A note from JFREJ member Josh Bloom:

On International Street Vendor Day, JFREJ entered the first-ever NYC Street Vendor Scavenger Hunt. As of today, our team, Cloudy With A Chance Of Matzah Balls, is already criss-crossing the five boroughs, sleuthing after clues, eating delicious food, and meeting vendors who are fixtures in their communities.

JFREJ’s relationship with the Street Vendor Project (SVP) goes back to our “Chanukah Subway Posada” in December 2019, when we took over the Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Ave subway station together with singing, dancing, churros, and rituals both from Chanukah and Las Posadas.

This solidarity today doesn’t only support our neighbors; it also honors the NYC Jews who came before us. The history of Jews and NYC street vendors dates back to 1886. Newly arrived Jewish immigrants brought the tradition of peddling with them from Eastern Europe. These early pushcarts faced political attacks and repression from city officials, much of it rooted in racism and classism.

Today’s vendors face more of the same, like impossible licensing restrictions and NYPD harassment. Even worse, they’ve been among those hit hardest by the pandemic. Most street vendors come from working class, immigrant, Black and brown communities, which were disproportionately infected by the virus itself. And their income, dependent on customers walking around and eating in public, dried up overnight as most New Yorkers stayed indoors and worked from home — an option unavailable to vendors. Finally, many vendors were excluded from pandemic relief because they work in the cash economy and/or are undocumented.

To help NYC’s street vendors survive the pandemic, SVP provided thousands of them with cash assistance, campaigned (with JFREJ alongside them!) for the creation of the Excluded Workers Fund to provide relief for undocumented New Yorkers, and hired vendors to distribute tens of thousands of meals to their neighbors at the height of the pandemic.

Vendors are our city’s smallest business owners, and they are an integral part of making our city safer, healthier, and more vibrant. I know I’m hungry for justice for our street vendors, and I hope you are too. Let’s make sure SVP has the resources they need to win lasting, equitable change.

All power to the vendors!

Click here to see photos from 2021's International Street Vendor Day.