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September 1, 2015 / 17 Elul, 5775
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A Special Winery’s Special People

(L-R) Eli Sternzis, Roy Itzhaki and Dedi Ashkenazi at Tulip Winery. (Courtesy of Roy Itzhaki)

(L-R) Eli Sternzis, Roy Itzhaki and Dedi Ashkenazi at Tulip Winery. (Courtesy of Roy Itzhaki)

Each rabbi Itzhaki consulted would lay out the same requirement. But Itzhaki was determined to obtain kosher certification. Four years and more than twenty rabbinic consultations later, Itzhaki finally succeeded.

After Rabbi Aharon Chaskal came to the winery, inspired by what he saw there, he arranged for Itzhaki to meet Rabbi Shmuel Wosner, a widely respected halachic authority in the haredi world.

Rabbi Wosner listened carefully to Itzhaki and said something that none of his predecessors had: “It is such an important mitzvah that you are doing with these people, let’s find a way.”

Chaskal returned to Kiryat Tivon to review every single task of wine production. The news was good. Roughly three-quarters of the tasks could be done by the employees with disabilities, while the remaining quarter, which required direct contact with grape or wine, could be done by others. The winery was declared ready for koshering, and no disabled employees were let go. In 2010, the first bottle of kosher Tulip wine rolled off the conveyor belt.

Nearly a decade after Itzhaki took risks for something he believed in, his company is primed to expand its North American distribution to markets beyond New York (next up: Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Miami and Chicago), and Tulip wines are pulling down impressive scores with the industry’s toughest judges. In fact, in his Guide to Israeli Wines, the late Daniel Rogov used adjectives like “exceptional” and “sumptuous” and wrote that one variety of Tulip wine “almost gives you the feeling that you could eat it with a spoon rather than from a wine glass.”

“When we have Tulip wine on our Shabbos table we’re performing three mitzvot, at least,” says Anne Sendor of Sharon, Mass. “We’re blessing the wine on Shabbos; we’re drinking wine from, as we say in the Birkat HaMazon, ‘the good land He gave you,’ which further ties us to the land. And we’re also supporting what they’re doing, giving work to the special people who work there. Plus it’s just delicious wine.”

(JNS)

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