According to a report by the New York Jewish Week, Aaron Dahan, the owner of a cafe chain in New York City, had to close down his Upper East Side location for a day. This came after the fifth employee quit, citing Dahan’s public support for Israel as the reason for their departure.
On Tuesday morning, at the Caffe Aronne branch on Lexington Avenue and 71st Street, two baristas arrived wearing pro-Palestinian pins on their aprons. This led to a disagreement with the manager, which resulted in one of the employees quitting on the spot.
Dahan was busy with a private event and couldn’t make it to the shop, so he informed his mother, Peggy, that the store would be closing. However, Peggy took charge and decided to keep the doors open. She personally went to the cafe and put out a call for volunteers to help her out.
Peggy Dahan exclaimed, “I have just finished learning how to operate the cash register. Apart from that, I have also mastered the art of pouring a cold brew and using the espresso machines.”
Peggy had a support system in place as she faced a challenging situation. Her loved ones, including her daughter’s friends and an assistant with barista experience, rallied around her to help keep the shop running. In addition, numerous customers showed up to demonstrate their support for Israel and denounce those who opposed it. The line of customers spilled around the block, a powerful display of solidarity.
Danielle Posner, a first-time customer, expressed her mixed emotions after joining the line at the cafe upon receiving a message from a friend about the ongoing support for the Jewish community. “When I got on the line, part of me was upset that we have to do this to show our support, but at the same time, I was overwhelmed with joy that we came together as a people so quickly,” she said.
As the crowd gathered, a number of individuals waved Israeli flags while others displayed posters of the Israeli hostages. Fliers were also strewn about the neighborhood, with some remaining intact and others having been defaced by graffiti or torn.
Amid concerns that their support for Israel was causing a decline in business, several restaurants have experienced a surge in customers. On Long Island, a Greek diner initially saw traffic drop after the owner hung hostage posters, but it has since become a popular spot for pro-Israel diners. Similarly, a cafe has also seen a flurry of new customers due to social media appeals and growing concerns about the recent Hamas attack on Israel and the rise of antisemitism in the United States.
After the Oct. 7 attack, Aaron Dahan, a 25-year-old alumnus of the city’s Orthodox Ramaz School, encountered difficulties when he started gathering funds for Magen David Adom, Israel’s emergency services provider.
At the front window of the Upper East Side location, posters of kidnapped Israelis are prominently displayed. The register is also adorned with miniature Israeli and American flags. Peggy Dahan shared that her husband’s step-cousin was among those killed in the Hamas attack.
Aaron Dahan shared that the chain’s endorsement of Israel was not well received by their staff, mostly composed of progressive students from local colleges who have been critical of Israel since October 7. He stated that many of them believe that the establishment’s support equates to backing genocide and colonialism.
On November 7, 2023, a group of staff members quit Caffe Aronne in the Upper East Side due to the establishment’s pro-Israel activities. The incident led to a queue forming outside the cafe as customers continued to patronize the business. A photo taken by Luke Tress showed the line of customers waiting outside the cafe.
Over the course of several weeks, five employees resigned from the chain’s three locations. Unfortunately, the most recent resignation on Tuesday was the tipping point for the Upper East Side location, which could no longer operate with the reduced staff. The chain also has outposts in the West Village and on the High Line, as well as a catering truck.
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During dinner, Dahan attempted to tackle the conflict with his staff by reminding them that they were all working towards the same goal and that they should not view each other as adversaries. However, his efforts proved to be insufficient in alleviating the mounting frustrations.
He expressed his regret about the staff conflicts, saying, “I wish it never happened.” He also lamented the loss of the close-knit team, saying, “We had a beautiful family, a really great team. It’s saddening to see how all the friendships we made are now gone because of this.”
The request for assistance spread like wildfire throughout the pro-Israel and Jewish community of the city on Tuesday. Social media and the WhatsApp messaging platform were flooded with posts about the cafe, which drew a large number of people to the establishment. Despite the challenges Peggy Dahan faced in keeping the business afloat, she was heartened to receive encouraging messages from strangers who promised to visit the cafe. “We’re coming,” they assured her.
According to her, a few of the volunteers who joined the workforce already had prior experience as baristas. However, the majority of them were learning the ropes on the job, just like her. She also mentioned that some customers even provided referrals for potential baristas who were interested in working for the chain.
Peggy Dahan, the owner of Caffe Aronne, expressed her gratitude towards the customers who contributed to the store’s fundraising efforts for Magen David Adom. As a result of the collective efforts, the company was able to accumulate enough cash to buy a “medicycle,” a modified motorcycle that is used by medics to reach emergencies, worth $36,000. However, with the increased support from the customers, the company aims to purchase two of these vehicles, which is a remarkable accomplishment.
She expressed that this is a collective effort of the community. She acknowledged the greatness and amazingness of the community through this event.