Scotland, UK – Queer Yiddish café shuts doors after antisemitic abuse

The Pink Peacock in GlasgowCredit: Pink Peacock

Glasgow – A queer, anarchist Yiddish café in Glasgow shut its doors on Wednesday after two years, complaining of “astonishing antisemitic vitriol.”

Pink Peacock started as a mutual aid group in 2020 before opening the pay-what-you-can café in the Govanhill district of Scotland’s largest city. It ran Yiddish-language events, produced vegan Jewish food such as vegan challah and knishes, and marked Jewish holidays with unique celebrations including trans liberation seder nights and drag shows for Purim.

Besides the antisemitic harassment from both the right and left, the collective cited “burnout” and internal racism within the collective toward minority members.

“Running a business in the pandemic is impossible. Hospitality is even worse, and even more so when [the food] is free,” Morgan Holleb, one of Pink Peacock’s co-founders, told Haaretz on Zoom from the café.

In a statement on its website, the collective added that “on top of the expected right-wing backlash from terfs [transexclusionary feminists] and bootlickers,” it had received a “frankly astonishing amount of antisemitic vitriol over the last 3 years from self-described leftists.”

Holleb said that even though the café had been run on a voluntary and nonhierarchical basis, it faced “constant rumors” from left-wing groups that its members were “owners who get paid,” “rich American Jews exploiting the workers,” and “gentrifiers.”

He added: “The list of harassment from the left is unfortunately longer.”

Much of this abuse came from people associated with the Socialist Workers Party in Glasgow, the café said. The party did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The members of the collective, which describes itself as anti-Zionist, were also told to go “home” to Israel, on top of other tropes about their alleged foreignness.

While most of the antisemitic and transphobic abuse came online, or from “nakedly antisemitic phone calls,” the café also had its windows smashed three times, with two of the occasions suspected to stem from antisemitic motives.

Members of their collective were also doxed – private information was published about them – while posters were plastered on walls in the neighborhood accusing the café of “profiting from the Holocaust.” Holleb said the collective was “pretty confident” that this last allegation came from members of the Socialist Workers Party.

Holleb points to a broader issue: “Jews are such a minority in Scotland, and in the U.K. in general. People don’t know what antisemitism is, or even know any Jews.”

Pink Peacock added in its statement: “several of our members have moved away or are planning to move soon, in part due to the jewish isolation, unchecked antisemitism in scotland and the impact of this harassment.”

But the statement that used small letters throughout ended on a more positive note, hailing the collective as “anti-capitalism in action. the pay-what-you-can-down-to-£0 model is a love letter to a better future, and our attempt to bring it closer even as the world falls apart around us. since we started at the onset of the pandemic, we’ve served thousands of free meals and hosted hundreds of queer, jewish, and anarchist events.”

It added: “we’ve proven that it’s possible, that we can come together as comrades and make things better. that mutual aid works. for 3 years it worked! in this hostile world, that’s something to be proud of.”

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