At Nana’s Kitchen, Israeli Senderowitsch Family Deals With Graffiti, Hostages

Nana’s Kitchen in Narberth (Photo by Jarrad Saffren)

The Senderowitsch family started in Argentina, made aliyah in the 1980s and immigrated to the United States in 2002. The family wanted to live in a country that was not in “a constant state of war” and chose to live between family members in Argentina and Israel, according to daughter Lee Senderowitsch.

Ten years after arriving in the U.S., the family opened Nana’s Kitchen. It was a restaurant in America known for its Argentine, Israeli and Mediterranean influences.

It was not unlike the family in that way. Gladys Senderowitsch, the matriarch and owner, always made food with diverse influences in her home for her four daughters.

But earlier this month, Nana’s Kitchen was attacked. It was a message written in giant graffiti along the restaurant’s side wall: Free Gaza.

The owner of the nearby movie theater noticed it while taking out the trash on March 14, and then told Eli Shea, a Nana’s Kitchen employee. The Senderowitsch family informed the Narberth Police, who were supportive, according to Lee Senderowitsch.

A sign posted after the recent Free Gaza spray paint incident at Nana’s Kitchen in Narberth (Photo by Jarrad Saffren)

A day later, a big lunch crowd gathered outside the Narberth Avenue restaurant. Two days later, more than 20 people made supportive comments on a Nana’s Kitchen & Catering LLC Facebook post. A couple of days after that, 200 people, including Narberth Mayor Andrea Deutsch, came out for a rally in support of Nana’s in downtown Narberth.

“I call upon each and every one of you to join me in this fight. To stand up against antisemitism wherever it rears its ugly head,” Deutsch said at the rally. Video was posted by This Is Lower Merion, a local news site.

A week after it all started, on a quiet, cold and sunny Thursday in Narberth, Nana’s had a few tables full as late as 2 p.m. Shea was at the counter taking orders. Gladys Senderowitsch was in the back making food.

Sitting at a table, Lee Senderowitsch recalled when Shea walked in and said, “I have to show you something.”

“I got goosebumps,” Lee Senderowitsch said of her initial reaction.

The daughter explained that the business next door, EZ Phone Repair, is also owned by an Israeli.

“We have not seen spray paint anywhere else in Narberth,” she said.

Lee Senderowitsch has paid attention to antisemitic incidents on the news. Experiencing one was different, she said.

“It was personal,” she added.

From left: Lee and Gladys Senderowitsch (Photo by Jarrad Saffren)

After the family reached out to the police, Sgt. Michael Vernacchio came to look at the wall. He also gave the family his personal phone number.

And “very quickly, the community found out,” Lee Senderowitsch said. Locals “showed up to Nana’s right away.”

“We realized, OK, we’re not alone in this,” the daughter said.

Lee Senderowitsch expected some “hate and controversy” on Facebook. But she didn’t see any. The posts were “pretty unanimous,” she said. The original post from the Nana’s account showing the graffiti has 45 shares.

“Many locals, non-Jewish people, came and said, ‘I can’t believe this is happening. This doesn’t represent us,’” Lee said.

Police told the Senderowitsch family that this was the first incident in Narberth related to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack and the ensuing war. They are not classifying it as a hate crime because “it’s technically just vandalism and free speech,” Lee Senderowitsch said.

“Being that it is a Jewish restaurant that was targeted, I think the context should have something to do with what we label it as,” she added.

The Senderowitsch family also knows two of the men – Yair Horn, 44, and Eitan Horn, 37 – being held hostage by Hamas. After making aliyah, Gladys and her late husband, Maxi, served as shlichim, or Israeli educators in other countries, in Argentina. The Horn brothers were part of their youth group, according to Lee Senderowitsch.

The family kept in touch with the brothers over the years.

“Many of those teens, who then became adults, made Aliyah to Israel,” Lee Senderowitsch said. “Yair was like a brother to us.”

The wall where Free Gaza was spray-painted has since been painted over outside Nana’s Kitchen in Narberth.
(Photo by Jarrad Saffren)

Yair Horn joined the Israel Defense Forces and settled in Kibbutz Nir Oz in the south of Israel. Kibbutz Nir Oz was attacked by Hamas on Oct. 7.

“The last we heard of them was with the second release of women and children in November,” Lee said. “Some of the girls who were hostages said that they saw them.”

The Senderowitsch family opened Nana’s in 2012 in the Kaiserman JCC in Wynnewood. Its initial purpose was to feed the kids at Camp Kef, but “people loved it,” Lee Senderowitsch said. Maxi Senderowitsch, an irrigation engineer by trade, connected piping and cables from the JCC into the corner where Nana’s would open.

Over the next few years, the business grew large enough to need its own location, according to Lee Senderowitsch.

“That’s where we are now,” she said.

And that’s where they will be.

“It only makes my identity stronger,” Lee Senderowitsch said of the incident.

[email protected]


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here