The Jewish owner of a suburban Chicago deli is under fire after Internet commenters objected to a cartoon that some see as President Trump dressed as a Nazi brownshirt. Greg Morelli, owner of Max’s Deli, 191 Skokie Valley Road in Highland Park, isn’t an anti-Semite. He used the drawing on a catering menu for the Jewish High Holidays, and said the white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia inspired him to raise his voice. He made the Facebook post with the menu on Wednesday, Aug. 23, but apologized for the post on Thursday as Internet outrage continued.
Morelli told Pioneer Press that he didn’t mean for the cartoon to look like Trump. He did fear rising bigotry in the wake of the scene last month in Virginia, and pointed out as a Jewish deli owner that Nazis would first come after him. He’s been affected by the death of Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old white ally killed when a Nazi sympathizer slammed his car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville.
“Here's another hard question: have I taken this too far?” Morelli wrote on Facebook. “Maybe. Or maybe I haven't taken it far enough. 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!”
He followed up the Nazi post with another post featuring former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, supporting his controversial “take a knee” philosophy when bringing about awareness to police brutality against African Americans. Two Chicago bars are boycotting the NFL to support Kaepernick. Some feel he’s being blackballed for his activism. Morelli equated it with The Statue of Liberty.
Morelli wrote some have sent him threatening text messages over his posts. Some customers have responded saying they won’t dine at Max’s anymore. Some have supported him. Others feel the Nazi imagery took it too far:
“This really is in poor taste, in so many ways... We don't joke about Nazis. The Alt-Right is terrifying — we don't joke about them either. We never mix Nazis and our High Holidays — and in general we do our best not to mix politics with business,” one commenter wrote.
In Thursday’s apology, Morelli said family also objected to the imagery. The cartoons were the only way he knew how to respond to the current political environment. It was gallows humor.
“In case you're wondering, I do not regret getting involved. I do not regret speaking out. I do not regret assigning symbolism to hatred. I do not regret being trashed on Facebook. That said, it hurt.
I'm me. I can't not be me. This is how I do it. This is how I make myself laugh in the face of horror. Charlottesville was a horror show, a turning point, the end of the line.
If you see it from another point-of-view, I invite you to seek me out at Max's Deli. We'll break bread. And kibbitz.”
Besides the Highland Park location, there is a smaller Max’s in The Loop. Back in the 1990s, they occupied the lower level restaurant space at Clark and Belden, where Eleven City Deli just vacated.
- Highland Park Jewish deli faces backlash over Facebook post featuring Nazi imagery [Pioneer Press]
- Father of Charlottesville victim Heather Heyer forgives Nazi sympathizer who killed his daughter [Vox]
- Max’s Deli [Facebook]
- Unite the Right, the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, explained [Vox]
- Colin Kaepernick Inspires Two Chicago Bars to Boycott NFL [Eater Chicago]