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On Site: Cuppa Kindness

Yisroel Besser

Reb Dovid Weissenstern serves thousands of free cups of coffee every day to the crowds at the Kosel. Rain or shine, he’s there to continue Avraham Avinu’s legacy

Monday, May 14, 2018

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Photos: Lior Mizrachi

K

eeping It Low-Key

In the shadow of the Kosel, on ground hallowed by the footsteps of generations of hopeful Jews, an unassuming Yid with a trimmed beard and bright eyes engages in a tradition inspired by our forefathers.

Reb Dovid Weissenstern works quickly, one eye on the growing line coming forward from the Wall and the other on one of three huge hot water urns at his side: he’s preparing cups of coffee, tea, and “shoko,” working with the efficiency of a Starbucks barista.

There is a certain fluidity of motion and intuitive grasp of customer service that leads me to wonder about his day job. After all, when he completes his four-hour task here, it’s barely eight o’clock in the morning. He is a locksmith, he tells me, known to many customers from his Geula store. That makes sense.

While the line moves quickly, with relative order, there are occasional disruptions: someone pokes his head into the booth and indignantly informs Reb Dovid that he won’t use the disposable cups for ecological reasons.

“Of course, of course,” Reb Dovid says soothingly. “Here, use mine.” He washes his own glass mug, fills it with coffee, and hands it over. 

Kosel Calling

Reb Dovid isn’t new to this, though it wasn’t what he signed up for. A regular participant at the pre-vasikin daf yomi shiur at the Kosel, he filled in for a friend traveling to Europe who asked him to prepare coffee for the shiur members, assorted soldiers, and policemen who guard the holy site.

The trip to Europe stretched out, and then the friend took ill. The shiur grew, and somehow, Reb Dovid was preparing drinks for a crowd beyond the shiur as well. Then, pre-Shacharis drinks became post-Shacharis drinks for mispallelim who were grateful for the hot elixir before they hurried off to start a new day.

 

“I was getting ready to retire, my children were already working with me, so this seemed like a calling. I discussed it with my wife, and here we are.” 

Cup after Cup after Cup

Mrs. Weissenstern isn’t there today, and a quiet Yerushalmi volunteer takes her place, working quickly alongside Reb Dovid, but most days, she joins her husband.

The day starts at 2 a.m. for the Weissensterns. After he goes to the mikveh, Reb Dovid and his wife set out from their Givat Shaul home and pick up the milk they’ll need for the day — between 50 and 100 liters, depending on the time of year.

They arrive at the Kosel and get to work in the small booth, located on the western edge of the Kosel Plaza, provided to them by Rav Shmuel Rabinowitz and the government body responsible for the site. Originally, they funded the operation themselves, but in recent years, with the expenses exceeding thousands of shekels a day, he’s accepted help from those who wish to share in the merit.

On a regular day the Weissensterns can serve, free of charge, about 2,000 cups. But on busier days, like Chol Hamoed, bein hazmanim, or during Selichos, that number can rise to 5,000. The busiest day of the year is Hoshana Rabbah, but there is never a day when it’s quiet. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 710)

 

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