So was it anti-Semitism, bureaucracy, or something else?
That’s what the owners of a Manchester, UK kosher restaurant are wondering after the local city council denied their application for space at an annual Christmas Market.
In a kerfuffle first shared by Dani Klein on his YeahThatsKosher Instagram, the kosher Taam Grill in Prestwich, England “was set to have a stand at the city’s Christmas Market this year, allowing Jews to shop and eat like everyone else in the community.” The restaurant posted its version of events on Instagram.
Taam’s owners claim that Manchester City Council gave them an ultimatum: Stay open seven days a week, or don’t bother opening up shop. Taam’s shomer Shabbos owners responded with a range of options, including allowing a local imam to run the stand on Shabbos, which would have satisfied the local rabbinic council.
“The Council rejected [our alternatives] and cancelled our stand. Advising us they have Jews who work the full 7 days and suggested we should be more flexible with our approach. For me, this is a reminder that perhaps we shouldn’t be striving to do the same things as the wider society,” Taam’s owner posted.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Manchester City Council told the Forward that the “a review of the issue has been requested at a high level in the Council to see how we can avoid similar situations in the future.”
“We were working with the restaurant ahead of this year’s Christmas Markets. Unfortunately, after originally agreeing to open every day throughout the market period, as per the terms and conditions for trading at the market, the trader said that they would be unable to open on Friday and Saturdays,” the spokesperson said.
“Unfortunately the restaurant won’t trade at this year’s Christmas Markets, but we will continue to work with all potential traders to support them being able to trade on the markets in future years to ensure the offer is as inclusive as possible.”
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Shawarma off the spit is my fave, and this looks delicious… but this is a different kind of post. READ ON 👇🏻 … Kosher restaurant @taamgrill in Prestwich, England 🇬🇧(just outside Manchester) was set to have a stand at the city’s local Christmas Market this year, allowing Jews to shop and eat like everyone else in the community. However, the @manchesterchristmas markets will not allow them to be a vendor at all unless they stay open every single day throughout the entirety of the season, effectively forcing the business to choose between Shabbat and being open. According to the restaurant: “We would like to make clear that we wanted to open 7 days a week and offered all the options we were allowed. The Council rejected them and cancelled our stand. Advising us they have Jews who work the full 7 days and suggested we should be more flexible with our approach.” For me, this is a reminder that perhaps we shouldn’t be striving to do the same things as the wider society. Sure, this sucks and it is clearly biased against those who are religious and Shabbat observant, I am in no way condoning that. But at the same time, we’ve never had more access to kosher food around the globe in our history. Perhaps this is a message from Hashem that maybe there are places we shouldn’t be spending our time. Maybe it’s Christmas markets. Maybe it’s places like England (and sometimes the US too) that appear to be more and more antisemitic each day. My takeaway here is: while this is a vile decision to block a kosher eatery from participating, maybe it’s a blessing in disguise? Truly curious to hear your take on this. Am I right or no? #koshermanchester #kosherUK #🇬🇧 #🏴 #manchester
Taam Grill didn’t return the Forward’s requests for comment. But owner Martine Vaizman told the Jerusalem Post that the Council “just doesn’t get the prohibitions” that Judaism has. “They won’t negotiate or let me sublet to an employee, and I can’t do it either. So, it’s going nowhere; it means that [observant] Jews will never, despite what they’re saying, be able to have a stand at the Christmas market.”
According to the Post, the market is celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year. While the city will erect a large menorah during Chanukah, there will be no kosher food stands at city events.
Taam was the target of an arson attack, in 2017, that Manchester police later recorded as an “anti-Semitic hate crime”.
Taam’s Instagram post, which YeahThatsKosher shared, ended on a dark note: “Maybe it’s Christmas markets. Maybe it’s places like England (and sometimes the US too) that appear to be more and more antisemitic each day. My takeaway here is: while this is a vile decision to block a kosher eatery from participating, maybe it’s a blessing in disguise.”