Act now, suspend a coffee

Random acts of kindness in Ra’anana.

Sharon Hoffer (left) and owner Motti Margi outside Falafel B’4 Te’amim (photo credit: ITZIK NOI)
Sharon Hoffer (left) and owner Motti Margi outside Falafel B’4 Te’amim
(photo credit: ITZIK NOI)
The Suspended Coffees movement spans the world. The concept is simple: A restaurant patron places his own order, then “suspends” a coffee or an item of food for a complete stranger. The suspended item can then be claimed by someone who needs it.
From Kazakhstan to Nicaragua, in over 2,000 registered eateries, strangers have been caring for each other through this scheme since 2013. Until a couple of months ago, Israel was one of the few countries not participating – that is, until Sharon Hoffer, a veteran immigrant who moved to Israel from South Africa 28 years ago, got involved.
Since retiring from her work as production editor for a publishing company, Hoffer had been searching for a dogood project.
“I began with the concept of random acts of kindness and doing good deeds, researching it on the Internet. Simple things, that put a spark onto people’s faces. They are just so easy and you feel so empowered when you’re nice; it changes your focus a little bit,” she explains.
“The first thing I did [when I heard of Suspended Coffees] was to search to see if there were any restaurants listed in Israel,” she continues. “Unfortunately there were not. ‘Okay then,’ I said to myself, ‘let’s make this happen.’” STAGE 1 was getting in touch with organizations aiding the poor in Ra’anana, where Hoffer lives, to learn the lay of the land.
Yes, even a town like Ra’anana, which is widely considered to be wealthy, is home to people in need, including within the Anglo community (which might come as a surprise to many).
“It was only when I began the project that I saw that there are a couple of thousand poor people, hungry people, in Ra’anana,” Hoffer says. “If I can put a smile on the face of one person, that’s good enough for me.”
The project, she states, “emphasizes more the giver than the receiver. I came from my side, to be more aware and more mindful.”
Stage 2 was sourcing restaurants and cafes to participate in the scheme.
This got off to a rocky start when a coffee shop that had agreed to take part backed out.
“They told me that as a foreigner, I didn’t understand Israel, that locals would take advantage,” she says. “I believe that there is every reason to have faith in my fellow Israelis, so I carried on.”
And with success. There are currently four establishments participating in the project: Tabun Hanevi’im, offering sandwiches and drinks; Domino’s Pizza; Falafel B’4 Te’amim; and Lavan, offering coffee and ice cream. In addition, Andrea Gordon, a local beautician, donates NIS 10 to the project from every facial as her own private initiative.
“It is really sweet!” Hoffer proclaims.
Lavan actually volunteered itself.
While this was unusual for Hoffer, who was used to going out and selling the concept to get establishments on board, it is actually the norm within the Suspended Coffees movement, where typically the restaurant makes the first move. Additionally, she says, offering “luxury items like ice cream” was not the initial plan, “but then I thought, ‘Why not? Everyone deserves a treat.’” It turns out that quite a few restaurants give free food to the needy, and it is not uncommon for people to ask customers to buy them something to eat. Suspended Coffees, Hoffer says, “gives them a little bit of kavod [respect].
Now people don’t have to beg, and the establishments are happy because people aren’t bothering their customers.”
Once an eatery is on board, the project is up and running in a matter of days. Stage 3 simply requires a pin board or box with tokens waiting to be redeemed, and a couple of flyers.
Hoffer’s task, however, isn’t so easy.
So far, she has funded the project out of her own pocket, but as it expands, she wants to increase its exposure through posters, flyers and other avenues of communication. Economics aside, the project needs constant nurturing.
“I need to keep feeding Facebook all the time so people don’t forget about the project,” she says. “I don’t care what anyone says about Facebook; it’s changed my life, it’s opened up my world.”
Plus, both the giving and the receiving sides must be balanced.
“If the project is overexposed, there won’t be enough people donating and the needy will stay hungry,” she notes.
SLOWLY, PEOPLE are beginning to make use of the Suspended Coffees project. There are now a few regulars, visiting restaurants daily to stay nourished.
When a friend called saying she had just discovered a family whose child hadn’t eaten anything all day, Hoffer replied: “This is exactly what the project is here for.”
When inevitably asked how one can know if the person using the tokens is really in need, Hoffer says: “I really don’t care. The good deed is not diminished by the relative neediness of the recipient. If people feel they need a free bite, then they need it.”
If you would like to get involved, contact Hoffer at