Author: Tzivya

I met Meir Schuster in a roundabout sort of way – through a high school classmate of mine who knew an Aish HaTorah student who had been brought to the yeshiva by Reb Meir. From the time I was introduced to Reb Meir, in March of 1980, he watched out for me. I stayed at Aish for three months and then had to go back to the States for what was supposed to be one month. I know Reb Meir davened that I should return to Aish and, baruch Hashem, I did.

I have been with Aish for 31 years now. Reb Meir and I remained friends and associates and I’ve spent numerous Shabbosos at the Schuster home. I’ve seen Reb Meir withstand many challenges and changing times but he has never lost the slightest focus from his mission. Reb Meir has always been – and continues to be – a big source of inspiration for me and I love the man.

Herschel seems to have been one of a fortunate few who had an ongoing mail correspondence with Rabbi Meir Schuster. What follows is a sampling of Reb Meir’s letters to him at a time when Herschel was deciding what to do with his life. Reb Meir’s winning blend of warmth, friendly chit-chat and serious discussion makes these letters a real treasure.

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Dear Herschel,

Hi. What’s up, Herschel? I hope this letter find you well and in a good spirits. Nu – so when are we finally going to see Herschel? How is everything going there? Are you finally getting things settled and taken care of? I sure hope so and sure hope to be seeing you real soon. The Yeshiva is coming along very nicely. We have a new(er) Beit Midrash, a lot more spacious than our old one. We are still trying to get a new dining room and things are looking good. Another thing that’s looking good here is the weather. If you’d be smart you’d get out of that freezing cold New York weather and come on over to sunny Israel, real fast. This past Shabbos was the bris milah of Jerome’s new baby boy. His wife had twins! Bye for now. Looking forward to seeing you soon. Write!!
Sincerely,
Meir Schuster

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Dear Herschel,

Hi. How is everything coming along? I received your letter the other day and was indeed very happy to hear from you – especially that your return to the Holy Land is close at hand. Herschel, there is absolutely nothing to be afraid of. As for your returning to Israel and leaving the United States behind you, you are doing the best thing possible by coming here at this time. You will be welcomed at Aish HaTorah with open arms. It was at Aish HaTorah where you first began to discover your “roots” and it will be at Aish HaTorah that you will continue to grow in your newly discovered identity. You’re a Jew who has found his birthright and is eager to get to work to learn more about it. The more you find out about your heritage the more you will find out about yourself. At Aish HaTorah you will be afforded an opportunity to grow spiritually, strengthen yourself mentally and become a genuinely happy person. We’re all “rootin” for you Herschel! Come on home! Looking forward to seeing you.

Love,

Meir Schuster

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Dear Herschel,

Shalom. I hope this letter find you well and in good spirits. It was good speaking with you over the phone and it was nice receiving your letter. It is very apropos that this coming Shabbat is the reading of the portion of Lech-Lecha, dealing with G-d telling Avraham to go from his birthplace and from his father’s house to the land which he will be shown (and which was subsequently Eretz Yisroel). The L-rd is also telling you to leave your birthplace and the house of your parents to go to the land of Israel. Of course it’s difficult, Herschel, but it has to be done. If everything in life was so easy there wouldn’t be much meaning to life at all. It’s at times like these that we have to draw on the inner strength that our neshoma, our soul, provides us and use it to carry us through. Surely you are making some very big sacrifices but believe me, Herschel, the strength and the joy that you will reap from these sacrifices will by far outweigh any pain that you will feel in making these difficult choices. You’re doing the right thing Herschel and that’s what counts… I’ll sign off now with the words of encouragement that Moses, our leader, gave to Joshua as he was about to lead the people of Israel into the land of Israel. “Be strong and fortified.” I am anxiously waiting to see you here in the Holy City. With deep friendship I remain,

Meir Schuster

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Herschel and his wife, Naomi, are the proud parents of Adina, Tzipporah, Sara Chasya, and Dovid Moshe. Herschel is an entrepreneur and divides his day between work and Torah study. He is a devoted husband and father and is tireless in his involvement in community affairs. He also claims to hold the world record for encountering Rabbi Meir Schuster. In the summer of 1978, Herschel was travelling through the Mediterranean region making stops in Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Italy and Greece. Five hours after landing in Israel he met Rabbi Schuster and the rest… is history. Jewish history, of course.

I was a philosophy major at Yale University. In 1978, I went to a kibbutz in Israel – not because I was Jewish (I had never even been bar mitzvahed) but because I had been studying communism in college and wanted to experience living in a socialist environment.

After some time on the kibbutz, I took a few days off to visit Jerusalem. I found myself standing at the Wall – looking at it with no idea what it was – when a religious gentleman (who I eventually learned was Meir Schuster) walked up to me and asked “Would you like to meet a Jewish philosopher?”. I accepted the offer and was taken to hear a class being given by Rabbi Noach Weinberg at Aish HaTorah. When the class was over, I tried to leave but Reb Meir button-holed me again and suggested that I go to someone’s house for Shabbos. I agreed. This was all fine and good but after Shabbos I went back to my kibbutz.

At the end of the summer I found myself in Jerusalem with no place to stay and nothing to do. I was standing on a corner, trying to decide where to go. I turned around and there was Reb Meir. This time it didn’t take much to convince me to stay at Aish HaTorah for a while. I stayed for 5 years and became a rabbi.

After graduating college with a degree in geological engineering, I moved to the bayous of Louisiana in 1981 to work on the oil rigs. No Jews. No holidays. No guilt. Free of all Jewish expectations. Or so I thought. Enter Joey Rogers, an operator on my rig. I made the mistake (or was it?) of taking him in as a roommate only to discover that he was a devout Pentecostal.  The next thing I knew his parrot moved in with us – a big, fluffy green bird that was trained to say “Praise the Lord” every time someone walked by his cage. I should have realized at this point where things were heading, but by then the prayer meetings had already started taking place in our apartment. These were spirited gatherings of Joey, his friends (and the parrot) speaking in tongues.

So here’s this perfectly assimilated Jew (with all due humility, I do think I was coming close to perfection in this area) sitting in his bedroom trying to filter out all this noise, while these ecstatic gatherings were taking place ever more frequently. Soon, this evolved into “Ask the Jew” sessions, where I was called on to help elucidate matters of scripture that the group could not understand. I laughed. My family was Jewish but I knew nothing. Well, I soon learned that converting a Jew brings the ultimate reward to these fundamentalists and they weren’t about to give up easily.

I eventually kicked Joey and his bird out of my apartment but, on some level, I envied Joey and his troupe of traveling tongue-speakers. They had an awareness of the Creator, a sense of true brotherhood and a selfless commitment to their cause – ironically, things I had not experienced in my Jewish life.  But I had closed the book on this with Joey’s expulsion, and now I could get back to my little assimilationist journey. Or so I thought.

For six months, this evangelical experience continued to gnaw at me. It had shaken me and made me question my spiritual identity. I realized that I didn’t know who I was anymore and I needed to find out. Africa seemed like as good a starting point as any for such a journey of discovery, but knowing this wouldn’t play well with my family back in New Jersey, I decided to make a first stop at a kibbutz in Israel – even as I stocked up on malarial prophylaxis and topographic maps for what would be the second leg of my journey.

In January, 1983, I arrived at Kibbutz Yagur (near Haifa), but bored to tears after a month of picking grapefruits, I decided I’d take a few days off to go see the ‘antiquities’ of Jerusalem. On Friday morning – Febuary 18, 1983, a day I shall always remember — a newfound friend from kibbutz, Shlomo Peaches (the boyfriend, believe it or not, of Honey Goldberg), tells me that that if I’m heading to Jerusalem, I should look up a guy named Meir Schuster at the “Western Wall,” to get set up for a hot meal. As I wrote the name down in my little spiral-bound notebook, I asked Shlomo where I’d find this fellow named Meir Schuster. He said, don’t worry, just wander around the plaza in front of the Wall at sunset and he’ll find you.

So off I went with a pack on my back. Upon my arrival at the Western Wall, I thought “Ok, here I am. Now what”? Well, right around then it started pouring buckets, with lightning and thunder. OK, I thought, just walk across the plaza and this fellow will find you. I realized at this point that Shlomo never even told me what Meir Schuster looks like. There were hundreds of people on this plaza and I’m just standing there in the pouring rain, waiting for this total stranger to discover me, thinking “this is really foolish; I better just get out of the rain and head into the old city where I can have dinner at one of those nice Arab establishments.” Just then, a tall, wet, lanky fellow dressed all in black with a long beard approaches me and asks “Excuse me, are you Jewish?” (Only later would I learn that this particular pick-up line was reserved for only the most assimilated of customers – the ones even Reb Meir wasn’t so sure about). He then asked me if I’d like to have a Shabbos meal. Sure, I said, that would be great.  He then tells me to wait in a certain spot with a small group of others while he continues eyeing the crowds. A few minutes later, the small group has swollen to perhaps 10-11 young men and women, and off we go.

There is awkward silence as we trudge through the Arab quarter of the Old City and continue up towards Geula. The rain has picked up during this time and we are all cold and wet. A few of us in this group of strangers glance at each other as we proceed behind this enigmatic figure that is leading the way, as if to say, “Are we nuts?” But we were all young and looking for an adventure, and we had found one. As we zigged and zagged through the back alleys and streets of Sanhedria Merchevet, Geula, Meah Shearim and Malot Dafna, Reb Meir was dropping us off, one by one, at various houses along the way. The Rabbi did not say much, if anything, during this magical mystery tour. And his answer to the question of “how much longer” was always the same…”another five minutes”. But, what were our options really? We had no idea where we were, so we kept trudging along awaiting some dramatic endpoint to this venture.

My moment finally arrived and I was ushered in to a beautiful old home in Geula, lit warmly by a hanging candle chandelier. There I met the Lasters – Paul and Sharon and their beautiful children. Dinner was an amazing experience – incredibly delicious food, and all this love and brotherhood. (Hadn’t seen warmth and caring like this since the Pentecostals invaded my living room.) Many stories were told at this meal, few of which I understood. I felt like an anthropologist dropped down into an unexplored habitat. But I was intrigued, and I liked these people. They seemed to be the real thing, whatever that meant. When this wonderful dinner ended, I was ready to head back to the Old City to find the Arab youth hostel where I was staying but, lo and behold, one of the fellows at the table (wish I could remember his name) just happened to have an extra bed available at his Yeshiva (a shorter walk) and offered to let me spend the night there. So off I was to Ohr Somayach. The rest, as they say, is history….

Or is it?… Not so fast. I didn’t go down that easy.

I was packed up and ready to leave on Sunday morning, when Reb Meir showed up at the yeshiva to check in on me. I told him I had had a wonderful time, but now needed to go back to the Kibbutz where I was expected. He acted shocked… but you had a good time here, didn’t you? Don’t you want to stay and learn a little more about your heritage? Yes, I replied, but I’ve got other things to do first. Somehow, I escaped his many efforts to send one of the boys with me to retrieve my stuff from the kibbutz, and I headed on my way, on my own.

Back to picking grapefruits, I had lots of time to think. And one thing in particular kept bugging me. That Saturday night, at the Yeshiva, I had heard a song that kept ringing in my ears. It was called My Zaide by Moshe Yess. You see, for all my protestations about not feeling Jewish, I had had a Zaide, a very warm and loving Zaide, my mother’s father, a frum yid from Williamsburg. And he was married to a wonderful Bubbie who I loved very much, although I never understood what made either of them tick. Anachronisms from Europe and the Ukraine I thought. Just three weeks before I had left on my trip to Israel/Africa, my zaide had passed away. And here I was hearing this sad, tear-at-your-heartstrings tune with its refrain: “Who will be the Zaides of your children? Who will be the Zaides if not you?”

A few days later, I went back to Ohr Somayach where I was greeted like a hero, everyone having assumed they had seen the last of me. And a few hours later Reb Meir was there, welcoming me back. Over the next few years, I came and went many, many times to and from Ohr Somayach and other Yeshivas. And yes, I did make it to Africa – three times in fact.  I also made it to a monastery in Greece and turned many other stones over along the way – stones that would probably have been better left unturned. Invariably, though, I returned to Yerushalayim, and each time I was greeted most warmly by Reb Meir Schuster.

Throughout my comings and goings, Reb Meir would pop back in to my life, often unceremoniously. Sometimes in Israel, sometimes in Los Angeles or at points in between. His work with me was never done. Once, when visiting me in LA during a ‘rough patch’ in my spiritual journey, I hear a klop on the door at about midnight and there’s Reb Meir. Totally out of context, and at an hour of the night that is totally unacceptable by any reasonable standards. “What’s going on Joe?” he said. I tried to smile, jolly him up a little. He wasn’t humored. Somehow he knew me better than I knew myself and said “Your neshama is not a laughing matter, Reb Joe. I’m worried about you. You’ve got to get serious. Now is the time. Promise me.” The smile quickly fell off my face and I didn’t sleep well that night.  I was haunted by the entire encounter. Indeed by the previous 12 years of encounters. Who is this man? Why is he in my life? What have I done to merit his unending concern for me?

There have been many ups and downs in the fifteen years since then, and long stretches where we have been out of touch. But I love this man with all my heart and soul. No one has cared more deeply about my neshama than Reb Meir Schuster, and I am forever indebted to him. In the zechut of all he has done for me and for the many tens of thousands of others, I just pray he will have a refuah shlaima and be given the koach to continue his work for many years to come. Meanwhile, as the talmidim and talmidot of Reb Meir, it’s our job to give voice to his life’s mission, and to support those who carry on his work.

I was trying to visit my friend Shalom Schwartz (see story) with whom I had gone to High School. I had Shalom’s address but  no number. I was on a trip to Bethlehem with a group from my kibbutz. As I walked through the small alleys of the Old City I asked every Chasid I saw if they knew where Aish HaTorah was. They all shook their heads “no”! It was Dec 24,1974. Aish had just opened its doors in August. So I made one more attempt… I was at the Kotel and I thought “If nobody knows Aish here, that’s it – back to my kibbutz!” As I asked the Chasid at the Kotel he thought then nodded..Yes ..Aish HaTorah…”Meir!”, he shouted. Rabbi Schuster turned to me and looked like he had just seen a ghost! I guess he was always looking for people but wasn’t used to people looking for him! I was invited into the office of Rabbi Noach Weinberg z”l and stayed and met my friend Shalom. By Purim, I brought all my stuff from the kibbutz for my extended stay at Aish. Rabbi Schuster saw my interest in helping out and one summer (1977) I helped him bring young people from the wall to yeshivas. I was a guest at his house many times and have many memorable stories of taking him around Toronto. He is a true tzadik who we must emulate.

The Heritage House has touched so many people’s lives and changed them for the better. For example, the girl who came to Israel on Birthright, having just found out she was Jewish from her Russian grandmother earlier that year. She had been brought up going to Catholic school, but wanted to visit Israel now that she knew she was Jewish. She wasn’t planning on staying much longer, and certainly wasn’t planning on becoming religious. However, she extended her trip for a few weeks and stayed with us at the Heritage House. There she got to develop relationships with religious women, attend some Aish Essential classes and experience Shabbat as kept by Torah-observant Jews. By the end of these few weeks she had given up her plane ticket and enrolled in a post-high school seminary. She stayed there the full academic year, became religious, and came the next year to learn at She’arim. And just two years ago she didn’t even know she was Jewish!

Then there were the girls that didn’t stay too long, didn’t seem so affected by the Shabbatons or the classes. We thought we hadn’t gotten through to them, but they proved us wrong by coming back time and time again, and many of them did end up becoming religious. As one madricha put it, ‘My job is to plant seeds. Little seeds of yiddishkeit inside the hearts of these people that will one day possibly sprout. It might start tomorrow, or it might be several years ago, but when people come to the Heritage House and get a good impression of Judaism, the seed is there.’

We’ve had people stay with us who were dating, or even engaged to non-Jewish men. But after they live in a religious Jewish environment for a while, and get a glimpse of the magic of the Torah world, many of them have decided to end their relationships and start a deeper one with yiddishkeit.

Moreover, at least half of the madrichot I worked with had become frum themselves through the Heritage House, and were now ready to share their love of Judaism with others. And the father of one madricha was himself tapped on the back at the Kotel by Rabbi Schuster!

Of course I myself am so grateful to Rabbi Schuster for giving me the opportunity to work with these inspiring women and help them on their journey – and my own. It was an experience that made me grow in ways I never imagined. The Heritage House is just as much a bracha to the madrichot as it is to the guests.

Meir and Esther Schuster lived upstairs from us on Rechov Even HaEzel 11 when we first got married thirty-six years ago.  As newly married Americans we became close to a lot of the people in our special building but we were especially close to the Schusters.  I am not sure how soon after we were married we started our “partnership” with Meir but on most Friday evenings we could usually expect a soft knock on our door and there was Meir, standing there with that shy smile on his face.  Next to him was our Shabbos guest(s) newly minted from a visit to the Kosel and an encounter with Meir Schuster, backpacks and all.  Sometimes we knew in advance who he was bringing, lots of times we didn’t.  But we could always be pretty sure he would be dropping off someone.  They always had a story and the stories were usually interesting ones.  Our only regret was that we didn’t keep a journal back then of everyone who sat at our Shabbos table courtesy of Meir Schuster.

One summer, Esther – who became our babysitter once we began having children – took a trip to America to see her family.  She asked us if Meir could stay by us because they were renting out their apartment.  We were only too happy to have him.  The thing is, we hardly ever saw him.  He was out all day and all night – literally – doing his job.  One night I had to get up in the middle of the night for one of our kids. It must have been about three o’clock in the morning and on my way to the kitchen I passed by the dining room. There was Meir Schuster bent over the dining room table writing letters.  I asked him what he was doing so late at night.  He told me he was keeping in touch with kids he had picked up at the Kosel and who now had left to go back to either their kibbutz or ulpan or back home.  He said there was no other time in the day for him to do this and it was important for him to keep in touch with them.  I am not sure when – or if – he ever slept.

There was also that fateful Pesach…  Since we were Americans planning to return to America eventually, we kept a second day of Yom Tov while everyone else in our building only kept one day.  We were in the middle of our Yom Tov meal when we heard that a truck had accidentally run over a child down the street from us.  That child turned out to be Meir and Esther Schuster’s daughter, Shatzy.  I remember sitting frozen in my seat.  It couldn’t be. But sadly, it was.  Since it was Yom Tov for us, we could not participate in the levaya.  During the week of shivah, Meir had two tragedies to deal with.  The obvious one – his daughter who had just passed away, the other tragedy – for Meir Schuster – not to be able to go to the Kosel to be mekareiv those kids all week.  I think he finally asked a shailah and was told he could go Friday night.  He was so totally l’shem shomayim with every fiber of his being.  It was precisely that sincerity and simplicity that made him so successful long before all of the great kiruv programs and projects were launched.  His whole mahus was kiruv and he is responsible for countless men and women who are leading a life of frumkeit today.

P.S. for Esther: Esther, it seems like yesterday that you were yelling from your mirpesset that we had a call from America – back in the day when we were newlyweds and you were the only ones with a phone!  I think about you often and we are davening for Meir. Be in touch if you can! Much love, Sharon and Shragi

Last week I received an email from the Chofetz Chaim Foundation, announcing the illness of Rav Meir Schuster and asking people across the globe to say Tehillim for his refuah sheleimah. How apropos it is that an extension of the Chofetz Chaim is calling for davening on behalf of a man whom I never heard speak a bad word about anyone in the 15 years I’ve known him.

As I was sitting in the hospital last week with Rav Meir’s wife, Rebbetzin Esther Schuster, I remembered that many years ago, when I was living in Lakewood, I had heard numerous stories of Rav Meir picking up thousands of people at the Kotel and changing their lives. Those stories were what inspired me to come to Eretz Yisrael to do kiruv. Three days after I arrived in the Holy Land, Hashem made my dream come true, and I was hired by Rav Meir himself.

All the great things I learned from him I learned by being with him and watching him in action, witnessing his total dedication to avodas Hashem. He never gave me advice or instructions. He just quietly went about his duties. Everything I wanted to know about being a real oved Hashem I learned from his example alone.

After a short time working with Rav Meir, I became his chavrusa twice a day and his assistant in the kiruv he did through Heritage House. I would make sure to catch his minyanim where he davened at the Kotel, waving his finger up to Shamayim. Anybody who ever saw Rav Meir daven never forgot it and undoubtedly was changed by the experience.

I’d like to share Rav Meir’s schedule on an average day. First, he would get up in the middle of the night to make phone calls to America on behalf of Heritage House; then he would daven neitz (the sunrise minyan), come home and eat a healthy breakfast (something that he always scolded me for skipping, in his fatherly way); then he would jump into his car, head to Heritage House to pick up boys and girls to take them to their respective yeshivas and seminaries. With that finished, he would head back to the Old City and start his first learning seder with me until lunchtime. He would then eat his healthy lunch and head to the Kotel to do kiruv until after Maariv. Then we’d have our second seder, until I was too tired to continue. After, he’d head home for a delicious supper that his wife always had waiting for him. From there, he would have his phone chavrusa with Rabbi Abramov and then head for his few hours of sleep, to return to the same schedule the next day. For 42 years, he never took a vacation.

Like with all great people throughout history, a great woman has stood behind Rav Meir all these years. Rebbetzin Schuster has dedicated herself to helping her husband accomplish his untiring goals for Klal Yisrael. As an example, for the past 15 years, Rav Meir has gone to America to fundraise for the six weeks preceding Pesach. Rav Meir would return one day before Pesach to a totally “Pesach-dic” home. His only “job” was to pick up the matzah. Everything else was completed and prepared by his Rebbetzin.

I am forever grateful to the Almighty for giving me the zechus to work with this great man and to become part of his beautiful family.   –Moishe Mendlowitz

It was early 1983 and I was getting ready to leave for what I figured would be about a 6-month adventure in Europe.  The plan was to get to the most remote Greek Island I could find, and stay there long enough to finish my screenplay.  I would begin the journey in London, where I had a friend, and then make my way across Europe the cheapest way possible, until I found that island.

I was saying my goodbyes to my buddy Neil – he was the one friend my parents always encouraged me to hang with, because he was the only Jewish kid I knew who had been to Israel and liked to talk it up.

Israel didn’t really figure into my plans, except that my father, z’l, and my sister decided to take a tour there, and since I didn’t want the burden of carrying all my cash with me, I decided I would meet my father in Jerusalem when they came, and pick up the other half and stay with them for a bit before returning to Greece.

Neil says to me “Dave, if you go to Israel you’re going to go to Jerusalem.  And if you go to Jerusalem, you’re going to go to the Kotel.  And if you go to the Kotel, it might happen that someone will come up to you and ask you if you want to take a class.  Do not take a swing at this guy. Take the class, you might like it.”

Fast forward four months.  I’m in Israel a second time.  The first time, I met my family, picked up my cash, enjoyed a hot shower for the first time in what seemed like forever and decided that if I got bored in Greece I would come back and finish my writing on a kibbutz.

It is Shabbos afternoon.  I’m walking the narrow descending steps of the Arab shuk.  I have a vague recollection from my previous trip of an entrance to the Kotel plaza somewhere down this path and I’m getting a little frustrated looking for it.

Suddenly, I get this kind of eerie feeling of someone… stalking me?  I’m not sure at first.  I do that peripheral vision thing, trying to stay casual.  A tall man in a black coat, hat and glasses seems to be eyeing me from a distance back.  No eye contact.  I walk another few hundred feet… I turn around less casually.  This time I’m convinced.  I front him – “Listen, I don’t know what you’re about, but if you want to be helpful, show me where the entrance to the plaza is”.

Not at all taken aback by my accusatory attitude, he points out the entrance and I move quickly away from the stranger.

Maybe ten minutes later, I’m wearing my cardboard “yamaha” and I’m staring at the wall.  It is pretty amazing but I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be thinking. And now there it goes again… I’m getting that ooky feeling like someone is watching me.

Sure enough – it’s him.  It dawns on me that this guy has some religious agenda but, with Neil’s words in the recesses of my brain, I’m in it for the experience, so I say “ok – what do you want?”  He mumbles something about learning about Judaism, and do I want to take a class?

Although I went to an after school Hebrew school, I never actually met someone who always wore a kipah.  The kipah-clad guys I occasionally saw in Chicago looked pretty nebby.  I couldn’t relate and I knew we had nothing in common.  I was, after all, a jock – and they were nerds.

I followed this guy up to what I would later learn was the bais medrash of Aish HaTorah.  I don’t remember any real conversation.  If I hadn’t already pretty much made up my mind to check out whatever he wanted to show me, he was certainly no salesman.  I was pretty underwhelmed by his marginal attempt at chitchat.

After climbing an inordinate amount of stairs and winding down Misgav Ladach until the end, we enter the bais.  But wait, its Shabbos afternoon!  It’s totally empty.  Ok, not totally – there’s one guy way in the back.  My mystery date gives a yell: “Hey ___ , (don’t remember his name), this guy has some questions, can you take a few minutes?”  “Sure”, came the voice at the far end of the building.

I turn around to say goodbye, but he’s gone.  That was it… next victim.

So I start walking toward what I was certain would be another nebby guy with a yarmulka that I had nothing in common with.  Except HaShem choreographed it so this guy grew up just 2 blocks from me in Chicago, we went to the same public schools, had a dozen people in common and played the same sports.  We didn’t know each other because he was two years older.

Dang.

I was zoche over the next year to spend a few Shabbos lunches with Reb Meir and his family, and discovered that his own Shabbos table was one place where he was completely leibadig and open to discussion.

In between that tekufa and now I was privileged to spend time at Heritage House and again see him in action.

Reb Meir was the conduit that provided me with a life-changing entrance to the world I’ve come to love beyond expression.  If I didn’t know there were maybe 10,000+ others just like me, I might mistake the whole event as random. But I saw again and again the siyata d’shmaya he has in his amazing work. For over 20 years, whenever his name came up in conversation, I would always add “They’re gonna write books about this man”.  Let this website be the beginning.

Refuah shelaima, Reb Meir.

After all my travelling in my younger days I finally made it to Eretz Yisroel. I found myself on a kibbutz for some months and then I was looking to stay in Israel but to move on to something  else.  One friend suggested that I go to Yerushalayim on my day off to see what might be there for me. She mentioned a famous Jewish Hostel – Heritage House.

I took her suggestion and went to Yerushalayim.  Perhaps I had been to the Kosel before but if so, I didn’t remember it. On this day that I went to the Holy City I decided to go to the Wailing Wall. I don’t think I felt anything so special being there. When I was about  to leave, a man dressed in a black suit and hat approached me saying, “Would you like to learn about Judaism?”  I thought for a moment and  I decided I would.

Rabbi Meir Schuster immediately summoned a taxi and whisked me off to a far away place – a big building at the top of a hill. He led me in, then took his leave and disappeared. I sat in on a most amazing Torah lecture – it was riveting. I had never heard anything like that in my whole life. The place is called Neve Yerushalayim. Rabbi Meir Schuster changed my life in a way that nobody else could have done. I owe him so much.

I saw Rabbi Schuster a few years ago when visiting Eretz Yisroel – I was almost speechless. It was a most emotional experience. Who else but Rabbi Schuster would approach men and women (dressed in not the most tsnius way) in order to give them the greatest opportunity and gift of all?

Rabbi Meir Schuster – a humble man to whom so many owe so much. He is unforgettable. He is irreplaceable. May Hashem send him a refuah schleimah.