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Although many Jews were active in the leadership of the Russian Revolution, and the government of the Czar was less than friendly to the general Jewish population, there were many anti-Semitic overtones during the revolution. One well-known chant during the revolution was : “Tea of Wissotzky, Sugar of Brodsky, and the Czar is Leiba Trotsky!” (inferring Jewish domination).

Today there is no more Lebedyn Sugar, the sugar produced by Lazar Brodsky (1848-1904), aka the “Sugar King,” a Jewish man from Kiev who produced a quarter of the country’s sugar production and was an acclaimed philanthropist. Nor did Marxist Communism live out the century, as had been the dream of Marxist revolutionary and Red Army Leader Leon Trotsky (1879-1940). Wissotzky Tea, on the other hand, is now a popular tea in the land of Israel.

The Wissotzky Tea company was established by Kalman Zev Yankelevich Wissotzky (1824-1904). The son of a merchant, Wissotzky’s foray into the tea trade came after he studied in the Volozhin Yeshiva, worked at a government organized Jewish agricultural colony, and studied Torah in Kovno with Rabbi Israel Lipkin. In 1849, he created the Wissotzky Tea Company and soon became known as the “King of Russian Tea.”

Wissotzky was a generous philanthropist who supported many Jewish institutions, and was particularly interested in helping cantonists, young Jews who had been forcibly conscripted into the Russian army for 25 years (basically life); most lost their connection to Jewish life. Via the Parisian Alliance Israélite, he set up what eventually became the philanthropic fund now known as “The Wissotzky Fund.”

A strong believer in Zionism, Wissotzky did not live to see his company relocate to Israel. He died in 1904, just as his company expanded to New York and London. By 1917, they ceased operations in Russia. In 1936, a Wissotzky plant was opened in Tel Aviv, where the company’s headquarters eventually relocated.

Copyright © 2012 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

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