‘We are strong’: Outpouring of solidarity following vandalism at New York kosher restaurant
Ramaz students came to show their support after Rothschild TLV, a kosher restaurant on the Upper East Side, was vandalized.
Photo: Courtesy of Ramaz Upper School

“It’s not about Zionism or not Zionism,” said the owner of Rothschild TLV. “It’s kosher food”

By Rebecca Massel
May 15, 2024

This story was originally published in the Forward. Click here to get the Forward’s free email newsletters delivered to your inbox.

Following an incident of alleged vandalism at Rothschild TLV, an upscale Mediterranean kosher restaurant located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, there was an outpouring of support from the local Jewish community. This included a delegation of students from the Ramaz Upper School visiting and holding afternoon prayers at the establishment.

An individual appeared to vandalize the establishment at 2:11 a.m. on Wednesday, according to video footage of the incident from the restaurant’s security cameras obtained by The Forward. The suspect — wearing a face covering and baseball hat — arrived with a stick-like object, paced in front of the restaurant and then hit the glass window before walking away. Nothing from the restaurant was stolen, said Mike Kalbo, the owner of the Rothschild TLV.

A spokesperson from the New York Police Department said that the incident was reported at 8:30 a.m. and confirmed that the glass had been shattered, which totaled to around $4,500 in damages. The ongoing investigation is listed as “criminal mischief,” and the Hate Crimes Task Force was notified.

Kalbo said that since opening the restaurant four years ago, it has never been the target of hate or vandalism. Kalbo moved to the United States 24 years ago and purchased the building, he said.

“It’s not about Zionism or not Zionism,” Kalbo said. “It’s kosher food.”

Kyle Burstein, a server at the establishment, said that when he arrived around 10:15 a.m., he joined a few other employees who were standing outside. They tore down the already-broken glass and swept up the debris.

Burstein previously worked in the film industry, but because of the 2023 strikes, began working for the restaurant in October. While he hopes to continue to work at Rothschild TLV, he also raised concerns about the escalation of vandalism to Jewish establishments throughout the city.

A worker cleans up broken glass in front of Rothschild TLV after it was vandalized. Photo: Rebecca Massel

n March, Effy’s Cafe, a kosher establishment on the Upper West Side, was vandalized with graffiti that read, “Form line here to support genocide” and “Free Gaza.”

Hours after Rothschild was vandalized, Burstein said that the phone has continued ringing with people making reservations.

“I’m getting a lot of messages, a lot of phone calls supporting,” Kalbo said. “We are strong. We’re going to move on. We’re not afraid.”

Ramaz brought a delegation of around 30 students in a show of solidarity. While entering, the group sang, “Am Yisrael Chai” (translated as the nation of Israel is alive), and then prayed the afternoon services.

“When one glass is shattered, all of our glasses are shattered and we are not going to stand down,” said Rabbi Aaron Frank, the principal of Ramaz Upper School. “We are here with pride, to pray and to be as one community and we want to come to show our solidarity and our love for our people.” 

After praying, Ramaz junior and incoming student government president Stella Hiltzik said that Ramaz has instilled in her the importance of Jewish pride.

“For us, a lot [of] what we learned about in school is the importance of being Jewish and showing our Jewish pride. How we react to antisemitism isn’t to be chameleons and get smaller, but to be Jewish and be even louder,” she said.

A seemingly similar incident was discovered on Wednesday morning at the Nut Factory, another kosher store on the Upper East Side, where the front glass was smashed. However, the general manager said that there was no evidence it was connected to the incident at Rothschild TLV. According to the manager, the individual attempted to break in, but was unsuccessful and instead broke into Breads Bakery, located next door. The individual stole pieces of cake from Breads Bakery and then left the establishment, the cashier at Breads Bakery said. The NYPD did not yet have information regarding this incident.

Rebecca Massel is a member of the Columbia College class of 2026, and an incoming intern at the Forward.

This article was originally published on the Forward.

Leave a Reply