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  • Writer's pictureWendell Maxey

Inside The Staten Island Holocaust Center: The History of Wissotzky Tea

When the premises at the former Officers Club at Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island is completed for renovations and becomes the location of the Staten Island Holocaust Center, we will have a corner dedicated to Jewish Life featuring interesting facts, figures, and photos from throughout Jewish history.

This story about the history of the Wizzotzky Tea Company is just a glimpse of what you'll find inside the Staten Island Holocaust Center...

The next time you take a warm sip of Wissotzky Tea, just remember you are enjoying a drink from a company in Israel that become one of the largest tea importers, manufacturers, and tea companies in the world.

In 1849, Kalman Zev (Kalonimus Wolf) Wissotzky, a Russian Jew, established the Wissotzky Tea Company in Moscow, and quickly becoming one of the country’s most prosperous tea distributors. Wissotzky also had the honor of being the exclusive tea supplier for the Czar’s military with the Russian army boasted millions of soldiers, for whom tea drinking was a daily ritual.

One day Wissotzky was approached by some Jews who were living in the Holy Land, then known as Palestine, who asked him to invest in building a tea company there. As the story goes, Wissotzky laughed at this preposterous idea as the Turks governed Palestine at the time. Besides, as Wissotzky pointed out, Palestine could not produce its own tea and tea leaves from India were far too costly to import.

After mulling over the idea for a while, Wissotzky realized many Jews lived in Palestine with no livelihood and often without sufficient food for their families. What better way to contribute to Jewish life in the Holy Land than to build a factory and offer jobs to Jews who were in need? A factory was built without any hope that it would bring a profit. It was, first and foremost, a charitable act, for Mr. Wissotzky.

In 1917, the Czar and his army were swept from power and while communists seized every business, including Wissotzky’s Tea Company, the only asset the Wissotzky family had left was the factory they built in Palestine before the revolution.

They fled to the Holy Land and rebuilt their business.

Over the following decades, Wissotzky Tea grew rapidly, expanding within Israel and eventually across the world. Now run by fifth-generation family members, Wissotzky Tea produces more than 200 different products. Today, they lead the tea sector in Israel, outselling all their competitors, with a market share of about 80%!

When Mr. Wissotzky built his factory in the Holy Land he wasn’t thinking of wealth or honor; his wish was to help the Jewish community survive and thrive. That gift became not only his legacy, but the secret of his success and the reason you can buy Wissotzky Tea today.

*photos credited to Wissotzky Tea

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