A food festival in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that was supposed to take place over the weekend was cancelled in the wake of outrage after it disinvited an Israeli food truck after experiencing anti-Semitic threats.
The “Taste of Home” festival was slated to take place on Sunday, June 20. It was organized by Eat Up the Borders and Sunflower Philly. It was to feature international foods as a pro-immigrant statement, including Israeli food from the Israeli Moshava food truck.
The event was cancelled on Sunday less than 24 hours after organizers made the announcement that the Moshava food truck had been barred from the festival.
In an Instagram statement announcing the event's cancellation Sunflower Philly wrote, “Due to the ongoing situation with one of our event partners… we have decided to cancel the ‘Taste of Home’ event today.”
In the midst of the controversy, Eat Up the Borders deleted its Facebook and Instagram profiles.
According to Times of Israel, Eat Up the Borders had originally released a statement saying, “In order to best serve our guests, we decided to remove one of our food vendors for Sunday’s event so that we could deliver an optimal experience to all. This decision came from listening to the community we wish to serve and love. We do stand by our initiative to give vendors from all nationalities a platform to showcase their talents and provide an awesome experience for all.”
After a huge show of support for Moshava, the decision caused a backlash against festival organizers, reported ABC 6 Action News.
“We wanted to say thank you to everyone who reached out to us,” the food truck wrote on Instagram. “The love and support we have been receiving the past 24 hours has been overwhelming.”
Organizers then made a last minute decision to cancel the event.
"Our mistake this time, with not only our event partners, but in general was not educating ourselves. And not properly making sure that everyone is properly represented. So that's where we made the decision to cancel the event," Melvin Powell, executive director of Sunflower Philly, told ABC 6.
Later on Sunday, the Moshava food truck released a statement. "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. Our shared goal for the future is to steer away from (violence) and hatred and be able to share a platform with all members of our community and collectively share our cultures."
One of the festival’s organizers, in an Instagram post, stated that the threats of violence had been behind the initial decision to disinvite the Israeli food truck.
“We received more hate than I thought was possible for having an Israeli vendor,” wrote Chris “Chip” Coughlan. “The amount of uproar we received and legitimate threats forced our hand.”
In a follow up to his post, Moshava stated, “The organizers of the event heard rumors of a protest happening because of us being there and decided to uninvite us from fear that the protesters would get aggressive and threaten their event. … By the looks of it fear, violence, and intimidation got the best of them.”
They added, “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,”
The Philadelphia chapter of the ADL issued a joint statement with the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Philadelphia stating they were “deeply concerned” by the events surrounding the festival.
The vile anti-Semitic rhetoric and threats of violence lobbied at the organizers was utterly despicable," they wrote. "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."
They continued, “We have spoken with the event organizers and expressed that we unequivocally disagree with their decision (to disinvite Moshava).”
They added, "We do understand that threats to the organizers were made, and we understand the fear and confusion that comes when your community faces that intimidation.”
They will be meeting with the organizers in the coming days to "discuss what happened, provide education on anti-Semitism, and share communal security resources."
Philadelphia Congressman Brendan Boyle called the decision to disinvite Moshava “surrendering to the threats of bigots” and “completely unacceptable.”
“Given the disturbing rise in acts of anti-Semitism across our region and country, this decision by the organizers is only helping to embolden those who would use threats of protest or even violence to prevent any people, businesses and entire communities from living and operating freely without fear,” he said.
He called for an investigation by police if the event had been cancelled due to threats.
“If the explanation of the organizers that Moshava’s invitation was revoked due to the threat of protests and violence is true, then I believe such threats should be investigated by law enforcement, as no person or organization should be coerced or threatened by the prospect of intimidation or violence,” he said.
“I urge the organizers of this community event to stand up for Moshava and the right of businesses to operate freely, and to reverse its decision,” he added.
Late on Sunday, Moshava issued a follow up statement on Facebook thanking the community for the outpouring of support they received. They also said that they would soon be meeting with “representatives from both sides in the coming days to try and educate and grow together in a safe space for everyone.”
They added, “We do not believe the organizers’ intention came from an anti-Semitic place, but the threats they were receiving to their event were.”