Pro-Palestinian protesters target Philadelphia falafel shop owned by Jewish celebrity chef Michael Solomonov


((JEWISH REVIEW)) — Elected officials and Jewish groups are decrying a rally by pro-Palestinian activists in Philadelphia that targeted a restaurant founded by the Israeli-American celebrity chef Michael Solomonov.

“Goldie, Goldie, you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide,” a crowd of dozens of people chanted outside the Rittenhouse Square outpost of Goldie, Solomonov’s kosher falafel chain. Video circulating on social media of the protest, organized by the Philly Palestine Coalition to call for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war, shows protesters crowding the restaurant shortly after 5 p.m. Sunday.

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, who is Jewish, called the genocide chant “a blatant act of antisemitism — not a peaceful protest.” He said he had reached out to Solomonov, with whom he had previously filmed an Instagram video baking challah together ahead of Rosh Hashanah, to provide support.

“A restaurant was targeted and mobbed because its owner is Jewish and Israeli,” Shapiro wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “This hate and bigotry is reminiscent of a dark time in history.”

A spokesperson for Solomonov’s restaurant group, CookNSolo, declined to comment.

The Philly Palestine Coalition protest also called for an end to U.S. military aid to Israel. The group previously drew charges of antisemitism after it called for a boycott of “Zionist” restaurants in Philadelphia in response to the Israel-Hamas war, distributing a list of targets that were owned by Jewish or Israeli restauranteurs.

“Targeting businesses solely because of their Israeli and Jewish ownership is blatant antisemitism and only further contributes to the alarming levels of hate against Jews nationwide,” two top executives at the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia said at the time.

Others sounded similar notes on Sunday night. Philadelphia Congressman Brendan Boyle posted, “I can’t believe I even have to say this but targeting businesses simply because they’re Jewish owned is despicable.” The Anti-Defamation League posted that “targeting businesses solely based on their Israeli or Jewish ownership is blatant antisemitism.”

Even some Jewish ceasefire advocates criticized the decision to target Goldie. Peter Beinart, one of the most outspoken Jewish critics of Israel’s actions, called the chant “idiotic and dangerous.”

Since the start of the Israel-Hamas was nearly two months ago, a range of Jewish locations across the country have been targeted by protesters and vandals — from synagogues to campus buildings to restaurants. The demonstration surrounding Goldie struck a particular chord because of Solomonov’s biography and his stated belief that food can help transcend cultural and political divides.

Solomonov was born in Israel and raised in Pittsburgh, then returned to Israel to kick off his culinary career, which he has parlayed into network of restaurants in Philadelphia and New York City all riffing on Israeli cuisine. He has said that he decided to focus on Jewish and Israeli food after his brother David was killed while serving in the Israeli army in 2003.

Michael Solomonov works the oven at his restaurant Zahav in Philadelphia, July 14, 2015. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Five days after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, Solomonov announced that his four Philadelphia restaurants would be donating all of that day’s profits to United Hatzalah, an emergency medical organization in Israel; the group ultimately said it donated $100,000 to the organization.

The war has also tested Solomonov’s commitment to bridging across cultures. In recent years, he has spoken repeatedly about his  close friendship with Reem Kassis, a Palestinian cookbook author also based in Philadelphia. But in early November, the New York Times reported that the two hadn’t spoken since the war began.

The protest at Goldie came one day after Solomonov joined dozens of other food industry professionals in a Shabbat brunch potluck hosted by the Jewish Food Society in New York in response to rising antisemitism.