Tomorrow night after minyan our “Contemporary Jewish Controversies” class will look at the question of how to properly define the term “Zionism,” and beyond that, whether or not anti-Zionism is antisemitic. Events this past weekend in Philadelphia are almost a textbook example of this issue. An organization called “Eat the Border” organized a food truck festival celebrating the contributions of immigrants to American food culture. Among the food trucks invited was Moshava, run by an Israeli immigrant and specializing in Israeli street food. Eat the Border heard that there might be protests against the presence of Moshava and feared they might become violent, so they told Moshava that they could not attend. The backlash from this decision led to the entire event being cancelled.
I’m interested not only in what happened and why but also in how people evaluated it. Is cancelling an Israeli food truck an act of antisemitism or a form of legitimate protest against Israeli policy? The Israeli newspaper Haaretz explores this question in an interesting article which I would urge you to read:
Another interesting story about the intersection of food and politics took place earlier this week in New York City. A restaurant marketing firm that works with lots of different types of restaurants sent emails celebrating “Pride Month” on behalf of many of their clients, including two kosher restaurants, Mendy’s and Kasbah Deli. When Mendy’s found out about this they sent another email apologizing for the earlier email “which you may have found offensive” and said they work with a non-Jewish marketing company and would educate them to better serve the needs of their clientele. Kasbah Deli was a bit more equivocal -- they did not apologize per se for the email but said it was sent out without their knowledge -- which apparently is true. Both these restaurants and many others have marketing agreements with various firms that run marketing campaigns on their behalf without the restaurants getting involved in all of the details. You can read about this “kosher controversy” here. For my part, I have eaten at Mendy’s a few times in the past and gotten takeout from their stand in Grand Central Terminal and while I find their food is not as good as 2nd Ave. Deli, if you are in midtown Manhattan their location is more convenient. Mendy’s may have felt that their marketing company’s celebration of Pride Month might cost them customers, but I can tell you for certain that their apology for doing so has cost them my business in the future.
As always, if you need to talk or I can do anything for you, please contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office as I continue to work mostly from home, although having been vaccinated I am available for in-person meetings in my synagogue office by request.
Rabbi Charles L. Arian