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Support shows no sign of slowing for Manhattan cafe after pro-Hamas walkout

By Mike Wagenheim

Monday was no one-off.

On Tuesday morning, the line of customers stretched down and around the block. It was the second street day that Upper East Side residents, as well as those from farther reaches, came out in support of Caffè Aronne on Manhattan’s Lexington Avenue

Owner Aaron Dahan had lost most of his staff after they came out against his support of Israel following the massacre of some 1,400 people by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7. Struggling to keep afloat at a relatively new location, he turned to family to keep the lights on and the coffee machines running. The Jewish community did the rest, turning out in droves to grab a cup of joe and assure Dahan that they had his back.

“I think we really saw New York come together and really support us. It’s a community here that is very unified,” Dahan told JNS, shortly after he hung an “I Stand With Israel” flag in the middle of applauding customers outside. “We have a lot of Jews here, a lot of people that know what’s going on. When the time came for people to come together, it happened.”

Dahan said that New York and Israel both understand terror “all too well,” calling the massive support “very heartwarming.”

Alexa, a New York resident, was waiting along 71st Street, adjacent to the cafe’s location on Lexington Avenue, around 15 customers deep on a brisk Tuesday morning.

“I want nothing more than to support the Jewish community. I felt my heart break to hear that he lost all his staff,” she told JNS. “Everyone decided in an instant it wasn’t even a question that we were going to come out here and support him.”

Alexa added that it “just speaks volumes to our community and the type of people we are.”

Dahan told JNS he was taken aback by the initial reaction of the eight staff members who walked out on him after his announcement that proceeds from sales would be donated to Israel’s Magen David Adom, the equivalent of the Red Cross.

“Our staff really was a family,” he said, describing after-hours team dinners and events, including trips around the country.

“We thought it was a family. I guess it wasn’t. It’s hard. It’s emotional for us,” he said. “It definitely did surprise us. But what can you do? There’s no love lost at this point.”

Dahan’s mother was working the register when JNS stopped by. Zoey, a manager from a different Caffè Aronne location, was there, too, furiously making drinks.

“We’ve been trying to get interviews going to get more people on staff. It’s just been overwhelming—the amount of support, the amount of love, even from the remaining staff,” Dahan said.

Dahan’s cafe, which seats only around a dozen people, was difficult to navigate. A family friend was present to assist journalists who had come out to cover the story. Multiple camera crews were setting up inside past the counter, while the window-side table was dotted with the Tuesday edition of the New York Post.

The paper’s headline: “Bar-Ista Mitzvah,” with an overhead picture of a long line of customers waiting outside Caffè Aronne.

Despite the violent demonstrations and actions of some Hamas supporters in New York and throughout the country, Dahan said he wasn’t concerned about any backlash. He said he informed the building’s owners of the situation, and that the New York Police Department has been supportive.

Manny, a Chicago native in town to visit his partner, was one of a host of non-New Yorkers patronizing Dahan’s cafe on Tuesday.

“As an American who cares deeply about the relationship that we have in Israel, and for Jews here in America against antisemitism, we have to stand united,” he told JNS while waiting in line.

Dahan told JNS that he had a friend who was flying in from Indianapolis and said he was heading to his cafe after reading about the situation on Instagram. Business, he said, is coming from Brooklyn and Queens, ordinarily way too far to travel for a cup of coffee.

Hannah Turenshine came from North Woodmere out on Long Island. For her, the situation hit home.

Turenshine’s cousin, Maj. Itay Yehoshua, worked for Israel’s famed Shin Bet security service. He was among the 1,400 people murdered by Hamas on Oct. 7, giving his life in defense of Kibbutz Be’eri.

“He was in the first wave of defending the civilians there. And every day since Oct. 7, I’ve been thinking about what I can do here in New York to defend his honor and support my family over there,” she told JNS, fighting back tears. “Today, this is what I can do to support them.”

Dahan said patrons have already helped him hit a goal of $36,000 to go towards a new Magen David Adom ambucycle. Proceeds from the sale of each drink will continue to flow to the organization, he said.

Dahan says he has contributed to causes around the world, including Ukraine and Lebanon in the wake of the devastating 2020 Beirut port explosion.

“We’re there for people, and it’s just disgusting that when we’re standing up for our own, people are biting back and really trying to reprimand us for it,” he said. “But it doesn’t seem to be working at all.”

PHOTO: Caffe Aronne

CAP: Owner Aaron Dahan (left) with customers outside Caffè Aronne on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, November 2023. Credit: Courtesy.

PHOTO: Caffe Arnonne line

CAP Customers wait in line for a cup of coffee at Caffe Aronne in New York City, November 2023. Credit: Courtesy.

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