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Members of the Jewish community in Philadelphia gathered on Christmas Day to stand in solidarity with Chinatown residents who protested against the Philadelphia 76ers’ new arena plan.
Chinatown’s streets were reportedly packed with people who sang Christmas carols with altered lyrics to protest the proposed $1.3 billion arena, which would be built at the nearby Philadelphia Fashion District at 10th and Market Streets.
Members of the Jewish community, who reportedly called the arena a “predatory” plan, stood in solidarity by lighting up a menorah.
“Today we’re seen not just the Chinese community, but the Jewish community came out to support us people, from all different ethnic groups,” activist Michael Zhang told 6 ABC.
The “No Arena In Chinatown Solidarity” protestors spent Dec. 25 celebrating Chinatown’s culture and history. According to activists, the new arena proposal would negatively impact Chinatown due to gentrification, displacement, traffic and the loss of Chinese culture in the area.
“This is a community that has fought back over 50 years more than 12 different fights. And every time, this community has won,” Debora Kodish, a West Philadelphia resident, told The Inquirer. “This is the last community of color in Center City and one of the last vibrant Chinatowns on the East Coast. We should be prepared to fight for that.”
Kodish reportedly wore a “no chazzers” pin, which she translated from Yiddish as “don’t be a pig.” She noted the Jewish community’s connection to Chinatown as Chinese food has played a significant role in American Jewish culture since at least the 1930s, especially during the holiday season. Philadelphia’s Chinatown has had several vegetarian restaurants that stated their food was kosher.
In response to the ongoing backlash, real estate developer David Adelman previously stressed the support of business groups outside the neighborhood, calling the proposed arena Philadephia’s “own Madison Square Garden.” He has reportedly offered to negotiate a community-benefits agreement that involves business opportunities.
Debbie Wei, co-founder of advocacy group Asian Americans United, previously called on the 76ers to fund a study that would review the impacts of the arena on the Chinatown community, adding that the basketball team should not move forward with their proposal if the study deems it destructible to the area and its residents.
“This is not just about Chinatown,” Wei told The Inquirer on Sunday. “This is about the whole community and what our vision for the city is.”