Shamash’s Delicatessen is a quaint corner hot spot for lunch in Manhattan, but things are about to get ugly for owner Shneur Berkovitz, who objects to a new bill that was recently passed.
Berkovitz, an Orthodox Jew, serves a limited number of traditional Jewish dishes alongside more widely known dishes seen in mainstream American restaurants. The name of his restaurant, the décor, and the Jewish heritage proudly shared on the menu have led Manhattan natives to believe that Berkovitz was running a legitimate Jewish business. They streamed in by the dozens every day for lunch.
That is, until earlier this year.
When Manhattan residents discovered that Berkovitz does not allow pork to be served under any circumstance, they were horrified.
“Without pork on the menu, I am prohibited from exercising my constitutional right to freedom of dinner choice,” said local food blogger Sara Adams. “Frankly, it’s unconstitutional to prohibit diners from choosing from a full range of dinner options.” Sen. Rob McIngle (D, NY) added.
Berkovitz appeared stunned in a local news broadcast as he shook his head. “I’m Jewish. Pork isn’t something we eat. Why would I serve it in my restaurant?” he asked.
Food activists were angry, but they didn’t stop there. They discovered that Shamash’s is not a licensed vendor with Jewish Foods International, which may be another sign that Berkovitz is running a shady business. If his establishment was a true Jewish restaurant, it would be licensed as a Jewish Food Provider, meaning it was qualified to provide a wide range of Jewish dishes. But supporters claim that the limited Jewish dishes available are so easy anybody can make them, so they think being licensed is not important. Opponents beg to differ, and say that Berkovitz is misleading customers. On top of that, he is limiting the choices of his patrons, and should at least refer diners to where they could find the best local pork. Refusing to tell people about their options is manipulative and deceptive, Manhattan regulars are saying.
Locals brought it to the authorities, and have been successful in passing a bill that will affect all restaurants similar to Shamash’s which are unlicensed as Jewish Food Providers. This bill, christened the Pork FACT Act by supporters, requires that Berkovitz now informs diners of his lack of credible food service by posting this statement in the area by the hostess waiting area:
“This facility is not licensed as a Jewish Food Provider facility by the State of New York and has no licensed Jewish food provider who provides or directly supervises the provision of Jewish dishes.”
This statement is required to be on the menu and any marketing materials including, but not limited to, commercials, billboards, brochures, and websites affiliated with this business. In addition, this bill mandates that the hostess greet every patron with these words:
“Hello, and welcome to Shamash’s! Before you sit down to eat, we want you to know that New York has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive pork dishes (including all FDA-approved methods of smoked ham), pulled pork, and pork sausage, for eligible people. To determine whether you qualify, contact the county social food services office at 1-800-YAY-PORK.”
Sue Burke, an attorney representing the people of Manhattan, stated that “New York has been a national leader in promoting and protecting equal access to the full range of options for pork products. The Pork FACT Act will ensure that people who eat are empowered to make informed and timely decisions about their health and their bodies.”
Mike Hugo, Director of Logistics for the annual “We
Berkovitz, still dazed at the news of what his restaurant is mandated to do, remains incredulous. “All I want to do is cook food for people who come here. If you want pork, okay. Go somewhere else. But don’t make me help you find something I am against.”
An owner of a local business who wished to remain anonymous said: “It’s about time Berkovitz got into some trouble. People think he’s running an authentic Jewish establishment. I mean, look at the signs! The hostess even looks Jewish! But it’s not licensed, so it’s not legitimate. And he is discriminating against his patrons by refusing to serve them pork. If he shuts down, I’ll be happy. And we’ll have taken a step toward true freedom of dinner choice.”
* In case it’s unclear, this is a satire piece meant to serve as an analogy to the recent passing of AB 775 in California. This bill forces life-affirming pregnancy centers to give statements similar to the ones in this article, referring women to where they can procure abortions. Names and business names are fictitious, and any resemblance to real people or businesses is unintentional.