Ben and Jerry’s: Not Your Plain-Vanilla Crisis

Impulse shopping for ice cream, as our scales will testify, is hardly uncommon. Maybe in this instance it was not so common, because I don’t really eat ice cream. Yet I found myself drawn to the ice cream freezer while doing the weekly shopping at the supermarket, feeling that I just had to buy some Israeli made Ben and Jerry’s (B&J), to support the local licensee who has stood up to pressure from the parent company for years.

Slim pickens. The freezer case looked like it had been held up at gunpoint. Just a few plain flavors were strewn helter-skelter at the bottom, like the bodies left in the street after John Wayne emptied the last chamber of his six-gun.

It was obvious that many other Israelis were following the same impulse. I found this to be richly satisfying, even though I had to walk away with a pint of very ordinary coffee. Could be that my grandkids won’t know the difference. I had done my share of sticking it to those who were trying to stick it to me.

Actually, I still have a good deal of sticking to do, which is why I’m contravening my own strongly stated position of what should and should not be published on Cross-Currents. I’ve long opposed (but don’t exercise any veto power) purely political writing. Only essays that take a yeshiva or seminary education to produce belong – at least in my opinion.

Every rule has an exception, and this is a time for an exception to be made. The anti-Semitic boycott of Israel by B&J is far more serious than most believe. Here is why:

This is not just about resisting economic warfare against the Jewish State. Or about responding to a terrible snub against the Jewish people. Or about standing up to the unholy alliance of left-leaning non-Jews, ex-Jews, and un-Jews[1] that spawned this monstrosity. Or about jeopardizing Jewish lives by encouraging anti-Semitism in the midst of a global pandemic of Jew-hatred. Or about the clear and evident anti-Semitism involved in doubling down on the Jewish State, overlooking and sparing the perpetrators of humanitarian disasters many times larger – including the cultural genocide of Tibetans through the Chinese occupation, the use of child soldiers in Africa, the expulsion of Christians from Iraq, the suppression of religious freedom in Iran and Pakistan, the herding of the Uyghurs into concentration camps, and many others.

It is all of the above – and more.

BDS is an irritant, a mostly failed attempt to harm Israel economically which has not put a dent in the growth, B”H, of the Israeli economy. The B&J/Unilever gambit is more dangerous. It takes a large, well-liked company with name recognition in practically every US family, and associates that good name with a finding that Israel is a huge human rights violator – perhaps the worst in the world. Making that horrific label stick, possibly in the minds of tens of millions of Americans, can indeed wreak havoc with Israel’s standing in the world community. If it goes unchallenged, it makes it that much easier to heap all the other epithets on Israel: apartheid, brutal, inhumane, Nazi-like. It would make it so much easier for the next business to do the same. And the next. And the one after. It will make it easier for school curricula (beyond the college campuses, which have been lost for years) to lump Israel together with the truly brutal regimes of the world. It can put every Jew on the defensive for being on the wrong side of history. The fact that a true corporate giant – Unilever – would not cry foul at this misstep will greatly solidify the impression that Zionists/Israelis/Jews are evil and expendable.

Moreover, we should understand that pressure from BDS was not what got B&J to make this move. The statement put out by the Independent Board of B&J makes it clear that the board members were not simply giving in to pressure, but were individually enthusiastic about getting back at the pariah State of Israel. We are not looking at a successful lobbying campaign by BDS, but the conversion of a generation of young corporate executives to the tenets of extreme wokeism. This conversion has been going on for decades, and the success of progressive indoctrination is just starting to become visible in the corporate world. It’s a replay of the enthusiasm of young people after the 1917 Revolution to completely remake Russia. We know how that ended.

What should we do? Some suggestions:

  • USE ALL TOOLS AVAILABLE. We should do whatever we can to reverse the decision, including legal (as Prime Minister Bennett pledged from the Israeli side), political, and social means. The legal route looks particularly promising. Corporations detest getting tied up in litigation. Chaneling Churchill (who would certainly be on our side in this) we should sue them on the beaches, we should sue them on the landing grounds, we should sue them in the fields and in the streets, we should sue them in the hills; we shall never surrender. Make them sweat till they decide that it isn’t worth their while to hold on to a wounded asset.
  • ENLIST FRIENDS. We should individually speak to as many people as we can, including non-Jews (there are more of them than there are of us!) who are either kindly disposed towards Israel, or disgusted with the degree of penetration of wokeness in our institutions.
  • PRESSURE UNILEVER. They lie. They’ve stated that by contract, they do not call the shots regarding B&J’s corporate conscience decisions. This is a bald lie. The Independent Board (the group that is supposed to steer the corporate ship to the proper progressive ports) has explicitly said that they wished to boycott all of Israel, not just the “occupied Palestinian territories.” It was Unilever that changed their statement, and focused only on the “occupation,” and pledged not to leave Israel “proper.” That means, however, that Unilever does in fact have more clout than they want us to know about. And if they didn’t, we should still ask them to unload the company, rather than face what they are opening themselves up to.
  • I’m not a fan of explicitly named boycotts. I think we lose with them, because we look bad unless they are hugely subscribed to (a bad bet). Even then, endorsing boycotts is risky business, because they lead to the acceptability of boycotts in general, and they can easily be turned against us.
  • STOP EATING THE VILE STUFF Does that mean that we should go on eating B&J in the US? Absolutely not. Jews committed to other Jews and the Jewish State should find themselves choking at the thought of eating it! B&J can remain the dessert of choice for those who are contemptuous of Jewish history and the Jewish future. We should drop the brand like a hot (fudge) potato. I’m just wary of explicitly calling it a boycott.
  • TARGET THE MARKETPLACE Rather, we should turn out energies to marketers on the local level. Speak to store managers. Demand nothing. Just let them know that you love B&J, but will not be able to buy it any longer. Let them know just how strongly you feel, and that many friends feel the same way. It might make sense for them to consider featuring another brand, while downgrading or eliminating the offensive B&J. It might be necessary in time to ask friendly marketers to downgrade the shelf space to other Unilever products, as a sign of respect to many of their shoppers. This won’t work everywhere, but it will work in some places

Bottom line: don’t just have a melt-down. Instead, go out there and do something!

  1. See here.

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42 Responses

  1. Denise Berger says:

    What about asking Israeli tech firms to get involved? Imagine for example if Waze included a clause in client agreements that the app could be disabled for companies that do business with BDS supporters? We have a huge bargaining chip that the Palestinians don’t have, namely we provide services and products that are integral to the functioning of everyday society. Let’s see how woke these companies are if they suddenly have to rely on Palestinian technology

    • Bob Miller says:

      “We have a huge bargaining chip that the Palestinians don’t have, namely we provide services and products that are integral to the functioning of everyday society. ”

      However, there are major US high tech firms, under ultrawoke management, that Israel and its businesses rely on for goods and services. If these firms joined this cyber-fray in active support of the Palestinians, things could get ugly.

    • Mr. Jay says:

      Some time ago, Ben and Jerry’s temporarily and locally came out with a new name for an old flavor: Hubby-Hubby. Did we protest? Stop buying their ice cream? Nu, maybe we should have. Is anti-Semitism the only iniquity?

  2. D K says:

    Here’s their contact page to voice your protest:

    What i think is the saddest part about this is that Ben and Jerry are misguided, assimilated, Jews who’s worldview has been skewed by anti-Torah sources and have turned them into self-hating Jews. Yeah, they may tell you they have nothing against Jews, just Israel. But we know the truth, its the Torah that prescribes Israel to the Jews and the anti-Torah/Israel/Jewish groups are bothered by this to their core. We need to be Mechazeik ourselves to try to only create our own worldview through pure sources alone in order to prevent the same from happening to us or our future generations.

  3. mycroft says:

    I’ve long opposed … purely political writing. Only essays that take a yeshiva or seminary education to produce belong – at least in my opinion.

    Yahadus has had people of both liberal and conservative political beliefs. FWIW IMO there are elements of Yahadus closer to a liberal belief and elements closer to a political belief. Our identity should be one of following Torah, neither GOP nor Democratic Party are synonymous with yahadus. We should follow the spirit of the YU RY who once opposed both Young GOP and Young Democratic Clubs on YU. We show allegiance to Torah not political parties.
    I have no problem with discussing an individual issue-but should be in terms of Torah and Yahadus

    • Nachum says:

      I suppose it was nice back when such things were true, if that was ever the case. Maybe in the 1920’s. Maybe in the 1950’s. Not today, and not for the last fifty years.

    • Steven Brizel says:

      This is not “politics” This anti Semitism of the left with its sources in a corporate board

    • Steve Brizel says:

      That stance was fine up to and including the mid 1960s but we err grievously in fighting today’s wars and with yesterday’s weapons

    • Raymond says:

      That may sound great in theory, but in practice, it has become overwhelmingly obvious that the vast majority of antisemitism in some of its most dangerous manifestations, now emanates from two sources: the Radical Left, and islamoFascism. True, that antisemitism can be found on the Far Right as well, but they constitute a tiny fringe that is not at all endorsed by today’s mainstream political conservatives. One can see this difference even among this country’s Presidents of the last several decades, with Dhimmi Carter and Baraq Omarxist, both Democrats, being so virulently hostile to Israel, in sharp contrast to the strongly pro-Israel Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan, George W Bush, and of course the great Donald J Trump.

    • Bob Miller says:

      Ah…but now? It takes no deep thought to distinguish the greater political party threats from the lesser. Try it, you’ll like it.

  4. Raymond says:

    Given the almost impossibly high standards built into the religious Jewish lifestyle, and given the sometimes less-than-exemplary moral behavior of some religious Jews, I can understand how any given Jew might deviate from such a lifestyle and even carry some resentment toward his own Jewish people. What is incomprehensible to me, though, is when such rejection and resentment is carried to the level of vicious self-hatred for their own Jewish people as exemplified by the likes of Karl Marx, Gertrude Stein, Hannah Arendt, Tony Kushner, Bernie Sanders, and now Ben & Jerry. Can such people be that ignorant of the history of antisemitism? Do they not realize that there are millions if not billions of people out there who deeply admire what the nazis did to us as they celebrate every time a Jew is murdered? The very notion of such self-hating Jews rejecting our rich, precious Jewish legacy that has given so much to our world, is frankly heartbreaking. In rejecting their own Jewish people, they are surrendering their Divine Birthright for a pot of their red Marxist stuff.

    Unfortunately, I think that carrying out this unofficial boycott will be very difficult to achieve. Even those people who actually like our Jewish people, probably don’t like us quite as much as they enjoy eating a delicious pint of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.

    • Nachum says:

      Unfortunately, those Jews have bought a lot of propaganda and believe that by siding with these lovelies they are *helping* the Jewish people, or at least the “right” Jewish people. Never underestimate the power of self-deception. It happened- among committed Jews- in Germany in the 1930’s. Fortunately- but of course unfortunately- it lasted very briefly back then.

      • Raymond says:

        You may be giving self-hating Jews a bit too much credit here. Somehow I just do not think that the likes of George Soros has our best Jewish interests in mind at all.

      • Nachum says:

        Raymond: That is true. Although there have always been Jews who’ve thought that the best thing for the Jewish people would be self-destruction.

      • Bob Miller says:

        50 years ago when I was in college, quite a few Jewish students (scruffy, but typically from the posh suburbs) and professors bought into the Left’s program, including its enmity toward Israel. Now, there are many more of them. This happens when ominous changes in society are allowed by lazy onlookers to play out.

  5. Nachum says:

    I’m going to be extremely un-PC for a moment and say that while Israel can be (or should be, if people were rational) easily defended from charges of “apartheid,” after the events of the last couple of weeks, any mention of that term can be met with laughter.

    I’ll continue being un-PC for a moment and say that perhaps we should examine the person heading Ben and Jerry’s “Independent Board,” surely a member of an old Vermont family with deep roots in the ice cream business, and then Jews should ask themselves if it was really wise for them to support (and, from the other end, so vocally!) certain policies for the past sixty years or so. And we should not be loath to point out, based on her background, what an absolute hypocrite she’s being.

    Finally, I’m not sure how un-PC this is, but purely as private bodies, kashrut organizations should not be barred from dropping certain products. They can (and perhaps should) stress that their act has nothing to do with kashrut (although at the same time, kashrut of an uncertified dropped product should not be assumed), but they have a right to decide what they will or will not take. R’ Wein has a story about how the OU once refused a (perfectly understandable halakhically) request for a dog food hekhsher. Anti-semites shouldn’t be exempt there, much as there are (even Orthodox!) Jews who will equivocate about “different views” about the “occupation.” It’s time we drew some lines.

    • Steven Brizel says:

      The founders of Ben &Jerry are two unrepentant 1960s Jewish leftists The current CEO an Arab woman tweeted her support for defunding support for Israel What else is there to know about the management of Ben & Jerry?

      • Nachum says:

        She is in fact Indian. And of a high-caste, which is always a good thing to point out when someone who has benefited, and continues to benefit from- and of course never condemn- the oldest, largest, and most ingrained form of racism on the planet decided to lecture the rest of us about rights and privileges.

  6. Steve Brizel says:

    I have adopted the principle that if an entity goes woke and adopts the intersectional radical agenda in any form let it go broke

  7. Steven Brizel says:

    One can posit that the secular Jewish establishment and leadership has embraced the woke agenda and has soft pedaled and walked away from its support of Israel so as to have “access” with the Biden Administration which has many sub cabinet appointees who set policy who are hostile to Israel The question remains why the Orthodox communal leadership which has not gone woke has been too quiet when we should be out in the streets against the open manifestations of anti Semitism in politics media and academia instead of lumping it together with every other perceived prejudice that exists in the minds of the woke world simply because anti Semitism is the oldest social disease known to man and stems from Esau’s hated for Yaakov

    • Raymond says:

      I think that the reason why Orthodox Jews in general tend to barely be political at all, is because of their belief that all that happens is G-d’s Will, that if suffering comes to our Jewish people, it is a reflection of our own defects in our moral character, and thus the solution to the problem is not political but spiritual.

      Now, far be it for a simpleton like me to challenge our Torah giants, and yet somehow I find it hard to believe, for example, that we Jews were collectively behaving so badly back in the 1930’s and 1940’s, that it was Divinely ordained that we somehow deserved that more than six million of our fellow Jews would be so savagely murdered in cold blood for the crime of being born Jewish. And yet I clearly remember a very prominent, local Orthodox Rabbi blaming September 11th on our own moral defects.

    • Bob Miller says:

      As long as our Orthodox organizations and their constituents believe they need help from today’s government, you won’t see enough of the pushback you advocate. It’s easy to fall into “flatter the nutty potentate” mode.

  8. Eli Julian says:

    While lots of the talking heads here may take pleasure in targeting Mr. Ben and Mr. Jerry personally as symbols of the inroads that the pernicious and evil left is making on normative American society, they may be disappointed to note that Mr. Ben and Mr. Jerry actually have had no influence in the company since it was sold in 2000. See here.

    I also find Ben and Jerry’s boycott abhorrent, but possibly equally abhorrent is the guy reaction branding of fellow Jews as evil self haters. Reminiscent of the Netziv’s introduction to chumash, that anyone whose opinion is different than me is automatically illegitimate. It behooves us to be more circumspect in bandying about hatred for other Jews, no matter how profoundly you disagree with them, and at least to fact check whether that hatred is warranted in the first place. In the case of Mr. Ben and Mr. Jerry, it’s not

    • I don’t claim to have any knowledge of the attitudes of B&J (the people) to Israel, Jews, or Judaism. I’m wary of giving them a clean bill of health, however, just on their say-so. Unilever claims it has no influence on the operation of B&J (the company), but were clearly stretching it. They managed to overrule the B&J Board (which pressed for a full boycott of Israel, not just Yehuda and Shomron), despite what their contract stated. Similarly, Messrs. B&J have, over the years since the sale, successfully pushed for new flavors, and been poster boys for the company. I’m not ready to take them at their word. You may in fact be correct that there are better people to go after, like the two members of the Board who we know were involved.

      As far as the Netziv (which you know I am a huge fan of), I’m not sure that he would apply the same thinking to those who actively endangered Jewish lives at the time of the Churban – which people in JVP, etc. do. Please also keep in mind that all too many Jews still identify as Jews, but have not a scintilla of Jewish content in that identification. They do not relate in the slightest to Jewish religion, to Jewish values, to a Jewish future. Alas, many do not relate in any way to the Jewish people either. I am at a loss as to how to relate to them, other than to (admit it – theoretically) embrace their Pintele Yid, or whatever is left of it.

  9. dr. bill says:

    I think that B&J’s board members ought be targeted directly. If they sit on other company boards, those companies ought be evaluated for boycott. You can search for “Ben & Jerry Board of Directors” and get a complete list of possible targets.

    It is also worth noting that B&J ought not be targeted in Israel, where a boycott would harm Jewish workers.

  10. Adam Schanzer says:

    I’d like to leave my letter that I sent to B&J’s here, but you might not want to publish it and I understand:

    Dear Ben and Dear Jerry and to whomever else it may concern:

    I was so sorry to hear that you’ve accepted the false narrative that Israel is an occupying force in Palestine. This is so far from the truth. Please consider the following facts:

    Israel has been the home of the Jewish people since Biblical times, thousands of years.

    There has always been a Jewish presence in Israel even when Jews were mostly expelled from the land.

    When the modern state was created, it was with the unanimous consent of 53
    nations (the complete League of Nations membership at the time in 1922). Subsequently Israel was attacked by surrounding Arab nations which expressed their desire explicitly to destroy all Jews. Thereafter as well, every war has consisted of Israel defending itself. Without exception. Any land won was in defensive wars. Never did Israel try to gain land by an offensive war. Clearly Israel is not an expansionist, colonialist country. Obviously Jews have a right to the land of Israel. Why do people say otherwise? Jew-hatred is cloaked by being called anti-Zionist and therefore not anti-Jewish. But as Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism.” Dr. King would turn over in his grave to see the treatment afforded Israel today. He was a great supporter.

    What about Apartheid? Israeli Arabs are full citizens with all rights and privileges. Does this sound like apartheid? The only walls and separations are because of non-citizens who have perpetrated so many terrorist attacks on innocents that it became necessary to provide self-protective measures. Not out of racism etc., only out of unfortunate necessity.

    Israel is the only free country in the region that affords complete equal rights to women as well as many other freedoms. Should it be the only country which should suffer from BDS? This happens because Israel is demonized and double-standarded. If Israel should be punished for being occupiers, which they are not, shouldn’t you stop selling ice cream in America where occupiers clearly murdered and stole the land and then put the native population in reservations, where many still are. America was a land of slavery; Israel was and is not. Clearly a double standard, and worse.

    Please think about these points and realize that the pressure that you’ve caved into is caused by anti-Semitism and not true concerns for social justice. Better to help the American Indians and other oppressed people than to call Israel “occupiers.” Please re-think your decisions and act on true social justice and not what has become popular despite its terrible unfairness.

    Kudos to you if you stand up strong in the face of hate.
    With all good wishes,
    Adam Schanzer

    P.S. Please let me know that you received this personally, or if someone else does. Thank you.

  11. lacosta says:

    so far on twitter i learned that 1] B and J sales are up at least 20% , as it has become the ice cream of antizionism
    2] they comment on the irony of the anti BoycottDS jews advocating boycott…..

  12. Steven Brizel says:

    The founders of Ben & Jerry’s wrote a self serving op Ed in the NYT that clearly failed to mention their long-standing leftist POV on a wide range of issues such as seriously slashing the defense budget etc They call themselves “proud Jews” but if you pushed them back I suspect they would be hard pressed to tell you their degree of Jewish observance , textual knowledge and amount of Tzedaka if any that they give to any institutions that facilitate Jewish continuity

  13. Steven Brizel says:

    For those interested Trader Joe’s has excellent ice cream and a superb cherry and chocolate chip soy that is pareve

    • D K says:

      In addition to supporting Israel, one can also support our brothers and sisters in the US by buying the Heimish brands (even if they don’t taste as good) and also get a free bonus Chumra of eating Cholov Yisroel as well!

    • Raymond says:

      Well since we are on the subject of possible alternatives to Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, my ice cream of choice for some time now has been Rebel Ice Cream. It is not Cholev Yisrael, but it is kosher certified, and tastes reasonably good considering that it is extremely low in carbohydrates. It may not taste quite as good as Ben & Jerry’s does, but at least it will not give one heart attacks, nor is it, as far as I know, an enemy of Israel.

  14. Bob Miller says:

    1. Carvel tastes much better anyhow. But note (from their site):
    Carvel Franchisor SPV LLC is certified kosher by KOF-K Kosher Supervision. KOF-K Kosher Supervision, one of the largest and most accepted kosher agencies in the U.S., which approves all ingredients that Carvel Corporation distributes to our franchisees. Shoppes may carry additional ingredients that are not kosher certified, and/or may not use kosher practices in the shoppe. Please check with your local Carvel® shoppe or our store locator to see if a specific shoppe is kosher certified.

    2. It appears that many American Jews (real or imagined) have no problem with B&J-type actions hostile to Israel. This is the greater threat. Finding ways to put a dent in their ignorance against all odds is important.

    • Reb Yid says:

      Many American Jews have serious issues with Israel’s policies and actions in the West Bank.

      Unlike the folks on this blog and all too many in Israel, they (and I count myself in this group as well) refuse to put on blinders when it comes to the Green Line.

      • Steven Brizel says:

        That is because they view being as woke as possible as their definition of Judaism and such a definition precludes the State of Israel from defending itself either in 1948 1967 or 2021

      • Reb Yid says:


        Not really. Just like I am very proud of being an American and grateful that I was born here, but am always seeking to make it a better place for everyone. This includes speaking out vociferously against policies and politicians that I oppose. Indeed, this is one of the blessings of America–it is quite the American thing to do.

  15. Raymond says:

    My overall impression in reading the comments on this topic here, is that all of us recognize just how wrong it is for Ben & Jerry’s to discriminate against the Jewish State of Israel, and that the proper response to that is to boycott Ben & Jerry’s altogether, that we should no longer give our money to them. There may be no hatred of our Jewish people that is quite as bad, as when it comes from our own Jewish people.

    I completely agree. However, I wonder if there is another dimension to this worth discussing, namely why there is the phenomenon of Jewish self-hatred. Some of this can be attributed to the Stockholm Syndrome, in which we Jews as victims somehow come to identify with our antisemitic perpetrators. I have to wonder, though, if there is more to it than that. Perhaps some self-reflection is called for in such instances. Perhaps a given self-hating Jew was once a Jew eager and proud to be Jewish, but then was turned off to it when his or her fellow Jews did not accord him or her the respect due to him or her by virtue of simply being a human being created in the Image of G-d. I know of such people on a personal level, and in fact to some extent, I am one such person.

    I just think it is all too easy to point fingers at other people, when in reality all of us have areas where we can improve how we relate to our fellow Jews and to our human beings in general. None of us are perfect, but hopefully the Torah can help remedy that situation.

  16. mb says:

    Oy! A thoughtful article on the dangers of Ben & Jerry’s actions, has turned into a “my ice cream can beat up your ice cream” melee!

    • Raymond says:

      LOL well other than my mother’s cooking, ice cream just so happens to be my favorite food of all time, which is precisely why I need to avoid it like the plague.

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