A Philadelphia organization that works to feature immigrant chefs canceled a planned food truck festival over social media criticism that an Israeli vendor would be included.
Eat Up the Borders, which operates a recurring food festival featuring immigrant chefs, axed their event after receiving criticism for including Moshava, a food truck and catering company run by an Israeli immigrant. The organizers said it would be wrong to include Moshava without also featuring a Palestinian truck.
Moshava's Brandon Ferrio, who cofounded the business with Israeli immigrant Nir Sheynfeld, said they were shocked when Eat Up the Borders notified them of the decision—the chefs launched their new food truck at an Eat Up the Borders event just last month. Ferrio said there were anti-Semitic social media comments about Moshava's inclusion then too, but the event itself was a "great success."
Following scattered Instagram threats to protest last weekend's Father's Day event, organizers told Moshava it was uninvited. In Ferrio’s estimation, Eat Up the Borders gave in to critics to "keep things easier on themselves."
"I didn't think food would be divisive," Ferrio told the Washington Free Beacon.
The hesitance to include the Jewish food truck comes as anti-Semitic attacks spike in cities across the United States. The spike coincides with attacks from the terrorist group Hamas, which targeted Israel in May with thousands of rockets aimed indiscriminately at civilians. While corporate America has grown more vocal about combating discrimination, the concern rarely extends to the Jewish community, even though Jews remain a top target of hate crimes.
Moshava slammed Eat Up the Borders for giving in to anti-Semitic demands to punish an Israeli-owned business, pointing out that the organization's mission statement is to "defend local, small, and immigrant-based businesses, no matter where they are from."
"By the looks of it, fear, violence, and intimidation got the best of them," the food truck's account posted on Instagram. "We really do hope that in the future you don't succumb to such anti-Semitic and dividing rhetoric and keep true to your words of a safe environment for all religions and nationalities—not just all of them except Israeli and Jewish ones."
Eat Up the Borders has erased its social media presence since the decision. Attempts to reach their partnered nonprofit, Sunflower Philly, to inquire whether food from every recognized country on earth was included in the festival were unsuccessful.
Ferrio said Moshava's inclusion in the first festival led to negative comments, mostly on Eat Up the Borders' Instagram account, about how there is no such thing as Israeli cuisine. There were no reported incidents at the festival.
The decision to cancel the event, which had been intended as "a tribute to the many owners' and chefs' journeys away from home and a celebration of new ones," comes as small businesses struggle to contain the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. The other trucks had as little as 24 hours' notice that the event was canceled.
Moshava has been able to capitalize on Eat Up the Borders' anti-Semitic decision. Ferrio says the truck saw a spike in interest after the cancellation and actually ran out of food at an event this week with a local synagogue that had booked Moshava in solidarity.
"We can’t thank our community enough for all the support that they’ve given us," Ferrio said. "Truly, truly overwhelming."
The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia said Eat Up the Borders was wrong to give in to anti-Semitic threats.
"This event was planned to celebrate diversity and tolerance, and to see individuals on social media respond with open prejudice and anti-Jewish hate was shameful and deeply upsetting," the group wrote on Facebook. "However, the decision to bow to this anti-Semitic intimidation by disinviting Moshava was wrong."