Greg Morelli, owner of Max’s Deli in Highland park, Chicago, is telling anyone who would listen that he only wanted to start a conversation about Charlottesville. In retrospect, he probably should have stayed away from mass communications in general and race politics in particular. He sure started a conversation, though.
“I’ve barely slept,” Morelli told local CBS Channel 2. “So of course I knew it was bombastic, and I was afraid it was on my website for less than an hour and this entire ripple… less than one hour.”
Morelli posted the cartoon of a frowning Nazi in a uniform with a swastika, over which he wears a white T-shirt that says “I’m with Alt-Right,” in case you missed the swastika and you also missed the Hitler-salute, Photoshopped over his joint’s Holiday Carry-Out Items, including Chiken Soup, Kishke, Challah, Matzo balls – the staff you’d expect a hungry Nazi to order at a Jewish deli in Chicago.
Which is as good a point as any to watch a YouTube clip we’ve been visiting frequently since Charlottesville, the one where Jake and Elwood, the Blues Brothers, declare their immortal line: “I Hate Illinois Nazis.”
Not suspected of being an Illinois Nazi himself, Morelli insists that “this is a democracy, and you have to have uncomfortable conversations.” Which still does not explain the bizarre shidduch between a nouveau Nazi and matzo balls.
He added some text to explain his strange cartoon, and it was very much anti-Nazi, but who has time to read? Especially when he included an argument against the veracity of the Nazi slogan “Work Will Set You Free.” Turns out he knows it’s false.
He also confessed, “I’ll tell you one thing for sure, if my daughter was run over by a Muscle Car From Hell in Charlottesville, I’d be murderous!” – which is kind of comforting.
The conversation he started online was fierce, many used extremely strong language, some urged Morelli’s customers to boycott his deli.
“I’m afraid,” Morelli concedes, “but I’m more afraid of saying nothing when I’m afraid.”
Ah, but saying nothing would have worked so well. It’s the saying – awkward and bizarre – that yielded stuff like this:
“Poor tasteless [expletive] should not be posted by any business their political beliefs.”
“What are you guys possibly thinking using this kind of promotion? Who are you trying to attract? Or is the concept of ‘bad publicity is still publicity.’ You’ve just lost a customer forever. And everyone else I know.”
“Nazi lover !!!”
“I’ve eaten a the deli many times. You’ve got great food but stupid politics. BTW, the arrow indicates your brown shirt is a leftist.”
To be fair, there were a few supportive entries, as well as some actually promoting the alt-right ideas.
Morelli, who admits that his own family members are having trouble understanding his ideas, invites anyone who disagrees with him to come to his deli (191 Skokie Valley Rd. Highland Park, Illinois), sit down and talk about it. So if you’re in the windy city and looking for a Jewish lunch plus conversation (you should probably ask to see a kashrut certificate), by all means look him up – and do let us know if you finally got what in God’s good name did he mean to say.
Meanwhile, on his store’s website, Morelli issued the following:
3 Little Words. I Was Wrong.
To those of you who called, who reached out, who saw me against the ropes, who offered a hand instead of a fist, L’Chaim!
To those of you who bashed, who reacted without thinking, who fed on the indignation of others, who threatened my business, L’Chaim!