The Custodian We All Know and Love: Meet Enrique

Rivka Bennun


You’ve seen him in the halls. You’ve said hi to him. If you’ve been here long enough, he probably knows your name. He probably asks you how you’re doing. He greets each student with a cheerful laugh and a grin that we have all become so familiar with. 

He even knows the basic Jewish phrases: on Friday afternoon, he’ll wave goodbye and say “have a good Shabbos!”; in the evening time, he says “layla tov!” On our way out of school; and when he wants to say thank you, he says, “toda raba”. 

I had the honor of sitting down with him one day to talk to him about his life. Yes, I was that girl that you saw sitting with Enrique during Period 7 lunch, immersed in a deep conversation in the middle of the noisy auditorium. 

This is Enrique, the custodian that the student body at SKA has grown to know and love. Here is his story. 

Enrique grew up in the Dominican Republic in a family of six. He has two brothers and one sister, and his entire family currently lives in the United States. Enrique says that he had a nice childhood. “I am proud of my family,” he said. “They showed me the right ways to go about life.” 

In addition to his family life, Enrique described for me his childhood group of friends. “I had a great group of friends,” he said. “Some of them moved to America over the years. We chill every once in a while.” 

Enrique and his family originally came to America in 1990 to find work. They have been all over the east coast ever since. Enrique himself went from Manhattan, to Miami, to New Hampshire, and then finally to Long Island. This is his sixth year working at SKA. 

When asking him what his favorite part about working at SKA was, I got a heartwarming response. 

“What can I say? You guys!” He said with a smile. “I feel like a grandpa to you girls. You are all such polite, caring human beings.” 

His mother lives in Manhattan with his brothers, his father in Miami. His sister is in New Hampshire. He has five kids, who are located in Manhattan, New Hampshire, and Puerto Rico. “The two youngest are completely American,” he said. “They can be president.”

I asked him if he’s ever experienced any real struggles. 

“Not really, no,” he responded. “I’ve been here since 1990, and I’ve never had even one year without work.” I said that this was a blessing, and he agreed wholeheartedly. 

 There is a lot to learn from Enrique from this simple answer. He faces life with a most cheerful disposition and he does not allow stumbling blocks to cause him to fall. How does he do this? 

“I have a little box in my mind,” he explained. “When I come down here, I lock away whatever problem I have in that box and I come down here without any problems. It’s so important to be happy.

“It’s very hard sometimes but you live and you learn. You learn how to do this so that you can be happy for everyone.”

His advice for life?

“Respect everyone. Never put anyone down because no one is better than anybody else. We are all different people. You have to treat each person as they are.

“Be honorable, be honest, and like I told you,” he concluded. “Respect. That is the most important thing.”

This is a story of kindness, and it tells over many important lessons for life that students can learn. It’s about facing life joyfully, embracing challenges, and mustering the strength to move forward each day.