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Thousands Attend Kosherpalooza Food Festival in a Show of ‘Jewish Unity and Pride’

An attendee at Kosherpalooza 2024 hugging an IDF soldier as part of the “Hug a Chayil” interactive part of the kosher food and beverage festival on May 30, 2024. Photo: Provided

More than 4,000 people gathered to show support for the kosher food and beverage industry in New Jersey on Thursday at the second annual Kosherpalooza, which held a deeper significance this year amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

Attendees who bought tickets for the all-day, interactive food festival at the Meadowlands Expo Center had their pick of food and beverages from 150 vendors who were exhibiting at the show. Ticket holders had the opportunity to taste — and sometimes buy — a plethora of kosher options from pancakes to cured meats to root beer.

There were also 14 live food demonstrations — including one by Israeli singer Gad Elbaz, who showed how to make his Moroccan fish — eight panel discussions, a “paint and sip” corner, interactive games like a hot sauce challenge and a blind taste test, and a meet and greet and book signing with cookbook authors.

Guests attending Kosherpalooza 2024. Photo: Shmily Treger

A common sentiment expressed by exhibitors and attendees was the feeling of “unity” in the room, while outside a war continued raging in Israel and Gaza and antisemitism reached record-high levels in both the US and around the world.

Support for Israel and the Jewish community was evident throughout Kosherpalooza. Borough Park native Mishael Niyazov attended the event wearing a sweatshirt that featured the message “Free Our Hostages” on the front and back, referring to those abducted during the Hamas terror group’s Oct. 7 invasion of southern Israel. Yoni Cohen from YJC Trade, which imports products from Israel, returned home three days ago from fighting as an IDF reservist in Gaza and then traveled to the United States for 48 hours to host a booth at Kosherpalooza, featuring Max Brenner chocolates and an assortment of halva and techina from Halva Kingdom. He traveled back to Israel on Thursday night.

“I think after Oct. 7, we are really facing now the reality that we only have each other for support and to rely on,” Ben Gingi, an Israeli baker and Instagram influencer, told The Algemeiner. “[Kosherpalooza] to the Jewish community is like a big hug at the moment and giving a lot of stability. It’s beautiful.”

“With everything that’s going on, whenever there’s an opportunity for Jewish people to come together and celebrate something that makes us distinctly Jewish, like our adherence to kosher, it’s a reason to celebrate achdus [togetherness] and Jewish pride,” added Adam Goodfriend, the creator of, a cook-at-home meal kit that is like a kosher version of HelloFresh.

Mishael Niyazov, an attendee at Kosherpalooza 2024, wearing a sweatshirt that draws attention to the Israeli civilians being held hostage by Hamas since Oct. 7, 2023. Photo: Shmily Treger

In the middle of the Meadowlands Expo Center, Kosherpalooza organizers had set up an area where attendees could “Hug a Chayal,” which is the Hebrew word for soldier. Four active lone soldiers from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), who recently returned from fighting in the Israel-Hamas war, attended Kosherpalooza to embrace visitors and also talk about their experiences with whoever asked. The pop-up was organized by Kosherpalooza in collaboration with Nevut, a nonprofit organization founded in 2017 that helps IDF lone soldiers and veterans with their mental health and wellbeing throughout their military service and also when they return to civilian life.

“What it’s going to give the soldiers [being at Kosherpalooza] more than anything is knowing that people care,” said Ari Abramowitz, executive director and co-founder of Nevut, which means “to navigate” in Hebrew. Abramowitz grew up in Monsey, New York, and was called up as a reservist in the IDF after the Oct. 7 attacks. He has already served twice in Gaza since the start of the war. Nevut helped thousands of soldiers travel to Israel to fight for Israel after Oct. 7, and Abramowitz spoke with The Algemeiner about his recent service in the IDF, lone soldiers returning home with post-traumatic stress disorder, and how being at Kosherpalooza helps the soldiers tremendously.

“Where there’s no unity it really breaks apart a nation and this [Kosherpalooza] is bringing us together, seeing so many different walks of life coming together in a room and knowing at the same time that soldiers are on the front lines defending for us — so we can be free and live life,” he said. “Every one of the soldiers that lost their lives [in the war], it was in order so all of us can be free today and be together. It tears me up inside to speak about it, but they would be very sad to see us broken. But to see all of us together living life, and to be able to live what they defended, is the biggest thing.”

Brooklyn resident Stephanie Neta Benshimol attended Kosherpalooza on behalf of the Hostage and Missing Families Forum wearing a dress that featured a large Star of David and the names of Israelis — civilians, hostages, and soldiers — who were all impacted by the Oct. 7 attacks. Benshimol, who is Israeli and American, also carried a large Israeli flag and flyers with pictures of the hostages who have been held captive by Hamas terrorists since Oct. 7.

She told The Algemeiner that Kosherpalooza is a display of “Jewish unity” that is crucial now more than ever as Israel continues its war against Hamas terrorists. “We all have to be united together, no matter what. Israel is am echad, lev ehad [one nation, one heart],” she added. “That’s the only way we are going to win. No matter what your view is in politics, we need to be in this together. Keep talking about the hostages. Spread awareness. Don’t forget the second Holocaust that happened to the nation of Israel.”

Stephanie Neta Benshimol attending Kosherpalooza 2024 wearing a dress that features the names of the Israeli victims and hostages from Oct. 7. Photo: Shmily Treger

Gitty Halberstam, the creator and owner of the coffee liquor Misceo (which means “to brew” in Latin), agreed “100 percent” that it’s important to show solidarity right now for fellow Jews, whether its for businesses, entrepreneurship, or the Jewish community as a whole.

“We have companies here from all different walks of Jewish life, and the Jewish food and wine beverage industry is so diverse and so large and still everyone is here to help each other and be here together,” she told The Algemeiner.

Miss United States Addison Grace Hadley also attended Kosherpalooza and afterwards shared on Instagram that she left the event “smiling with a VERY full belly.” The Nashville native was a nanny to three Jewish children while studying in graduate school and after falling in love with the Jewish culture, decided to convert to Judaism.

“I met so many new friends, tried so many delicious new foods, and had some deeply meaningful conversations with inclusive, genuine people about faith, about food, about culture, about my conversion journey — even got to chat Hebrew name choices with a delightful group of new gal pals!” added the Nashville native. “The highlight of today (though there are SO many choices!) was receiving an invitation to celebrate Shabbat with some of our new friends — the #kosherpalooza family is warm, welcoming, and inviting, and I love them all.”

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Netanyahu Heads to DC After Biden Quits 2024 Race, Says Israel Will Remain ‘Strong’ US Ally Whoever Is in White House

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Jerusalem, Feb. 18, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday departed for a highly anticipated trip to Washington, DC, where he will meet with US President Joe and Biden and deliver a speech before Congress this week as America grapples with the aftermath of Biden’s unprecedented decision to end his 2024 reelection campaign.

During his first trip to the US capital in almost four years, Netanyahu plans to visit the White House and also address US lawmakers on Wednesday. Netanyahu was originally expected to meet with Biden on Tuesday; however, several Hebrew media outlets reported that the meeting will likely be delayed due to Biden still being sick with COVID-19.

It is unclear how Biden’s shock decision on Sunday to drop out of the US presidential race will impact Netanyahu’s address to the US Congress. According to Israel’s Channel 13, Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, a close confidant of Netanyahu, assured US officials that the speech will not include criticism of or against Biden following repeated requests by US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan for information about what the Israeli premier will say.

Netanyahu issued a statement following Biden’s announcement indicating the Israeli premier will underline the importance of bipartisanship in maintaining a close US-Israel relationship.

“I will seek to anchor the bipartisan support that is so important for Israel. And I will tell my friends on both sides of the aisle [in Congress] that regardless of who the American people choose as their next president, Israel remains America’s indispensable and strong ally in the Middle East,” Netanyahu said while leaving Israel for Washington, DC. “In this time of war and uncertainty it’s important that Israel’s enemies know that America and Israel stand together today, tomorrow, and always.”

The Israeli premier also expressed gratitude to Biden, stating that he will thank the US president for helping the Jewish state as he prepares to exit the White House.

“I plan to see President Biden, whom I’ve known for over 40 years. This will be an opportunity to thank him for the things he did for Israel in the war and during his long and distinguished career in public service, as senator, as vice president, and as president,” Netanyahu said.

Amid declining support for Israel among US liberal Democratic lawmakers, Netanyahu hopes to use his congressional address and White House visit to mend relations with Democrats, who have become increasingly uneasy over Israel’s war effort against the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in Gaza.

Biden has come under heavy fire from Republicans as well as pro-Israel Democrats for what they’ve described as him turning against Israel amid the ongoing war in Gaza.

The US president expressed strong support for Israel following Hamas’ brutal invasion of southern Israel on Oct. 7, when Hamas-led Palestinian terrorists murdered 1,200 people and kidnapped about 250 hostages during their onslaught. In recent months, however, Biden has paused some weapons shipments to Israel and accused the US ally of “indiscriminate bombing” — a charge rejected by Israeli officials.

The Biden administration also discouraged Israel from launching a military offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah to target some of the last remaining Hamas battalions, arguing such an operation would put too many civilians at risk. Experts told The Algemeiner at the time that Israeli forces needed to operate in Rafah in order to dismantle Hamas’ military capabilities.

More broadly, the relationship between the Democratic Party and Israel has deteriorated in the months following Oct. 7. Several high-profile Democrats, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), have suggested that Israel’s military operations in Gaza are tantamount to a “genocide.” Democratic lawmakers have also called on Biden to halt arms transfers to Israel, citing concern over mounting civilian casualties in Gaza.

While Israeli officials have expressed frustration about the Biden administration pressuring them to halt their military campaign, Netanyahu is expected to use his visit as a way to repair some of the damage. The trip could also serve as a way to make Israel’s case directly to the American public, which overall remains pro-Israel despite declining support among younger demographics.

The percentage of Americans that express “little or no confidence” in Netanyahu has increased by 11 points since 2023, according to an April poll by Pew Research Center. Among Democrats, a staggering 71 percent express “little or no confidence” in the Israeli leader. 

Anti-Israel groups have also organized protests in advance of Netanyahu’s congressional address. Far-left organizations such as Party for Socialism and Liberation and Palestinian Youth Movement are urging their supporters to “surround the Capitol” during Netanyahu’s address. Leaders of these groups have branded Netanyahu as a “war criminal” and have called for his arrest. 

The people charge Benjamin Netanyahu with genocide. When war criminal Netanyahu comes to Washington DC,” Palestinian Youth Movement wrote on Instagram, “the people of the world stand with Palestine and against the genocide committed by Israel with full support of the United States and impunity.”

In addition to meeting with Biden, Netanyahu may also speak with Republican presidential nominee and former US President Donald Trump. Netanyahu has requested an in-person meeting with Trump while in the US this week, according to Politico.

The Algemeiner could not immediately verify the report.

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Pro-Hamas Demonstrators Avoid Punishment Following Wave of Dropped Charges, Reports Say

Law enforcement officers detain a demonstrator, as they clear out a pro-Hamas protest encampment at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Los Angeles, California, US, May 2, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/David Swanson

The State Attorney’s Office of Cook County, Illinois has dropped criminal charges filed against three Northwestern University faculty and one graduate student who allegedly obstructed law enforcement’s efforts to clear an unlawful demonstration at the Deering Meadow section of campus.

According to a local National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate, the office said its decision is based on its “policy not to prosecute peaceful protesters.”

Charges against the four individuals were pursued by the Northwestern University Police Department, which said that they allegedly engaged in “obstructing a police officer during the protests,” a crime for which they could, if convicted, spend a year in jail and pay a $2,500 fine, The Daily Northwestern reported last week. They had already appeared before a judge and were scheduled to do so again in August.

The university had defended the recommendation of its police department and rejected the notion that the individuals acted peaceably, saying in a statement issued earlier this month that it “does not permit activity that disrupts university operations, violates the law, or includes the intimidation or harassment of members of the community.”

Many more protesters have similarly avoided punishment for the actions they took during a burst of pro-Hamas demonstrations at the end of the 2023-2024 academic year, according to a new report by The New York Times. Prosecutors in Travis County, Texas, for example, have dropped over 100 charges of criminal trespassing filed against University of Texas at Austin protesters, the paper said, and 60 other Northwestern University protesters saw their charges dismissed, with prosecutors calling them “constitutionally dubious.” The Times added, however, that some charges will stick, including those filed against someone who bit a police officer, and many students are still awaiting the outcome of disciplinary proceedings.

Per the report, “At the University of Virginia on May 4, as students were preparing for final exams, administrators called in police to break up an encampment. Police officers in riot gear used chemical irritants to get protesters to disperse and eventually arrested 27 people. The local prosecutor dropped the charges facing seven people after he determined there wasn’t enough evidence. He offered the rest an agreement: their charges would be dismissed in August if they didn’t have any outstanding criminal charges at the time.”

Prosecutors in other states have not been as forbearing. According to Fresh Take Florida, prosecutors in Alachua County, Florida charged seven University of Florida students, as well as two non-students, with trespassing and resisting arrest. The defendants have resolved to take their chances at trial, the news service added, noting that all nine have rejected “deferred prosecution,” an agreement that would require them to plead guilty, or no contest, in exchange for the state’s expunging the convictions from their records in the future so long as they abstain from committing more criminal acts.

One of the nine, computer science student Parker Stanley Hovis, 26, — who was suspended for three years — proclaimed earlier this month that they will contest the state’s cases.

“We did not resist arrest, and we are prepared to fight our charges,” Hovis said in a statement. “We’re standing in solidarity with each other, and collectively demanding that the state drop the charges against us.”

Jewish civil rights group have described the anti-Israel protesters across the US as posing an imminent threat to Jewish students and faculty while noting that many avert being identified by concealing their faces with masks and keffiyehs, a traditional headscarf worn by Palestinians which has become known as a symbol of solidarity with the Palestinian cause and opposition to Israel. Images and footage of the practice have been widely circulated online, and it has rendered identifying the protesters — many of whom have chanted antisemitic slogans, vandalized school property, and threatened to harm Jewish students and faculty during a weeks-long demonstration between April and May — virtually impossible.

On Thursday, one such civil rights group, StandWithUs (SWU), implored the US Department of Justice to crack down on masked protests at Columbia University by enforcing legal statues which are widely referred to as the “KKK Laws,” citing numerous antisemitic incidents of harassment and assault on its campus and the difficulty of punishing the perpetrators.

Dating back to the administration of former US President Ulysses S. Grant, the so-called “KKK Laws” empower the federal government to prosecute those who engage in activities which violate the civil rights of protected groups, as the Ku Klux Klan did across the US South during Reconstruction to prevent African Americans from voting and living as free citizens. StandWithUs alleges that five anti-Zionist groups — most notably Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) — currently operating on Columbia University’s campus have perpetrated similar abuses in violation of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which guarantees all students, regardless of race or ethnic background, has the right to a safe learning environment.

“We hope the Department of Justice will take this opportunity to restore justice on Columbia University’s campuses and hold bad actors responsible for violating federal laws,” Yael Lerman, director of the SWU Saidoff Legal Department, said in a statement.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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France Says Israeli Athletes ‘Welcome’ at Olympics Amid Mounting Threats, Added Security Measures

The Olympic Village prepared for the 2024 Paris Olympics. Photo: Paris 2024 / Raphael Vriet

French leaders said on Monday that the Israeli delegation to the 2024 Paris Olympics is welcome in France, despite what critics described as “antisemitic” comments to the contrary made by a French politician two days earlier

At an anti-Israel rally on Saturday, far-left French lawmaker Thomas Portes said, “I am here to say that, no, the Israeli delegation is not welcome in Paris. Israeli athletes are not welcome at the Olympic Games in Paris.”

Portes called for Israelis to be excluded from the Paris Olympics because of Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip who perpetrated the Oct. 7 massacre in Israel.

Portes later also told the newspaper Le Parisien that “France’s diplomats should pressure the International Olympic Committee to bar the Israeli flag and anthem, as is done for Russia” due to its invasion of Ukraine.

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said Portes’ comments had “obvious antisemitic overtones” and “placed a target on the backs of the Israeli athletes.” He added, “I want to express my disgust at that. I want to assure the Israeli athletes of our full protection, like all athletes, but particularly them, also welcoming them.”

Darmanin also announced that Israel’s Olympic delegation, which includes 88 athletes representing the Jewish state, will have increased security and will receive 24-hour security from French police. He said the decision was made after taking into consideration the 1972 Munich Olympics — where 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were murdered by the Palestinian terrorist group Black September — and how Israeli athletes are a target for attacks, especially since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.

France has experienced a record surge in antisemitic incidents since Oct. 7, when Hamas launched the war with its massacre across southern Israel.

French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné reiterated that the Israeli delegation “is welcome in France” for the Paris Olympics during his visit to Brussels on Monday, the French-language newspaper Le Monde reported. He called Portes’ remarks “irresponsible and dangerous,” and added that France “will ensure the security of the [Israeli] delegation.”

Paris Police Chief Laurent Nuñez said 30,000 to 45,000 police personnel will be working daily to ensure safety at Olympic sites and fan zones in Paris.

It was previously reported that Israel doubled its security budget for this year’s Games, which will be Israel’s 18th appearance in the Olympics. Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Miki Zohar told The Telegraph that the Israeli Olympic delegation this year, which is the second-largest Israeli delegation in Olympics history, has received threats but he did not go into detail. He added that delegation members will receive security details from Israel’s Shin Bet security agency but not everyone will have their own bodyguards.

“We try our best to make sure the athletes feel free but also safe and not afraid. We don’t want them to notice the security guards too much. We want them to feel confident so they can do their job,” he explained to the publication.

There have been calls to ban Israel from the Paris Olympics because of the Israel-Hamas war, but Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said in March there is no doubt that Israel will participate in the Paris Olympics.

The 2024 Olympic Games will take place from July 26-Aug. 11.

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