North Dallas kosher restaurant, market painted with swastikas, obscenity

| November 2, 2009

Natalie and Yohai Pinhas don't think whoever spray-painted graffiti on the front of their kosher restaurant and market in Far North Dallas was a Halloween prankster.

"It could be, but why curse?" Yohai Pinhas asked Sunday afternoon. "I believe it's not Halloween."

The Jewish family members who own and operate Natalie's Kitchen and International Market haven't seen anything like it in their three years in business there – black graffiti on the sidewall and the exterior wall near the front door that included an obscenity and a pair of swastikas.

"It never happens," Natalie Pinhas said. "We love Dallas."

She said the half-dozen family members who work there don't belong to any group except their synagogues.

Ninety percent of their customers live in North Dallas and the nearby suburbs, and they are observant Orthodox Jews who appreciate a kosher restaurant and market. The other 10 percent are gentiles.

The owners have never had any trouble with customers, neighbors or vendors.

Dallas police reported the incident as "criminal mischief (hate crime)" and an investigation is under way.

"This sort of thing is rare around here," said Mark Briskman, Dallas-based Anti-Defamation League regional director for Oklahoma and North Texas. The ADL is a civil rights organization.

In addition to his comments about the graffiti at Natalie's Kitchen, Briskman confirmed the burglary and vandalism of a Reform synagogue in Sherman last week.

Thieves did significant damage and took items of value to the worshippers.

Briskman said his organization offered a reward and Sherman police got a tip that led them to arrest two men and charge them with third-degree felony theft. Both remain in the Grayson County jail with bonds set at $30,000 and $50,000.

It's unlikely the two cases are related, Briskman said, because those arrests were made late Thursday night or early Friday morning.

The Natalie's Kitchen vandalism happened Saturday night.

Briskman said the Sherman case appears to be an alcohol-related crime of opportunity rather than a hate crime.

He said Sherman-area churches have reported similar offenses.

He said the vandalism at Natalie's Kitchen probably will qualify as a hate crime because of some of the content of the spray-painted remarks. But other elements in the graffiti suggest to him that it is unlikely to be the work of an organized anti-Semitic group.

Ms. Pinhas and her husband, both veterans of the Israeli Defense Forces, have been in the U.S. for years. They and all their family members are either legal residents or naturalized U.S. citizens.

During Israel's war in Gaza, Ms. Pinhas said, a local television reporter asked her to comment.

She tried to be impartial and nonconfrontational, she said, for the same reason there are no external signs or symbols to identify Natalie's Kitchen as Jewish.

"We try to keep a low profile," she said.

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Category: Synagogue/Jewish Security