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Yeshiva rabbi, Jerusalem cafe owner: A tale of two Aryehs

CM 12/05/2021

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 Who would have thought that sitting at a small table in Jerusalem’s famed Café Tuv Taam at 8 a.m. one sunny Friday morning shortly before Shavuot in 1974 would change our lives completely?

True, when we married almost 18 years earlier, Neville and I had shared the Zionist dream of leaving our North of England home and living in Israel. We thought it would be within six months, but how realistic could that be when father Armin, and his indispensable partner, Neville, worked together in Sheffield producing cutlery!
Concern for the further Jewish education of our three sons – then aged 16, 14 and 11 – prompted us to look for suitable schools in Israel. Touring many educational institutions throughout the land, we observed that awareness of lone students was sadly lacking. There was no Nefesh B’nefesh; Jewish Agency representatives we consulted suggested we consider carefully how different standards of living and education would have an impact on our lives.
Despondently driving through Jerusalem on our final Thursday, with no solution in sight, we spied atop a whitewashed school building the name “Netiv Meir.” We had heard of the indomitable head of the yeshiva dormitory high school, Rabbi Aryeh Binah, known by all as Reb Aryeh. This was considered the crème de la crème of such schools, and having failed to find a listening ear in many others, here was our last chance. Inside, I explained our situation, was given Reb Aryeh’s telephone number and told to call. Chutzpadik that I am, I did!
“Sunday,” he suggested. 
Pleading that we were returning to England that day, led unconventionally to his response, “Well, I must go to town to repair my glasses tomorrow before catching the bus to my yeshiva in the Golan. Be at the Café Tuv Taam on King George Street at 8 a.m. There I’ll meet you.”
What? We’re on holiday! The English would just about be opening their eyes then. Still, our mission was desperate. So “Yes! Of course – How will we recognize you?”

“I will be with a large black kippah.” 
So he was. This stocky white haired and bearded figure with numerous parcels draped over his arms, peered round the door as we rose to the occasion. Refusing tea, or even the famed cheesecake, our business was breathtakingly and successfully concluded with the words, “Boys who wish to come and learn in Medinat Yisrael, we will accept them.”
Faintly I asked, “And what if they are not up to standard?”
“They will do what they can, and whenever extra tuition is needed, we will supply.”
With that, bestowing upon us a startlingly blue-eyed, smiling gaze, the small, fatherly figure picked up his numerous parcels and without ceremony, hustled out to repair his glasses before catching his bus. 
LITTLE COULD we have known that the history of Reb Aryeh and the Café Tuv Taam had much in common, even though their paths had never crossed.
This already-learned Russian born individual had left yeshiva in Slonim to escape the army draft and come alone to Palestine in 1933, aged only 20. He began as a Tel Aviv construction worker. Living in the agricultural Kfar Haroeh village, his rubber-booted figure could be seen tending the land before attending to his students.
In 1953 he founded the now-famous Netiv Meir, where some 20 years later, our sons were to begin a new chapter in their lives. They were amazed how Reb Aryeh, who led numerous hikes and mountain-climbing excursions, far outstripped his younger students. With relief they – and we – found that his door was always open when we subsequently “made aliyah,” though it would be more accurate to say that “aliyah made us.”
What a different Israel it was in 1975 compared to this country 46 years later. Eilat had no Ashkenazi Shabbat service. Tel Aviv kosher restaurants? None! Eventually turning away from what looked like a dairy cafeteria because it had no kosher certification, a waiter hopefully called from the door, “We have no lavan (white) here!’ Thinking he meant products such as yogurt or cream cheese we responded with, “Sorry but that was just what we wanted.” We were mortified upon later discovering that “lavan” was a euphemism for pork!
We, and our sons, as expected, had to cope with the culture and language barrier, even though we had Israeli teachers living with our family for a number of years, in readiness for our “One day we will make aliyah!” Still, speedy speech and accents challenged us. There is a saying in English and in Hebrew “When the going gets tough, the tough get going!” This was proven by our grown sons proudly serving their country, followed by their offspring.
REB ARYEH’S was not the only open door. That belonged to the Café Tuv Taam. Idealistic newlyweds Ruth and Aryeh Zvi Lipschitz fled their native Germany for Palestine in 1933. Arriving in Jerusalem, they were faced with making a living. People had to eat and people liked going out of their small apartments, so the couple decided to open a café.
The Lipschitzs found a spot on Jerusalem’s King George Avenue, but with its few houses friends thought it a folly to open a café there. Still, it was right by the number 9 bus stop where students traveling to and from the Hebrew University hopped on and off. Additional possible clients were British Army soldiers stationed in the Old City, which did not have a café. They needed somewhere to enjoy coffee and a beer!
Bravely Ruth and Aryeh took the plunge and friends coined it Cafe Tuv Taam – Very Tasty! Indeed, it was. With Ruth and friends as waitresses, Aryeh created an oven for cakes and Sabbath challot, bringing an expert pastry chef from Vienna. Specialities, including cheesecake and cheese blintzes on Shavuot, abounded. Throughout the years, the Café Tuv Taam had an ever-open door. There jokers, chess players and a range of other clients rubbed shoulders with the likes of author Aaron Appelfeld.
Nevertheless, British soldiers were not thrilled that there were no cakes during Passover, but patiently anticipated Shavuot delicacies seven weeks later! Broadening his business, Aryeh supplied provisions to soldiers in the Allenby Barracks on Derech Hevron and the Schneller Compound in Romema, just as Reb Aryeh provided spiritual sustenance to increasing numbers of youth from all corners of the earth – with much success.
Rabbi Aryeh Bina of Netiv Meir and Aryeh Lipschitz of Café Tuv Taam, who both retired in about 1986, were in their own ways pioneers, instrumental in fostering strengths among diverse populations. Just as Reb Aryeh went beyond the call of duty with pupils’ excursions, so Aryeh Lipschitz helped bring over persecuted Jews, often counseling and offering practical help. True to meaning of their Hebrew names, the two Aryehs were indeed lions of Jerusalem.
We bless the influence and inspiration of both Aryehs although, sadly, the Café Tuv Taam has since disappeared, now the site of a Steimatsky’s bookshop.
Indulging in cheesecake on Shavuot and recalling the Song of Songs saying, “The sweetness of Torah drips from your lips, like honey and milk it lies under your tongue,” our family muses on the learning gained.
Gratefully, we can’t help but reflect on that propitious event so many years ago in The Café Tuv Taam.
The writer is a psychotherapist and organization consultant; pessykrausz@gmail.com

Source: Jerusalem Post

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