Thursday, September 4, 2008


I love coffee. This makes my son unhappy who never lets up in his vehement claim that “coffee is a drug!” Many consider coffee unhealthy and habit forming. Some have substituted tea for their coffee due to health reasons. Yet, some evidence suggests that there are positive health benefits to coffee as well.
I am grateful that coffee is still legal, even quite universally popular. It delights me to sip coffee at work or relaxing.
My daughter brought to my attention a poignant article in Oprah magazine, entitled “Not Just a Cup but a Just Cup.” Knowing my love of coffee and my attachment to things Jewish, this article spoke volumes of the power of coffee in human affairs. It tells the story of a Ugandan man in a kippah who was almost killed in the World Trade center on the morning of 9/11. JJ Keki is the 48year old chairman of the Mirembe Kawomera Coffee Cooperative in eastern Uganda, an interfaith group of more than 700 coffee growers: Jews, Muslims and Christians.
JJ was tortured by the local police when he tried to build a synagogue under the cruel hand of Idi Amin. After 9/11, he went door to door urging people of all faiths to come together and grow coffee, and by growing coffee, to spread peace.
The coffee cooperative, with help from Kulanu, a nonprofit organization that works with Uganda’s Jewish community, has found a distributor for its coffee, a coffee company in Fort Bragg, California, called most appropriately, the Thanksgiving Coffee Company. The cooperative is guaranteed a minimum price of $2 a pound no matter what the market does, a big improvement over the 60 cents it had been getting. They sell the coffee online at
JJ is also a musician. One of his songs goes like this: I’ve traveled the world and seen nothing as good as coffee .Our only solution is to grow coffee. Brothers and sisters come, grow coffee.
He adds: We use what we have to make our enemies into friends. You don’t need PhD’s. We have coffee.”
Each morning, as the arousing aroma of brewing coffee titillates my nostrils I will remember with gratitude the magic of coffee not only to enrich my pleasure and to stimulate my mind but also to be the beverage that can broker good will and peace among strangers, even enemies.
Perhaps when the Messiah arrives, we will celebrate not only with a good wine or a glass of shnappes, but we will drink a “lechayim”-to life- with a cup of piping hot coffee from the Thanksgiving Coffee Company as well.

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