Nourish Kitchen + Table Owner Marissa Lippert, ELLE Magazine’s Katie Crown, Justin Kalifowitz, and Shayna Kulik recently held a benefit dinner in New York City to celebrate the cuisines and culture of Libya, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, and Syria—the seven countries targeted under President Trump’s travel ban. Proceeds from the event, called Breaking Bread, benefited to American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
The theme of the dinner promoted sharing a meal together—or breaking bread—to break down barriers between cultures. The event received donations from local New York City-area providers such as Pino’s Prime Meats, Roberta’s Pizza, Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, Hot Bread Kitchen, Syrian Sweet Refuge, White Gold Butchers, Murray’s Cheese, and Honest Chops for the feast.
The dinner was held at Ramscale Studio in the West Village of Manhattan, New York, with skyline views of Lower Manhattan. Guest speaker Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, spoke to the room of guests about unity, empowerment, and encouragement. A musical performance by Alsarah & The Nubatones followed. Lead singer Alsarah, a Sudanese-born singer, songwriter, and Ethnomusicologist who moved to the United States in 1994 after civil war broke out in Yemen, spoke about her personal experiences as an immigrant in New York City.
Food Tank had the opportunity to speak with organizer Shayna Kulik about planning the events, the activism in New York City’s local food scene, and looking forward.
Food Tank (FT): How did the idea for the Breaking Bread Benefit Dinner come about?
Shayna Kulik (SK): New Yorkers have been some of the most vocal opponents of the Trump administration’s many policies, but none seemed to strike a chord quite like the travel ban. Between the flood of posts on social media, the tremendous protests at JFK, and the unified rejection of the ban by our local politicians, it feels like we’re at a pivotal moment where people are no longer taking their civil liberties for granted. Our friends Katie Crown from ELLE Magazine and Marissa Lippert from Nourish Kitchen + Table were discussing a dinner to raise funding for the ACLU at the same time as my husband, Justin Kalifowitz, and I were discussing a “Seven Banned Countries” restaurant series in NYC. And two weeks later, here we are…
FT: How have you seen the recent immigration ban affect the local food system here in New York City, both in practice and morale?
SK: There’s been a welcome wave of press devoted to local businesses operated by immigrants from countries affected by the ban, and as a result, there’s been an elevated awareness around the issue. With the local food system, you, of course, had the Yemeni bodega operators strike which was far-reaching. There have also been general discussions around just how many restaurants are owned and operated by immigrants from these countries.
FT: Did you intentionally host the event during the “Day Without Immigrants” strike?
SK: As Marissa said in her remarks opening the evening, it was coincidental. That said, there’s been an incredible grassroots movement to support the City’s sizable Muslim population, and it wasn’t surprising there was overlap.
FT: How else have you seen the restaurant community come together during this time?
SK: Marissa has such an incredible network of friends in the food community that she’s built with Nourish. It was really quite inspiring to watch how everyone rallied in support of our efforts in organizing such a beautiful event. Virtually every supplier that was contacted was extraordinarily generous—from baklava from Syrian Sweet Refuge and halal lamb from Honest Chops, to everyone in between.
FT: Are there any follow-up plans of action beyond the event?
SK: Nothing is locked in stone, but it was very inspiring to hear so many of our friends and attendees discussing newly sparked ideas for future actions. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next.
FT: Outside of the benefit, how can concerned citizens support the ACLU’s work through their forks?
SK: It’s an extraordinary time for the ACLU in terms of work flow, prioritization, and resource allocation. While I can’t speak to their day to day needs, I will say they are very receptive to help from the community. If anyone is looking to get more involved beyond financial contributions and live protest, I would suggest reaching out and donating professional skills and time to not only the national office, but the local affiliates as well (such as the NYCLU).