shop in New York’s East Village with a fun turquoise and floral decorating scheme, you’ll find a “Mitzvah Wall.” Buy anything for anyone, the sign says in bright watercolors. Note your mitzvah (in Yiddish mitzvah means “good deed”) on the special paper provided. Redeem a mitzvah that applies to you.
Veronica, a friendly apron-wearing employee behind the counter, gave me the low down. She informed me that the tradition of the Mitzvah Wall started at Commissary!, the New Paltz coffee and tea shop that is Confectionery!’s sister company, where the Mitzvah Wall is more extensive because it’s existed for longer. The gist is the same: Customers choose a treat to purchase ahead of time for a person who meets a certain set of criteria—typically, someone who has been dealt a bad hand in life recently for one reason or another. Then, if a customer comes in and sees a mitzvah on the wall that applies to them, they can claim the corresponding treat. The idea is to pay it forward, and it’s meant more for strangers than for friends.
It’s a very cool, very heartwarming dose of Jewish values. Here are some of the mitzvot posted on the wall when I visited:
— “A macaron for someone living with depression”
— “A cookie for someone who feels the season passed them by”
— “A candy for someone who has been misgendered”
And my personal favorite: “A furious vulva for a feminist working her way through grad school.” (Yes, that’s a real treat that you can buy at Confectionery!)
The shop has a variety of chocolate truffles, specializing in caramels, as well as macarons and cookies. I tried the dark chocolate peanut butter cup, because I consider myself a peanut butter cup maven (it was nothing like Reese’s; gooey rather than creamy, but very tasty nonetheless). I also tried the rosemary sea salt caramel, which Veronica told me was one of their bestselling chocolates (out of the ordinary and surprisingly delicious) and their white wine pear heart, just for good measure. All three were very tasty, and didn’t suffer for lack of dairy. In the end, inspired by the menschlichkeit of the other mitzvah-doers, I contributed one of my own: “A maple white chocolate heart for someone who needs to be reminded that love is sweet despite everything.”
Commissary!’s card advertises “organic and local seasonal food specials, sliding scale soup, chocolates, pickle plates, and zines;” the (organic) apple doesn’t fall far from the tree as far as Confectionery! is concerned. The progressive company mission is evident even before you enter the shop; on the day that I visited, there was a chalkboard outside that read “I love you as much as I hate our current political hellscape.” Confectionery!, that’s how much I love YOU.