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Impressions: How to describe Rabbi Meir Schuster z”l?

D.B. Estrin

A reticent, unassuming figure who floated through the streets of Jerusalem’s Old City for years with myopic focus and one clear goal, to bring back estranged Jews to the fold? A man whose job description was to engage Jewish students and tourists passing through Jerusalem in a conversation that would change the direction of their lives? A rabbi whose tap on the shoulder offered access to Torah, so the uninformed could make intelligent choices about their Jewish future?

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

All of these descriptions attempt to capture an introverted man who eschewed recognition but unintentionally became a legendary figure of Jerusalem. Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky once remarked, “I always knew when it was Rabbi Schuster on the phone, because I wouldn’t hear anything on the other end of the line.” He may have been a man of few words, but his actions speak loud and clear, for thousands of lives. In 1985, Rabbi Schuster opened the Heritage House (his and hers Jewish youth hostels on different streets), to provide a warm, welcoming place for these wandering Jews, a place to drop their backpacks while considering how to use their time in Jerusalem. As a counselor in the women’s hostel for five years, I witnessed the amazing journeys of those touched by Rabbi Schuster’s efforts. In honor of the yahrtzeit of a man who sought no kavod — only to contact and reeducate those who had lost sight of their birthright — it seems apt to offer a glimpse of the results of his mission.   Tap on the Shoulder “So, do you want the job?” I had no idea what to answerRabbiSchuster. When my friendNaomi invited me for coffee at the Heritage House, I didn’t know they were looking for a new nighttime counselor. And I had no way of knowing that coffee date would alter the next five years of my life. But the more I heard about becoming a night counselor at the Heritage House, the more I considered it. Living in the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City, meeting tourists, travelers, students — it all sounded like just the sort of challenge I was up for. And as so many others found out,RabbiSchuster’s obvious passion and sincerity made it hard to say no to him. Why didNaomi recommend me for the job? Was it because I started shmoozing with the guests right away that day? Or because my background and experiences would help me relate to those showing up at the hostel? Not that long before I’d been just like those who showed up at the Heritage House.

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