They had been invited to participate along with many other immigrant-run food vendors to “Taste of Home”, promoted as “an event celebrating diversity through food, art, entertainment and community.” Then they weren't asked not to come.
Three local chefs — Nir Sheynfeld, 33, Brandon Ferrio, 28, and Hannah Morales, 25 — who had met at the Culinary Institute of America, “the Harvard of culinary schools,” began operating Moshava (“small agricultural community” in Hebrew), a food truck, in early May. They cook and sell Middle Eastern and Israeli food like felafel and shawarma, often bringing the truck to area breweries like Attic Brewery in Germantown and regional food events. They had been invited to participate along with many other immigrant-run food vendors to “Taste of Home” on Sunday, June 20, at a location on North 5th Street, which was promoted as “an event celebrating diversity through food, art, entertainment and community.”
The event's organizers, a group called “Eat Up the Borders,” said their mission was to “help promote small, family or immigrant-owned businesses.” However, three days before the event, Moshava was disinvited by the organizers, not because of anything they had done but because the organizers said they had received threats of possible violent protests during “Taste of Home.” The threats came from individuals who denounced Israel for actions taken during the recent exchanges of violence by Hamas in Gaza and the Israeli military.
“We decided to remove one of our food vendors from Sunday’s event,” the organizers said in an Instagram post. “This decision came from listening to the concerns of community that we love and serve. Our intent is never to cause any harm. We’re sorry ... ”
But shortly before the event was scheduled to start, the organizers told the media that they were canceling it. Eat Up the Borders said it had taken down its Instagram page, which was deluged with more than 4,200 comments complaining about “anti-Semitic discrimination.” Many questioned what a food truck in Philadelphia has to do with the policies of a country more than 6,000 miles away and why there would be no police or private security guards to protect the trucks and the public.
“Horrific discrimination against Jews in Philadelphia,” the group StopAntisemitism.org wrote on Facebook in a post that drew hundreds of comments and shares. “Are we living in 1938 or 2021?”
On Twitter, the account @israellycool asked: “Do you think #EatUpTheBorders would expel an Asian food truck if there were threats, or do you think they would either a) cancel the entire event or b) hire security? I think you know the answer.”
“We had a mix of emotions when we found out (about being disinvited),” Ferrio told me last week in a phone interview. “We were sad and angry, but then we were thankful for the huge outpouring of support after people learned what happened. Instead of the event that Sunday, we were picked up by the Ten7 Brewing Company in North Wales. A local synagogue read about what happened from an Israeli newspaper, and the members came out to support us. They stood in line for an hour before we even opened the truck. The rest of the week went that way, also. Sold out every day. We are very thankful to the entire community for their support.”
The owner of Moshava, Nir Sheynfeld, is a native of Yehuda, Israel, who once worked at Zahav, Michael Solomonov’s celebrated Israeli restaurant in Center City. Before the event was canceled, Sheynfeld told a reporter that he had worked with one of the organizers at a Lebanese restaurant and that “she is a very sweet woman … What happened is unfortunate, but they’re not anti-Semitic or malicious. I would actually tell people to go and enjoy. There are hard-working immigrants that will be there, and they shouldn’t suffer because we’re not there.”
Sheynfeld said he had planned to give half the proceeds from “Taste of Home” to the family of the late Pedro Salazar, who also worked at Zahav with Solomonov, who told a reporter that canceling Moshava from the festival “was a mistake … The fact that a guy opens a food truck and just two months in, he is willing to give half his proceeds to a worker from my restaurant tells you all you need to know about Nir’s character.”
The Moshava truck will be at Attic Brewing Company, 137 W. Berkley St. in Germantown, on Thursday, July 29, from 4 p.m. until they sell out. On July 30 they will be in a commercial tract at 300 Brookside Rd. in Ambler at 4 p.m., but I must warn readers that we drove around for over an hour to and from Chestnut Hill on July 2 looking for that address, using Google Maps, and never found it.
More details at moshavaphilly.com or Moshava's Instagram account. Len Lear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org