Local bagel shop’s social media post stirs controversy
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ControversyKosher eatery invites criticism

Local bagel shop’s social media post stirs controversy

“We patronize the business. We’re happy to support small businesses in Pittsburgh, especially since COVID-19. And then she posted this.”

Pigeon Bagels supports various causes online and through hanging signage at their restaurant. Photo by Jim Busis.
Pigeon Bagels supports various causes online and through hanging signage at their restaurant. Photo by Jim Busis.

A recent Instagram story posted by Pigeon Bagels in Squirrel Hill enflamed the passions of some members of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community.

The story linked to a post by the account @landpalestine, titled “How to help support Palestinians right now: Where to donate, organizations to support, and more.” That post suggested its followers donate to iF Charity, The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, Rebuilding Alliance, United Palestinian Appeal and the Museum of the Palestinian People. Three photos in the post were dedicated to the BDS movement, describing it as “inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement,” and repeated the phrase “Free Palestine” four times.

Pigeon Bagels opened in 2019 and is owned by Gab Taube, a Point Breeze resident — “taube” is German for “pigeon.” The bakery, certified kosher by the Vaad Harabanim of Greater Pittsburgh and located on Hobart Street near Wightman Street, posted the story to its Instagram feed on Shavuot — in the midst of the latest conflict between Israel and the U.S.-designated terrorist group Hamas. The story was automatically deleted from the social media site after 24 hours — all Instagram stories are automatically deleted after 24 hours — but not before some members of the Jewish community captured screenshots.

BDS is a Palestinian-led movement promoting boycotts, divestments and economic sanctions against Israel. It is considered antisemitic by many Jewish organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League.

Screenshot of Pigeon Bagels’ Instagram story.

Chava Greenberg of Squirrel Hill said she learned about the story from an online post by an acquaintance.

Greenberg said she was concerned, not only that Pigeon Bagel’s Instagram story had an anti-Israeli bias, but that it was antisemitic and would encourage the type of violence and vandalism against Pittsburgh’s Jewish community that has taken place recently in many other cities around the country, including Los Angeles, New York and Tucson. She noted that the perpetrators of some of those attacks screamed “Free Palestine” and other antisemitic tropes, the same phrase seen as part @landpalestine’s post.

Because Pigeon Bagels is certified kosher, it is popular among Squirrel Hill’s religious Jewish community, Greenberg said.

“Everybody likes it,” she said. “We patronize the business. We’re happy to support small businesses in Pittsburgh, especially since COVID-19. And then she posted this.”

Abby Wisse Schachter of Regent Square learned of Pigeon Bagel’s Instagram story from a friend looking for people to sign a letter to Taube about the anti-Israel post.

“If they’re saying they’re for ‘Free Palestine,’ which is what she posted on Instagram, then she is saying she is for the destruction of Israel, the eradication of Israel,” Schachter said. “That’s what ‘Free Palestine’ means.”

Schachter would not reveal the contents of the letter to Taube, saying it was a “private correspondence.”

Reaction to Taube’s anti-Israel stance has begun to shift from private messages to public — albeit anonymous — calls to boycott the bagel shop.

A sign was recently posted on a telephone poll near the restaurant, stating: “Boycott Pigeon Bagels. They support murder of Jews by standing with Hamas terrorists and Marxist racist BLM radicals.”

To Greenberg, Taube’s Instagram story is more than a simple political message.

“For me walking down the street with my kids, people can see that I’m noticeably Jewish,” she said. “I don’t want to be attacked on American soil. I’m happy. I’m a proud American. I’m a proud Jew. I want to live here in Pittsburgh, I want to live in peace with my neighbors. I would love to support a local eatery, especially one that is kosher. But when you are attacking our Jewishness, I wouldn’t want to support you. If you’re hating on my people, why do I want to support you?”

Taube did not provide a comment for this story prior to press time. A representative from the Vaad Harabanim declined to comment. PJC

David Rullo can be reached at drullo@pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.

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