“I’m Jewish and my pastry chef is Jewish. That’s the food that we grew up with,” he said. “The joke was that we weren’t Jewish enough to cook our own food.”
Brooks continued: “Yes, it’s an off-color joke. Jokes can be off-color. That doesn’t make them wrong. No-one has to follow me on Instagram.” He insisted that he was “not trying to be offensive. No-one drinks children’s blood. That’s completely a ridiculous thing to say; a cartoonish thing to say.”
Brooks has a reputation for relishing controversy. After receiving complaints about a mural of copulating rabbits at one of his other restaurants two years ago, he left a note on the outside wall reading: “Everyone can hold & suck … Go do your own thing … and you’re welcome for the rising property values. Bye.”
One Jewish restaurateur in Indianapolis said she had been left “deeply hurt, as a member of the Jewish community” by Brooks’s latest outburst.
“When I read the comment, I had no idea who uttered those words. It didn’t matter to me who uttered them. The words were so offensive that I just stopped in my tracks,” Martha Hoover, who owns several restaurants in the city, said. “When I heard who it was, I was extremely disappointed because I know he is considered to be an active member of the Indianapolis food scene and it’s just unacceptable.”
Lindsey Mintz, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, told the IndyStar that the “blood libel is one of the most dangerous antisemitic conspiracy theories perpetuated throughout history, and should never be trafficked, even as a joke.”
Mintz added that she found the posting particularly disturbing with incidents of hate crimes against Jewish people on the rise in the US, and increasingly fueled by social media.
“The concern is how it’s used. If it will be picked up by extremist voices to say, ‘Look, it’s true,’” she said. “However it’s used, it will be used nefariously by people who do not have good intentions toward Jews or toward other people who are different.”
Meanwhile, Brooks’s newly unveiled “Jewish-inspired menu” at Milktooth includes familiar items like knishes, Israeli salad, bagels, falafel, matzo ball soup and a brisket sandwich alongside such decidedly untraditional offerings as a hamburger with pork liver pate and Swiss cheese.