web analytics
May 4, 2015 / 15 Iyar, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post


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)

JERUSALEM – Since he was a kid growing up in the town of Kiryat Tivan, Roy Itzhaki would regularly see them in the street, on their way to work, in coffee houses, as free as anyone else in the village to live their lives.

Though they live with a range of intellectual disabilities, these residents of the nearby residential center at Kfar Tikvah were as much a part of the community as the statue of war hero Alexander Zaid in the center of town.

So it seemed completely natural to Itzhaki to invite them, nearly a decade ago, to join him in a bold venture he was launching. That’s when the then-twenty-five-year-old IDF officer, fresh out of uniform, did something many considered crazy: he opened a winery.

Itzhaki recalls the well-meaning industry expert’s warning back then. “You seem like a nice young man so I’m going to give you some free advice. Don’t go into the wine business. Your chances for success are nil.”

“He was right in many ways,” an older and wiser Itzhaki says with a laugh, twirling the stem of a wineglass – filled with water. “It’s a bruising business: high pressure, high stakes and nearly impossible to break into. On paper our chances were nil.”

But having grown up in a family crazy about wine, and living in a part of Israel where wine grapes grow in abundance, Itzhaki forged on. First, he rented out grape arbors in both the Galilee and the Judean Hills, then his father the civil engineer led the renovation of an old cow shed into a tasting and sales room, and finally his mother suggested the name Tulip. The first year’s yield: 7,000 bottles.

From the very start the disabled workers were part of the fledgling winery’s team. Their home was a deserted kibbutz that had been transformed into a residential center for those with mental disabilities. It got its start in 1964 when Dr. Zigfrid Hirsch, a British philanthropist and Holocaust survivor, began rounding up mentally disabled people from across Israel, determined to give them the chance for a life of maximum normalcy and productivity. The result was Kfar Tikvah, Hebrew for “Village of Hope.”

Today some two hundred people with disabilities live in the village, and thirty of them work at Tulip. Itzhaki says he knew it was the right thing to employ them, but he admits his workforce took some getting used to.

“I kept asking myself, ‘What can I expect of them?’ ” he says. “How can I communicate with them? But within a day or two, I fell in love with these people.”

Tulip worker Nathan Can’ani listens with rapt attention to his boss during the telling of this story, which is in fact his story too, and every so often he interrupts the flow.

“I like to put the bottles on the machine,” he says with a wide grin. “I like that job.” Now 64, Can’ani has been with the winery full-time since its early days in 2003. Itzhaki says employees like Can’ani continue to amaze by dutifully performing “the repetitive work that would drive us crazy with its monotony…. But eight hours later they’re still so happy, still interested in every detail of the job and still doing excellent work.”

It was in 2006 that Itzhaki first approached the rabbinate.

“I could see that the only way to grow in this market is to be kosher,” he says. “That’s what the better hotels and restaurants across Israel require and it opens up the lucrative kosher export market, too.”

Another potential jump in sales comes on Rosh Hashanah and Pesach, when Israeli employers traditionally give their employees a bottle of kosher wine, says Itzhaki.

Yet Itzhaki’s employment of the disabled presented a significant roadblock to going kosher. Jewish law requires that every person who touches wine in any stage of its production must be observant of mitzvot – but Itzhaki’s disabled employees were not.

When one kashrut expert toured the plant on bottling day, he quickly sized up the situation.

“He told me our wine could be kosher, but first I would have to let them all go and hire new workers in their place,” Itzhaki recalls. “I told him, ‘I’m sorry. Here’s the door. I am not firing these people.’ ”

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “A Special Winery’s Special People”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Two killed after opening fire on police at AFDI art contest for best Mohammed cartoon.
Two Suspects Shot Dead Following Shooting at TX ‘Free Speech’ Event
Latest Sections Stories
blintze_cake

“DouxMatok’s technology will allow for a reduction of 30-60 percent of sugar in a product, depending on the application, and with no effect on taste.”

Schonfeld-logo1

How do we ensure that our students aren’t studying for the grade or the end-of-the-year pizza party? How can we get them to truly want to learn for learning’s sake?

Kupfer-On-Our-Own-NEW

The message being conveyed is that without “flour,” without the means to support oneself and one’s family, one’s focus on Torah will be impeded by worry.

Someone close to us knew that you were good at saving marriages and begged us to give therapy one last chance,

Rabbi Pinni Dunner and Holocaust survivor Heddy Orden.

He wrote a strong defense of shechitah in which he maintained that the Jewish method of slaughter had a humanitarian influence on the Jewish people.

New York State Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will be the keynote speaker at the Westchester Government Relations Legislative Breakfast on Friday, May 8, at 7:45 am at the Jewish Community Center of Harrison.  The annual event, which brings together important elected officials and the Westchester Jewish community, is sponsored jointly by UJA-Federation of New York […]

“Like other collaborative members, we embarked on this journey as an opportunity to build on New York leadership’s long commitment to expand and diversify opportunities for Jewish teen engagement,” says Melanie Schneider, senior planning executive with UJA-Federation of New York’s Commission on Jewish Identity and Renewal

The poetry slam required entrants to compose original poetry with powerful imagery and energetic rhythm bringing their poems to life – making it palpable to the audience.

“I was so inspired by the beautiful lessons I learned and by the holiness around me that I just couldn’t stop writing songs!” she says.

But Pi Day is worst of all
I want the extra credit bad
But trying to remember many numbers
makes me sad.

Several thousand Eastern European Jews had escaped Nazi death and Soviet persecution by fleeing to Shanghai, China.

More Articles from Deborah Fineblum Schabb
Brian Mast at the Sar-El Army Base in Israel.

Posting ‘I support Israel’s right to defend herself’ on Facebook isn’t enough.

Fruchter-071312-Rice

But in Israel, because food packagers have two very different markets to please (and Sephardim outnumber Ashkenazim), the traditional Ashkenazi approach can be challenging.

JERUSALEM – Since he was a kid growing up in the town of Kiryat Tivan, Roy Itzhaki would regularly see them in the street, on their way to work, in coffee houses, as free as anyone else in the village to live their lives.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/features/a-special-winerys-special-people/2013/03/20/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: