(New York Jewish Week) — The Times Square location of Miznon, the fast-casual restaurant chain from Israeli celebrity chef Eyal Shani, is going kosher.
The pita-focused eatery, which is located at 1410 Broadway at 39th Street, opened two and a half months ago and is one of Shani’s four Miznon restaurants in Manhattan. It has been serving a kosher-style menu nearly since the start, according to Mika Ziv, CEO of Good People Group, Shani’s global hospitality brand — this location has no dairy products on the menu and the meat they serve is certified glatt kosher.
But on Sunday, January 21, the kitchen will be thoroughly cleaned and prepared according to kosher guidelines, and a certificate of kashrut from Rabbi Aaron Mehlman of National Kosher Supervision is expected to be issued that week.
The Miznon location will be Shani’s second kosher establishment in New York City — the first, Malka, opened on the Upper West Side in November 2023.
The decision to turn a second Shani restaurant in New York into a kosher eatery was both an ideological and pragmatic one, Ziv told the New York Jewish Week. “We always knew there was a need and desire for people to eat our food — we didn’t understand fully to what extent,” she said. “Now that we opened Malka, there has been such a beautiful welcoming to New York. We have been getting people asking about lunch, about delivery, about catering. Malka is doing amazing. We are getting so much love which is so exciting to us.”
“There are no compromises because it is kosher,” she added. “It is a happy place in this very unhappy time.”
That sentiment is shared by many kosher-keeping foodies in New York, including Jerry Richter, a high school history teacher from West Hempstead, Long Island, who came to Manhattan Sunday night to have an early dinner at Malka. There, his server told Richter, his wife and their two friends that Shani was expanding his kosher footprint in Manhattan by converting the Times Square Miznon into a restaurant under rabbinic supervision.
Richter said their table was thrilled by the news. “To be able to access the Miznon menu, being kosher, that’s great!” he said. “Everyone is excited.”
Richter announced the news to the popular Facebook group Great Kosher Restaurant Foodies, which boasts 101,000 members, and the response was overwhelming: “Finally!” wrote one respondent. “Wow!!!” posted another.
According to Elan Kornblum, publisher of Great Kosher Restaurants Media Group, Richter’s post has been viewed 24,000 times in less than two days.
“It’s a big change to Times Square to have something like this,” Kornblum said. Other kosher restaurants in Times Square include Le Marais, a French steakhouse and AO Bowl, an organic, gluten-free, Japanese restaurant.
Shani himself does not keep kosher, but five years ago he opened Malka in Tel Aviv — which, at the time, was the only kosher restaurant in his portfolio. He told the New York Jewish Week last year that he first opened a kosher establishment because he saw that kosher consumers were “craving” his food but they couldn’t eat it because it was not kosher.
“These people are part of my nation,” Shani said. “Part of my people. How can I make food without letting half of my people eat it? That is the main reason I opened Malka.”
At the moment, in addition to Malka on the Upper West Side, Shani operates two kosher-certified restaurants in Israel. In Paris, three Miznon locations use all-kosher ingredients but they are not certified kosher.
Shani’s team decided to turn the Times Square Miznon outpost into a kosher restaurant because of its central location, close to the Diamond District, the Theater District and the Garment Center — all areas that are frequented by observant Jews. Ziv said that they had discussed making the restaurant certified kosher from the get-go but opted to test the waters with Malka first.
Ziv said she hopes customers who have been eating at the Times Square location will continue to do so. Since the location has been serving glatt kosher meat from the start, prices for the food under rabbinic supervision should not be affected dramatically: “We will have a tiny adjustment, just a slight price increase,” she said.
Upgrading the inclusivity of the restaurant by adding kosher certification has taken on an added importance since the war between Israel and Hamas began on Oct. 7, Ziv added.
“Everyone became more open and connected to being more accommodating and close to our roots,” she said. “Just as we always make sure there are vegan options, and we make such a big effort to accommodate so many others, it is not complicated to approach kosher restaurants, especially since our restaurants outside of Israel are places where Israelis and Jews can come together.”
“It makes sense to offer a kosher option,” she added.
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Texas University Plans to Close Qatar Campus Amid Scrutiny of Hamas Ties
On Thursday, the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents voted 7-1 to end its contract with the Qatar Foundation, which will result in the college’s Qatar campus shutting down over the next four years.
Texas A&M said it decided to reassess its relationship with Qatar after Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, in which the terrorist group murdered 1,200 Israelis and took more than 240 more hostage. It cites regional instability as one of the reasons for its decision. The Qatari government also has extensive ties with Hamas’ political and military leadership.
The Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development is funded by the Qatari government and is the institution that funds Texas A&M’s Qatar campus.
The Chair of the university’s Board of Regents said it “has decided that the core mission of Texas A&M should be advanced primarily within Texas and the United States.” He continued, explaining that “By the middle of the 21st century, the university will not necessarily need a campus infrastructure 8,000 miles away to support education and research collaborations.”
The decision also comes amid heightened scrutiny of Qatar’s role in American higher education — as it spent almost $5 billion on American universities between 2001 and 2021 — as well as its role in funding terrorist groups such as Hamas.
In an article for The Free Press in October, Eli Lake outlined what he saw as the significant influence Qatar is having on American higher education. He lists the universities that have gotten significant donations from Qatar, such as Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown, and Northwestern. He also notes that Qatar’s influence goes beyond money, affecting policies and programs within specific academic departments as well. For example, the Qatar campus of Northwestern, which is home to the U.S.’s best journalism program, had an agreement with the terrorist-sympathetic Al-Jazeera that it would help train its students.
The significant attention paid to these relationships is likely driven by the steep increase in anti-Israel and pro-terrorist sentiment in the U.S., particularly on college campuses.
A 2023 report from the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy also concluded that concealed donations from foreign governments to U.S. educational institutions are associated with an increase in antisemitic incidents on campus and the erosion of liberal norms.
However, the Qatar Foundation believes the decision was made for political reasons. In a statement, it wrote: “It is deeply disappointing that a globally respected academic institution like Texas A&M University has fallen victim to such a campaign and allowed politics to infiltrate its decision-making processes. At no point did the Board attempt to seek out the truth from Qatar Foundation before making this misguided decision.”
There have been no indications thus far that other universities that receive a significant amount of Qatari funding, or operate campuses in Qatar, are reconsidering their relationship.
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Antisemitic Vandals Strike Hillel Building at University of Leeds in UK
The Hillel House of University of Leeds was vandalized on Thursday night, raising further concerns about a hateful campus climate and rising antisemitism across the United Kingdom, particularly since Hamas’ October 7 attacks.
The vandals, according to pictures shared online, graffitied “FREE PALESTINE” on the building and additional scribble on two window panes.
“We are heartbroken and angry that after an uplifting and inspiring Challah Bake, our JSoc Hillel House was defaced with antisemitic graffiti,” Leeds JSoc, which uses the building for club meetings, said in a statement also signed by the Union of Jewish Students, an advocacy group. “It is shocking and outrageous that those who hate us would stoop to this level.”
The groups noted that a University of Leeds professor may be responsible for leading anti-Zionist to the building, alleging that he shared its address “for the sole purpose of intimidating Jewish students on campus.”
“We are working with CST and the police to ensure that those who committed this crime get the consequences they deserve,” the group added.
Anti-Zionists extremists struck elsewhere on Thursday, storming University of Birmingham with socialists and other far-left groups while holding signs that said, “Zionists off our campus” and “75 years of illegal occupation!” Many concealed their faces, covering them with keffiyeh.
“Jewish students are feeling less and less safe at university because of these vile antisemitic acts,” National Jewish Assembly (NJA), a Jewish civil rights nonprofit, said in a statement about the incidents. “It’s time we say enough. Jewish students deserve and must feel safe on campus.”
Thursday’s incidents followed a set-back for the academic Jewish community. Earlier this week, it was announced that a UK government agency which arbitrates disputes over employment law ruled that University of Bristol lacked standing to fire sociologist David Miller, an extreme anti-Zionist who was accused of harassing Jewish students and promoting antisemitic tropes, and said his “anti-Zionist beliefs qualified as a philosophical belief and as a protected characteristic.”
Pervasive antisemitism and anti-Zionism at UK universities is forcing members of the Jewish academic community to conceal their identities on campus, according to a June 2023 report issued by the Parliamentary Task Force on Antisemitism in Higher Education, a committee of lawmakers and established by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2022 in response to complaints of anti-Jewish racism and discrimination.
“We were told it was commonplace for Jewish students to choose not to wear certain clothing or jewelry around campus because it would make them visibly identifiable as Jewish,” the Task Force wrote in the report, titled Understanding Jewish Experience in Higher Education, noting that academic staff “also raised important comparable concerns about negativity surrounding their Jewish identity.”
The Task Force recommended that all universities adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which, it said, has not, contrary to the claims of its many opponents, diminished free speech and academic freedom.
Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
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US House Committee Threatens Harvard University With Subpoena for Antisemitism Documents
Harvard University on Wednesday was given a “final warning” to fully cooperate with the US House Committee on Education and the Workforce’s investigation of antisemitism on its campus.
In January, Chairwoman Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) gave the school, which spent the fall semester under fire for allegedly ignoring rampant antisemitic harassment and intimidation, two weeks to deliver documents relevant to the committee’s investigation. Harvard never did, and now Rep. Foxx is threatening to subpoena the material she requested.
“The committee has sought to obtain information regarding Harvard’s response to the numerous incidents of antisemitism on its campus and steps taken to protect Jewish students, faculty and staff,” Foxx wrote in a letter to Harvard University interim president Alan Garber and Harvard Corporation senior fellow Penny Pritzker.
“Harvard’s responses have been grossly insufficient,” she continued. “If Harvard continues to fail to comply with the committee’s requests in a timely manner, the committee will proceed with compulsory process.”
Foxx has requested a trove of documents, including “all reports of antisemitic acts or incidents” and “related communications” going back to 2021 that were sent to Harvard’s offices of the president, general counsel, dean of students, police department, human resources, and diversity, equity, and inclusion, among others. She also requested documentation on Harvard Kennedy School professor Marshall Ganz, who, the school determined during an investigation, “denigrated” several students for being “Israeli Jews.” Originally, Foxx gave Harvard a deadline of Jan. 23 by which to comply.
The House Committee on Education and the Workforce is also investigating other top universities, including the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), to determine whether administrators at those schools ignored antisemitic discrimination. The probes were announced after the committee grilled the presidents of Harvard, Penn, and MIT about their plans to respond to rising anti-Jewish hate in their communities. During the hearing, Gay of Harvard and Elizabeth Magill of Penn — both of whom have since resigned from their positions — as well as Sally Kornbluth of MIT largely evaded lawmakers’ questions, infamously equivocating on whether calling for the genocide of Jews contravenes school rules.
For Harvard, America’s oldest institution of higher education and arguably its most prestigious, the presence of radical anti-Zionists on campus has been a persistent issue. At the start of this academic year, a student and anti-Israel activist interrupted a convocation ceremony held by the school, shouting at Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana, “Here’s the real truth — Harvard supports, upholds, and invests in Israeli apartheid, and the oppression of Palestinians!”
However, the broader public largely did not take notice until Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre in Israel. As scenes of Hamas terrorists abducting children and desecrating dead bodies circulated worldwide, 31 student groups at Harvard issued a statement blaming Israel for the attack and accusing the Jewish state of operating an “open air prison” in Gaza, despite that the Israeli military withdrew from the territory in 2005.
For her part, Gay waited several days to condemn the Hamas atrocities, and when she did, her statement said nothing about antisemitism. When she resigned at the beginning of the new year, she accused her critics of racism.
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
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