News from June 21 to June 27

Surfside condo collapse, a Philadelphia street fair canceled after Israeli food truck debacle, and honorable mentions

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South Florida Jewish community reeling after Surfside condo collapse:

What happened? As you may have seen last week, a portion of Champlain Towers in Surfside, Florida, suddenly collapsed on Thursday, June 24. As of Sunday night, nine people were confirmed dead, while 152 remain unaccounted for. The collapse has hit the local Jewish community particularly hard as Surfside is home to several large Orthodox congregations. Notably, the area has a sizable population of Venezuelan Jews, some of whom are believed to have been in the building when it collapsed. Last night, a local rabbi suggested that as many as 50 or more Jews are among the remaining missing people.

How has the Jewish community responded? For one, Hatzalah, the Jewish-led volunteer emergency medical services organization, worked around the clock over the weekend to provide services to the community, including during Shabbat. Volunteers also noticed that although there was plenty of food available at the site, there was very little kosher food, so they organized a large kosher food drive for the families and first responders. A GoFundMe started by a local synagogue topped over $100,000 from over 2,500 individual donations by Friday (The fundraiser has now reached over $170,000 and a separate fundraiser hit $240,000). Chevra Kadisha, a local Jewish burial society, said it was standing by to provide assistance for potential burials. 

How has Israel responded? Many Israeli officials including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and President Reuven Rivlin called their counterparts or publicly expressed their support for the Surfside and its Jewish community. Additionally, Israel deployed a delegation that included Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai as well as an IDF search and recovery team consisting of 11 engineering experts. Israel is also providing food, medication, and clothes at the site. However, Israel is not alone in providing aid; a specialized Mexican-Jewish search and rescue team is also taking part in recovery efforts.

Israeli Diaspora Minister Nachman Shai and Israel’s search and rescue delegation. Source: Ministry of Diaspora Affairs 

Anything else? If you are interested in supporting recovery efforts, a local news channel reported that the Greater Miami Jewish Federation is accepting donations at https://jewishmiami.org/gift/surfsidebuildingcollapse/. A number of foundations and charities are also raising money at https://supportsurfside.org/.

Further reading: https://www.timesofisrael.com/surfside-jewish-community-prays-for-missing-and-braces-for-the-worst/

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Philadelphia street fair canceled over Israeli food truck controversy:

What happened? This past week, an Israeli food truck called Moshava Philly was disinvited from a Philadelphia street fair that had intended to represent immigrant-owned businesses in the area. According to the company’s Instagram post from Saturday, June 19, Moshava Philly was asked not to attend the “Taste of Home” fair due to fears that “protesters would get aggressive and threaten their event.” After the protest and significant condemnation from the Jewish community, Sunflower Philly, the non-profit sponsor of the fair, canceled the event which had been scheduled for Sunday, June 20. Israeli chef Nir Sheynfeld debuted Moshava Philly, which sells Israeli street food including Sabich and Falafel, last month.

Why were people protesting? Moshava Philly’s first event was a “Taste of Home” street fair on May 16, during the recent Israel-Gaza conflict that drew international attention. However, in the run-up to last week’s “Taste of Home” event, some accused Moshava Philly of “cultural appropriation” for featuring Middle Eastern foods. Jasper Saah, a volunteer for the Philadelphia Liberation Center, said that the criticism was basically “that [Moshava’s menu] is appropriated Palestinian food that they’re marketing as Israeli food,” which, “in [a] way, contributes to the marginalization and erasure of Palestinian culture” (A Palestinian business was invited but could not attend).

What are people saying? Here are some highlights:

Moshava Philly: “Although we were disappointed with how the situation was greatly mishandled, we do not believe the organizers’ intention came from an anti-Semitic place, but the threats they were receiving to their event were.”

Eat Up the Borders: “We understand that our actions have hurt you and we are truly sorry. We want to be very clear that we do not support antisemitism or allow it in our spaces. Our actions were ignorant and inexcusable. We did what we thought was best in the moment, but we failed. We did not take the time to educate ourselves before taking action...We are truly sorry to Moshava and the Jewish and Palestinian communities. We look forward to learning, listening, and growing from this. 

ADL of Philadelphia: “The vile antisemitic rhetoric and threats of violence lobbied at the organizers was utterly despicable. This event was planned to celebrate diversity, and to see individuals on social media respond with open prejudice and anti-Jewish hate was shameful and deeply upsetting.”

Further reading: https://www.phillyvoice.com/moshava-israeli-food-truck-philadelphia-festival-uninvited/

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Honorable Mentions:

“NYC mayoral primary: Eric Adams’ lead built to withstand ranked-choice, experts say” by Julia Marsh, Carl Campanile, Nolan Hicks, and Aaron Feis (New York Post) (Adams is expected to be the second choice of many of Orthodox Jewish voters who supported Andrew Yang)

“Health Ministry: Indoor mask mandate reinstated on Friday, as cases rise” by Jerusalem Post Staff and Rossella Tercatin (The Jerusalem Post)

“73 congressional Democrats to Biden: Reverse more of Trump’s Israel policies and call settlements illegal” by Ron Kompeas (JTA)

“Amid uproar, US denies change in policy recognizing Golan Heights as Israeli” by Jacob Magid (Times of Israel)

“Honduras opens embassy in Jerusalem, becoming 4th country to make the move” by Gabe Friedman (JTA)

“‘Get out Abbas’: Thousands protest at funeral of activist who died in PA custody” by Aaron Boxerman (Times of Israel)

“Senate Foreign Relations Committee advances Arab-Israeli normalization bill” by Marc Rod (Jewish Insider)

“Eva Schloss, who had fled Austria as a child and later befriended Anne Frank, reclaims citizenship at 92” by Cnaan Liphshiz (JTA)

“In ‘Lansky,’ Harvey Keitel puts the legendary gangster’s Jewishness front and center” by Stephen Silver (JTA)

“Phoenix Children’s Hospital lets go of doctor who accused Israel of cannibalism” (JNS)

“‘Poland will not pay’: Polish PM hits back at Lapid criticism of restitution law” (Times of Israel)

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