July 19, 2024
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July 19, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

An Appreciation for Your Support of Kosher Wine and The Jewish Link

(l-r) Elizabeth Kratz, Eli Shiran of Shiran Winery, Moshe Kinderlehrer and Elan Kornblum of Great Kosher Restaurant Foodies. (Credit: Bracha Schwartz)

This past Tuesday evening brought with it a number of surprises. The vast majority of them were wonderful, in that Jewish community members from near and far came out in droves to support the inaugural Jewish Link Wine Guide’s grand tasting at Factory 220 in Passaic. Many winemakers from around the world were present and seen speaking with our readers about their passionate work toward increasing the quality of wine specifically for the kosher-keeping community. Many personal friends of mine in the kosher wine world drove and flew long distances to support us, and for that I am greatly appreciative.

I am thrilled that our community was able to come face to face with such fascinating, charming and deeply talented winemakers like Eli Shiran of Shiran Winery in Kiryat Arbeh; Yaacov Oryah of his own eponymous Israeli winery; Yaacov Bris, CEO of La Forêt Blanche Winery in
Metzadot Yehuda; Stephen Celniker and his sister Sophie of Yaffo Winery in Israel’s Ella Valley; Eli Gauthier, owner of Cantina Giuliano in Tuscany, Italy; and David Cohen Aletà and his sister—newly qualified winemaker Leah Cohen—of Elvi Wines from Priorat, Spain. These European wineries are fully kosher establishments in some of the most important wine regions of the world, and it’s important and valuable for our community to know of them, visit them, taste and buy their excellent wines and support their businesses.

This event was a sneak peek of the wines that will be featured in the Jewish Link Wine Guide magazine, now finalizing its fourth annual publication. It will include articles, interviews and rankings. The magazine will be released, as is usual, two weeks before Pesach, and will feature many of the wines served on Tuesday as well as rankings of more than 100 of the world’s best kosher wines. Our judging team tasted more than 560 wines over the last two weeks in order to create these lists, and we were able to label our “Judge’s Picks” wines with medallions at the event, to bring them special attention and to encourage our guests to try them. We also gave “Hakarat HaTov” awards to the Israeli winemakers who came to the event, part of a feature we are creating in the magazine this year, thanking them for their especially difficult work on behalf of Medinat Yisrael in 2023 and 2024. We also plan to distribute proceeds from our ticket sales to charities supporting winemaking communities in Israel, through Leket Israel and others.

We are also exceedingly grateful to Elan Kornblum of Great Kosher Restaurant Foodies and our elegant restaurants who served delicious food at the event. Thanks in particular to Heimish, The Bridge, Eden Wok, Yalla, Estihana, Dolcetto, Kings of Delancey, Fruits by Pesha and Crack’nola.

Another (albeit significantly less welcome) aspect of the event was a protest by more than 100 Palestinian sympathizers. Despite our massive increase in security during the 24 hours before the event, we got wind of 22 organizations—including Rutgers’ Students for Justice in Palestine, American Muslims for Palestine NJ and Teaneck for Palestine—who were publicizing the rally. They were monitored by our teams and by law enforcement as some of them made or shared veiled violent threats on social media. We are sorry that many of our guests were screamed at as they entered, or had their cars momentarily blocked or banged on as they attempted to enter the parking lot.

While we are deeply thankful to Hashem for His protection of our guests and that there were no injuries to anyone, including our security teams, I would rather us learn and grow from this instead of just moving on or minimizing it. This may be “the cost of putting on a Jewish event in 2024” with Jewish winemakers—including many from Israel—but what these protesters got wrong is that their aim to intimidate us failed spectacularly, and it made them look deeply, profoundly antisemitic and extraordinarily anti-American.

Jewish people have a right, like anyone, to live in America and eat kosher food and drink kosher beverages, and thank the people who make them, whether the items were made in Israel or anywhere. That is what we were doing, and that is what these misguided people were protesting. Our community exists and does business according to all legal standards to the best of our abilities, like all responsible citizens. Not one of our winemakers is “complicit” in any kind of ridiculous accusation toward Israel that these protesters made based on their political views or winery address. Screaming “Intifada revolution,” “Say it louder, say it clear, we don’t want no Zionists here,” and “You are baby killers,” at men and women attending a kosher wine and food event was as obscene as it was ridiculous. We are very, very grateful to the elected officials and law enforcement from Passaic PD who came out to make sure our event was secure, and we thank them for keeping the peace.

One thing I learned, though, from the event, is that our community is not afraid to place themselves on the right side of history. If going to a kosher wine and food event turns out to be a Zionist act, all of our guests decided to, once again, choose Zionism. As my friend Miriam Wallach of Cross River said to me as she came in: “I am happy to be here. The era of the weak Jew is over.” Thank you Miriam and thank you to all the people who made special efforts to attend the event, even with many signing up on the day of, to show support—despite, or maybe even because of, the protest.

Many, many friends and colleagues over the course of the night congratulated our team for pulling off a successful and wonderful evening. And while I am grateful for that as well—and to Zohar Kauffman of Bon & Oak, our fantastic event planner—what I am most grateful for is that our newspaper and magazines continue to be proudly and unapologetically Zionist and pro-Jewish. I hope that our guests learned a few new things about the amazing and ever improving world of kosher wine, and we look forward to welcoming you again in the future. Am Yisrael Chai.

 

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