Gowanus Lounge: Serving Brooklyn

Park Slope Food Coop Could Ban Israeli Products, Attract Attention

February 19th, 2009 · 26 Comments

Leave it to the Park Slope Food Coop to periodically attract attention for interesting reasons like banning bottled water and plastic bags. This time, the Coop is considering banning all products imported from Israel because of that nation’s actions in the Gaza. In Red Hook, people might shrug. In Park Slope, which has a large and diverse Jewish community, it could start a neighborhood war. The report comes, oddly enough, from the Jewish Daily Forward, rather than any Slope-based blog or discussion board. Here’s a snippet:

Located in the heart of Brooklyn, near Prospect Park, the Park Slope Food Coop is at the nexus of the borough’s many diverse Jewish populations. From the liberal Jews of Park Slope to the Hasidic Jews of Crown Heights, the coop is one of the few places in Brooklyn where Jews of all denominations converge in a shared mission: to buy natural foods at reasonable prices. But the co-op’s unusual Jewish character is being tested by a proposal to ban products bought from Israel, such as the persimmons and red peppers that are currently in the produce aisle. Since Israel’s Gaza operation, there has been a rash of campaigns around the world to divest from Israel and to boycott the Jewish state. At Hampshire College this month, a spat ensued when a pro-Palestinian student group erroneously announced that the school was the first American college to divest from Israel. Israeli tennis star Shahar Pe’er was denied a visa to play at a major tournament in Dubai, and Britain has experienced ongoing efforts to boycott Israeli academic institutions.

The proposal at the co-op is not likely to be economically meaningful; perhaps a few shipments of vegetables are at stake. But the debate is taking place in a rare hotbed of diverse Jewish life. “There are so many Jews who shop there, there are so many Israelis who shop there, there’s a huge number of frum people from all over Brooklyn who shop there,” said Rabbi Andy Bachman of Brooklyn’s largest and most active reform congregation, Beth Elohim, “so my guess is that if it passes, and I want to emphasize that I don’t think it will, they will lose a lot of members.”

As far as we know they’ve been losing members since Fairway opened a couple of years ago.

UPDATE: Several commenters have noted the Jewish Daily Forward story is inncorrect about the Coop (please take that up with that reporter and that publication, this is simply what we call a “re-blog” in the trade, something which we do very little of for these very reasons) and the Coop claims its members has actually increased from 12,000 to 15,000 since Fairway opened.

Tags: Park Slope

26 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Alex from Brooklyn // Feb 19, 2009 at 10:18 am

    Doucebags. It’s simple. There is to much sympathy for terrorists in this world then free democracies. Go to Israel and you can practice any religion you like. Go to Iran, Saudi Arabia, or anyother muslim country and try to open a church or practice your religion freely you will be stoned. No one is allowed in Mecca but muslims, what’s up with that? Usually good people will allow for a two way street, those allow one, and I guess the self ass sniffing slopers took a side. We’ll see what happens when they get slapped by the hand that they now so dearly side with.

  • 2 Allen Zimmerman // Feb 19, 2009 at 10:42 am

    I am one of the coordinators of the Park Slope Food Coop. I would like to provide 2 clarifications.
    The Park Slope Food Coop is not considering this boycott, it is one single member who is proposing it. As far as you know we’ve been losing members since Fairway opened, when we had 12,000 members. We now have 15,000 members. Now you know.

  • 3 Gersh // Feb 19, 2009 at 10:44 am

    Point of information: The Coop is not “considering” doing anything of the sort. This was a random comment made at the January monthly meeting. The woman who made the comment was told she could request that the “ban” be put on the agenda at the February meeting, but she did NOT do so, and the matter appears dead.

    For now, at least.

    The Brooklyn Paper
    (also a Park Slope Food Co-op member)

  • 4 Eric // Feb 19, 2009 at 11:17 am

    Actually, Park Slope Food Coop membership has been growing rapidly. Seems many people have decided that in this challenging economic environment, a once-every-four-week, two-hour-and-45-minute work shift is a small price to pay for great food at much lower prices than what they’d pay in local supermarkets.

  • 5 ms // Feb 19, 2009 at 11:22 am

    Hey – You want to loose business? Knock yourself out!

  • 6 anonymous // Feb 19, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    Hey Ms – Want to learn how to spell?

    It’s LOSE!

    And if you were smart enough to read the above posts, you’d see that the co-op has gained 3,000 new members in the past few years.

  • 7 Jack // Feb 19, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    To echo what other Food Co-op members have said here, this is utter alarmist nonsense. I see Gersh mentions a “she” so maybe this is a different person, but the man I mention was a member of the Green Party and really didn’t make me respect Greens any more via his attitudes/behavior.

    Based on my experience the one person I ran into who proposes this ban of Israel items brings it up every year or so regardless of actions in Israel. They simply are airing their personal views via the platform of co-op meetings and often gets no support.

    And in my case I asked this one guy “Okay, let’s say you have a valid claim… Are you going to audit the country of origin for tons of other items the co-op sells?” and the basic answer was “No…” since to them (or should I say just him) Israel is the beginning/ending or all issues.

    Keep in mind the co-op is very fair when it comes to assessing products based on country of origin so if there is a valid/reasonable alternative to something made in a country with questionable issues, a proposal to switch sources can be made.

    So c’mon, might be a slow news week for the Jewish Daily Forward or they are just invested in fanning the flames of strife to create false drama.

    Also that Fairway comment is a bit glib. If anything membership has clearly been growing. Even more so with this crappy economy we’re in.

  • 8 matt // Feb 19, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    seriously? you seriously are printing this without calling the Co-Op to check it out? This is trash journalism.

    this is not the first time you’ve printed trash. and this is clear evidence for why newspapers are, on the whole, so much better than blogs.

    you are a rumor-mongering hack.

  • 9 Shamil Benyaminov // Feb 19, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    Nowadays you can’t have rational argument with low lives. I only have one pleasure using profanity against them and making them more agitated. I love when they start calling me racist and unintelligent, well at least I am racist with more morals then they are. I love how those morons talk about human rights, poor palis refugees and etc. Why Israel suppose to open their borders, let Egypt open their borders for Gaza. Why I don’t hear people talking about all kinds of Jewish refugees from different background nationalities Yemen, Iran and etc. Because we jews very law obeying people when we are in our host countries, but Israel is our true home and only home. Israel, Jerusalem Zion forever. I always put extra effort to buy good made here in US or Israel everything from hi-tech to food goods.

    Read it and I hope you understand what i am talking about.


  • 10 rsguskind // Feb 19, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    Um. I am simply re-reporting what another publication (print, I believe) reported. I may be a rumor monger. Hack, not so much. Please develop an understanding of blogging. If this had been my story you could attack me. I am simply doing what is called “re-blogging” another publication’s story. Responsibility on this one is with the reporter for the Jewish Daily Forward. It’s my responsibility to handle checking on my own self-generated story (and there are a bunch I’m holding because I can’t verify). You’re shooting at the wrong target in this case. Take it up with the Jewish Daily Forward, sir.

  • 11 Shamil Benyaminov // Feb 19, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    I hope in the future any country, universities (like they do in UK), major corporations and non-profit organization that willing to boycott Israel and put jews at blame. I hope all of you have miserable lives. I hope you and your companies will burn in hell.

    Please stop using everything and anything was develop by Jews and Israel from hi-tech, medicine and every day items. Its amazing……I can never forget how scumbag Arafat received a Noble Prize from UN (the most racist organization) under his direct leadership Israeli team in Munich was murdered, under his direct supervision suicide bombers were killing Jews in Israel. All the money that was donated to fake palestians he (Arafat) deposited into he personal accounts. I DON’T HEAR ANYONE TALKING ABOUT THAT. LEAVE ISRAEL ALONE SCUMBAGS

  • 12 Jack // Feb 19, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    Before any more “geniuses” add their opinion to this stew, let me say this personally… Not as a co-op member. Not as a contributor to Gowanus Lounge. Not as anything but an American born Jew:

    Banning any product from any country is tad crazy since it has very little impact on the larger picture. But in the case of Israel and Gaza, there has to be some Yiddish saying that means “You both deserve each other…”

    Israel has a right to exist, but there is an attitude of being beyond reproach/criticism that sickens me.

    Palestinians have a right to exist as well and are treated like crap. Partially by people who choose to protect them. Partial by Israel over-reacting to violence.

    You’re all screwed up and I’m embarassed by the both of you… As if that means anything to zealots on both sides.

    The Jewish Daily Forward in this case is just a pain in the ass. It’s clear they are doing very little research and fanning the flames of paranoia and not much else. They should be ashamed of themselves and sickened by how they basically have created a mountain out of a molehill. And honestly, with print publications dying I think this kind of yellow journalism will be more and more common.

  • 13 LG // Feb 19, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    So . . . how about editing the intro to your blog post to reflect the fact-checking you have now instead of just shrugging about the reblog? People don’t always read down to the comments section. I really appreciate your blog btw.
    : )

    ONE member of the PSFC was chewing people’s ears off about this – I heard about it from two different people she talked to. Potentially an interesting discussion to have, but people pulling Boycott! out of their a** without considering how to make an effective boycott (a ton of work) annoys the heck out of me.

  • 14 hmmm // Feb 20, 2009 at 12:34 am

    I think the PSFC could really use a boycott… More shopping space for the rest of us!

  • 15 Smash Brother // Feb 20, 2009 at 9:59 am

    OH – WHATEVER Zimmerman and the rest of the co-op defenders… your self-righteous comments [especially the anonymous ones above] read like those of scientologists plants responding when the Tom Cruise video first broke on gawker.

    Ask anoyone who has been to even a single co-op meeting – we know how cultlike and judgemental you all are – this is just the latest in a series of asanine little idocies.

    want a laugh, read post on the normally unreadably snarky and awful fuckedinparkslope:

  • 16 Daniel // Feb 20, 2009 at 11:21 am

    It is irrelevant whether the person proposing the ban is Jewish or not. What is relevant is: In what other cases has the co-op proposed banning a nation’s products? Does it protest Chinese policies? Does the co-op denounce America’s policies in Afghanistan where many are killed in the battle against the Taliban? Did the co-op raise its voice once over indiscriminate rockets from Gaza? Did the co-op ever protest suicide bombing of civilians in Israel or anywhere else? What specific policy of Israel does the co-op wish to change: self defense? Does the co-op find it difficult to carry any products from Lebanon, or Syria, or Iran — all states that support Hezbollah, an internationally recognized terrorist organization, or just Israel?

  • 17 RICHARD GOLDSTEIN // Feb 21, 2009 at 9:48 am

    If in fact this is one member, you should publish the minutes of the meeting to clarify your Board’s position.

    If not, then perhaps we never learned anything from 9/11 ??

  • 18 Jack // Feb 21, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    Richard Goldstein, the details of the meetings held at the co-op are published in the newsletter the “Linewaiters Gazzette”. Check the archives of the publicly accessible website the food co-op runs to read about that and more.

    Also, let me clarify this Richard since you’re either not reading or playing games with words. The person in question is a food co-op member. Not a board member, but just a regular person who joined the co-op like tons of others and who in this case decided to attend a meeting and air their opinion.

    That’s it. Nothing more nothing less.

    “If not, then perhaps we never learned anything from 9/11 ??”

    The biggest thing I learned about 9/11 is there are tons of conspiracy loons out there who had a field day when 9/11 happened and who seem to fill their miserable lives with crazy theories based on nothing.

    But I will now say this: After seeing people in the blogs and the news pile onto this one molehill and making it a mountain, I’m starting to think that there is nothing more self destructive to Israel than people jumping down the throats of anyone who dares say anything about Israel in any way.

    This could be an interesting discussion if all of the knee-jerking—and just regular jerking—on the part of folks who lose their shit when anything is said about Israel would end.

  • 19 abel dickstein // Feb 22, 2009 at 10:00 am

    That is the stupidest thing I ever heard. A boycott is anti-semitic and wellbeyond the bounds of polite destruction. Why aren’t we also discussing a boycott of products from virtually every arab country as well as iran and pakistan due to their violent suppression of women as well as overt and tacit support of terrorism, suppression of democracy. if anything the coop should be increasing its support for israel by puposely buying more delicious israeli produce- like jaffa oranges – in a show of solidarity. The meetings after all take place in a synagogue which has graciously made its space available, only to be spat upon by these anti-semites. Show some respect

  • 20 Steve // Feb 23, 2009 at 10:08 am

    I left the food coop several years ago precisely because of incidents like this.

    I was told the food coop was established so that people could buy good quality, wholesome food products at discounted prices while cutting out the middle man and not fattening the wallets of people running supermarket chains with their artificially inflated prices for organic goods. That’s why I and many of my friends joined the food coop.

    Somewhere along the way, the PSFC morphed into an activist organization concerned with the politics of food. That’s fine, but in that process I felt like it lost its focus. The elected leadership of the PSFC forgot it’s roots and in my opinion, turned it into this self-righteous holier-than-thou venture. For example: the “warning” signs on products containing genetically modified grains. Do we really need to be “warned” about some members’ belief of the danger of eating cheerios? Give me a break. How about using “fyi” instead of “warning” and stop scaring the bejesus out of little kids uneccessarily.

    Also, at some point, the PSFC ceased being about the spirit of the law and became all about the letter of the law for it’s members. The spirit of cooperativeness faded away in my opinion. Like any organization that grows exponentially, the negative ramifications of the bureaocracy outweighed the positive aspects of the PSFC that are seen as the draw to joining the coop.

  • 21 Jack // Feb 23, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    abel dickstein:
    “That is the stupidest thing I ever heard. A boycott is anti-semitic and wellbeyond the bounds of polite destruction.”

    You know what’s stupid? Your violent comment calling me stupid. Read what I wrote and accept it. ONLY ONE PERSON stood up at a meeting asked if they could add their item to an agenda, that did not happen and now you’re all huffy/puffy.


    “The meetings after all take place in a synagogue which has graciously made its space available, only to be spat upon by these anti-semites.”

    Let me repeat it yet again ONLY ONE PERSON ECHOED THEIR DESIRE TO DISCUSS. No discussion has happened. There is 100% no vote and there is 100% no ban.

    And as a child of Holocaust survivors who has experienced true anti-semitism in my life, could you stop wasting time and energy calling anyone who isn’t 100% a Jew like you an anti-semite? There are some real racists out there who do real harm to real people. The idea that you—and others—can flip out when one person in a group filled with thousands simply airs an opinion and they get NO TRACTION is amazing.

    If this ever comes to a vote or becomes a proposal for a real ban, then you and the other “geniuses” out there are welcome to protest. Truth be told, I might agree with you. But for now, spare us this Chicken Little paranoia.

    If you read what I wrote you’d understand every few years some crackpot proposes an Israeli ban. And you know what happens? 100% of nothing. Don’t invest in signs or any more anger; it’s most likely not going to be needed.

    Read what I just wrote to “abel”. Everything you write would be valid if it had any basis in reality. And the reality is the co-op is not an activist organization, it simply is a place where people work together to help bring affordable quality food to their membership and TONS of people with TONS of differing opinions exist.

    In fact reading your generic screed it seems like you actually have never been a member because if you did you’d realize how little politics plays in the role of the co-op. Seriously, I’ve been a member for 6 years and the only issues that ever come up is—let’s say—removal of a product because the manufacturer has misrepresented the ingredients of the goods. Or perhaps dropping a product because a small company has been bought by a larger mega-food manufacturer.

    There was a vote to get rid of plastic bags because the membership agreed they were wasteful. It doesn’t mean you can’t bring your own bag. Did you know NYC in general is trying to figure out what to do about the plastic bag problem when it comes to waste removal? Also, bottled water is gone because members voted on it being a waste. And if you know anything about the world of bottled water you’d realize it is indeed a waste. Other bottle drinks are still sold with no issue.

    So please folks get a grip.

    And to anyone freaking out, I’d like to see what you say/do when real anti-Semitism happens in your community. I’m betting pretty much nothing.

  • 22 Abel Dickstein // Feb 24, 2009 at 9:59 am

    Steve, there have been boycotts throughout Europe recently which have posed a serious threat to damage the Israeli economy. This is not a joke or “chicken little”– it is reality. I will be at the meeting tonight.

  • 23 Jack // Feb 24, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    Abel, then please spend your energy fighting the real anti-Semitism in Europe, because even FOX News went to the Park Slope Food Co-op looking for a seething well of anti-Israeli rage and they found 100% of nothing.

    The only thing that is a “reality” in your behavior is your utter paranoia and desire to not face facts or realities that there is no ban, no proposal for a ban and no nothing. Can you actually read the words that co-op members and managers are writing? Are you this obsessed and paranoid you can’t recognize the fact they reporter in the Jewish Daily Forward is 100% incompetent and wrong?

    Technically speaking, if you think this non-issue is bad, you should go over to Fulton Street in Downtown Brooklyn and protest the folks who stand on the corner and who declare they are the real Israelites and the rest of us are simply “devils.”

    Technically speaking, those folks are spreading much more real anti-Semitism than you will ever find in the Park Slope Food Co-op.

  • 24 Andrew Krakauer // Feb 25, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    I am a dual citizen of Israel and the U.S. I live in what some of you call the “West Bank”, but I can see Jerusalem from my porch; this is the land of my ancestors, and I have a 100% right to live here. That said, I want to emphasize that we in Israel do not rejoice in war; just the opposite. We pulled out of Gaza, using our army to remove people from their homes. We were given in response multiple daily missle attacks, attempted kidnappings including the successful kidnapping of Gilad Shalit (could you imagine the torture he endures from those Hamas demons?), border incursions with the goal of killing any Jews available. People have no idea how small Israel is. If we abanoned the South of Israel to Hamas’ violence, we would be finished. So, Jack, when you say that Israel over-reacts to violence, I don’t think you understand that this is a matter of survival. The weaponry smuggled in from Iran gets more advanced, and we have no intention of waiting until direct hits on strategic targets happen, and thousands of people die. The people of Gaza voted in to power a force that is religiously fascistic, violent, xenophobic, and which refers to Jews as “pigs and monkeys”. How is that less dispicable than the Nazis who preferred the imagery of “lice and vermin”? Israel tried the route of limited actions to stem the aggression, and it did not work. And so, the last war. In my opinion, Israel stopped too soon. If the Gazans want to back Hamas, they must understand that war is a two-way street. As the former president of a Park Slope synagogue, I truly hope that people there understand the constant threat we Israelis face.

  • 25 jess // Mar 1, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    All political views aside, it’s amazing to me that not one person is shocked that the coop, who claims to be so eco-conscious, is even selling food from a country 7000 miles away. What might the Carbon footprint be for that persimmon?

  • 26 IN THE MEDIA « operation: coop… or is it co-operation:coop? // Dec 28, 2009 at 12:54 am

    […] Blog: Gowanus Lounge – Park Slope Food Coop Could Ban Israeli Products […]