Nathan Lichtenstein was born and raised in the Hasidic community in Williamsburg, but when he returned to his boyhood home to start a business a few months ago, he didn’t get a warm welcome from neighborhood’s ultra-Orthodox Jews.
Scores of religious activists rallied against Lichtenstein’s “Sub on Wheels,” a kosher food truck that he parks on the Lee Avenue overpass above the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. His detractors hung signs in the neighborhood warning local families not to allow their children to patronize the truck where Lichtenstein serves typical fare — hamburgers, hot dogs and grilled meat sandwiches — along with kosher favorites like knishes and kugel.
Lichtenstein didn’t back down to the protesters — when they started intimidating customers, he called the cops.
Two men were arrested for disorderly conduct last month, said Police Officer Juan Roman, a community affairs officer in Williamsburg’s 90th Precinct.
“The guy has every right to be there and the protesters don’t have a right to disrupt his business,” Roman said. “There were customers waiting to order and these guys were running them off. It got out of hand.”
Lichtenstein’s opponents say his fast-food business encourages the sin of over-eating, a “shonda” in such a pious neighborhood. Because the truck is open from 6 pm to midnight, customers are eating dinner at home and then snacking on fast food later, opponents have said. The protesters also object to patrons hanging about on the streets at night.
“They say I’m creating a hangout for people,” Lichtenstein said. “But there is no hangout. People come and buy their food and they go away to eat it.”
Despite the protests, he’s doing brisk business. But that’s not surprising to a man who grew up in the community.
“I know the neighborhood and I know the people. There was a demand for kosher food fast here and it was very simple for me to see that,” Lichtenstein told The Brooklyn Paper.
©2007 Community News Group
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