When the news hit my Facebook feed that Ben and Izzy’s, a restaurant in Toronto, had been named “North America’s Top Kosher Deli,” I immediately packed my bags. Under the guise of visiting family, I began a pilgrimage to what shalomlife.org called “one of the best delis around.” I have to say — the pastrami was perfect, the chicken soup was superb, though the lack of celery soda seemed a bit blasphemous. But what was less appetizing was yet another reminder that the Jewish community is beautiful, vibrant, caring — but also tainted by racism and Islamophobia. It’s about time we speak out.
This sad reminder came to me at the end of my meal. Next to the register, by the charity boxes for orphanages and social programs, I saw a black box with a raised yellow fist. I nearly lost my brisket. The Jewish Defense League (JDL) is soliciting in the #1 kosher deli in North America.
The JDL is a Kahanist organization that has been banned in Israel and the United States as a terrorist group. Its Canadian branch has been implicated in a long line of vigilante violence and fear-mongering. The fact that such a piece of dreck can solicit in a respectable Jewish establishment should make us sick to our collective stomachs.
But it doesn’t. That’s because the North American Jewish community, like its Christian and atheist counterpart, is infected with the scourge of Islamophobia. I define Islamophobia in the same way I define anti-Semitism: the delegitimization of a faith and the propagation of stereotypes and prejudice against its adherents. And it is endemic in our community.