Anne and Robert Calton, with their dog, Laika. (Courtesy photo)

How Salem coffee-makers are helping their new Jewish homeland

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How Salem coffee-makers are helping their new Jewish homeland

Anne and Robert Calton, with their dog, Laika. (Courtesy photo)

SALEM – Twelve years ago, Robert and Anne Calton instantly connected over coffee.

Their first date was at a coffee shop near the campus of Southern Illinois University, where both were graduate students. During their first holiday season as a couple, they unknowingly gifted each other a French press and a coffee grinder. After they married in 2016, Robert and Anne moved around the country for work – and exploring and supporting local coffee companies became a favorite pastime.

In 2020, the Caltons landed in Salem. Last year, they started roasting coffee beans in their home office, meticulously testing and tracking roasting times, temperatures, and varieties of beans. They began sharing their coffee with friends and family, and taking orders for custom blends. A small side business – called Space Dog Coffee – was born.

So, it made sense that after the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, the couple felt called to connect to the Jewish community through coffee. With a fundraiser in mind, they reached out to Rabbi Alison Adler at Temple B’nai Abraham in Beverly – where the Caltons are members – who told them about Combined Jewish Philanthropies’ Israel Emergency Fund.

The Caltons then created a special “Tikkun” (repair) coffee blend, made with beans from the Tarrazu region of Costa Rica and Brazil’s Daterra Farm. They decided to donate 100 percent of profits to CJP’s fund to “help repair the damage of the war in Israel, provide healing to people and families, and combat antisemitism and hate worldwide.”

In just over a week, the Caltons (who both have full-time jobs and roast coffee in the evenings and on the weekends) have sold 41 bags of Tikkun, netting $186 for the CJP fund. As orders keep coming in, they plan to keep roasting – and giving back.

Like many other people, Robert said, he and Anne were looking for a way to make a difference during a time of crisis.

“A lot of people feel helpless and powerless when there’s so much suffering in the world,” he said. “It’s all about working with what you have – and with what you know – to effect change. For us, that’s coffee. We wanted to share our skills and expertise to do something beneficial for Israel.”

Robert grew up in rural Kentucky; Anne was born in Germany. Neither were raised Jewish. A close friend brought Judaism to Robert in 2020. Shortly after, he enrolled in an “Introduction to Judaism” class through the Lappin Foundation, and with Anne, began attending events at Temple B’nai Abraham.

In June 2023, Robert converted to Judaism. The couple has not been to Israel (yet), but after Oct. 7, they knew they wanted to support the Jewish homeland.

“We instantly felt welcomed into the Jewish community, and into a people,” he said. “It all just made sense. I always had ‘people,’ but I’ve never had ‘a people’ – until now.”

“Coffee is best enjoyed in community,” said Anne. “It brings us together and helps us talk. It’s at the root of conversation and of our experience as people.” Θ

Read more about the Caltons and Space Dog Coffee here.

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