Jewish Deli on 1st Avenue Vandalized with Hate Symbols

An Upper East Side Institution, the 2nd Ave Deli, was the target of an anti-Semitic attack on October 17. The owner of the Deli believes the restaurant was targeted because of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Gaza, leading to increasing acts of hate in New York.

| 20 Oct 2023 | 03:35

When Jeremy Lebewohl walked into his Deli on October 17, he was shocked to see three hate symbols–a swastika, a text scribbled “Home Land Security,” and “Israeli Pride,” drawn with chalk–outside the back entrance of his deli, on First Ave. and the southeast corner of 75th St. He thought this extreme hostility towards his community was slowly but surely becoming a thing of the past, and that a universally deemed hate symbol wouldn’t be used to attack him in this day and age. That was until the conflict between Israel and Gaza broke out.

“Some kind tenants that live in the building adjacent to the deli told me about what had happened the night before,” Lebewohl told Our Town. “I saw it the next morning, took a picture, and posted it on the restaurant’s Instagram page. Immediately after, we received so much support from our customers and the online community, but I was still sad to see that such a thing was happening in 2023,” he continued.

Then, on October 18, he was even more enraged when he found out there were more swastikas drawn in a storefront opposite the deli. “I couldn’t believe there were more across the street the next day,” said Lebewohl. “Many people don’t understand the gravity of using certain symbols. Many protestors have been using extreme symbols, such as the Hamas flag, to support their cause without realizing the damage it does.”

For Lebewohl, who has always had a peaceful, vibrant, and lively dining scene at his Deli since they first opened this new branch on First Ave. (the original was actually on Second Ave, but they kept the original name when they moved around the corner) this is the first time it’s been the target of antisemitic hate, but he said he’s always been prepared for it. “I think we’re lacking a certain level of education and caution that’s required when supporting causes,” he shared. “And right now, people are championing groups and symbols, not realizing that these can cause very real pain to other communities.”

This incident is the latest in a series of attacks across New York that have stemmed from the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. Per Eater, a family-owned Palestinian restaurant in the East Village was also subjected to online harassment. Several people tanked its online ratings by giving one-star reviews after the restaurant called for an “end to apartheid,” fair treatment for Palestinians, and “peace for all.”

Several people, both Jewish and Palestinians living in New York, have taken to social media to express their views on the ongoing conflict. Several have also used their platforms to express fears of a rise in hate crimes against their respective communities. While we’re yet to receive updated data on hate crimes that occurred this month, the FBI released its 2022 annual report on October 16, which revealed a 7 percent increase in hate crimes around the country. With 1,124 incidents, anti-Jewish attacks were the second most reported hate crime after anti-Black cases. There were also 158 anti-Muslim attacks and 92 reports of anti-Arab cases in the report.

The kosher restaurant has switched its regular food and drinks content to posts that provide updates on the ongoing conflict. “We stand with Israel. We stand against the clear evil that has once again shown itself today,” the restaurant’s owner wrote in an Instagram post on the day of the attacks. Since then, they’ve used their platform to re-share several reports highlighting the death toll, Israeli relief groups, and images of the country’s flag.

As for the incident, a spokesperson from the DCPI’s office confirmed over email that the 19th precinct had received a complaint about the attack, and no arrests have been made at this time, nor were any injuries reported as a result of this incident, and that the investigation is ongoing.