Reich and co chatting at a table at the deli
Jacob Kornbluth, Robert Reich and Zoë Beck (from left), principals of Inequality Media (Photo/Dan Pine)

At Saul’s Deli, Robert Reich offers another way to fight Trump

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Marching in the streets is one way to protest. At Saul’s Deli last week, eating knishes, lox and matzah balls proved to be another.

On the day Donald Trump took the oath of office, the Berkeley restaurant donated its Jan. 20 profits to Inequality Media, a nonprofit cofounded by economist and liberal firebrand Robert Reich, who served as secretary of labor under President Clinton.

For diners and Inequality Media, the event was a win-win with a side of pickles.

“This is not exactly a day of celebration,” Reich said of the Trump inauguration as he ate lunch with colleagues. “We are grateful that Saul’s is helping us. We’re a little nonprofit designed to get the truth out.”

His partner at Inequality Media, Berkeley filmmaker Jacob Kornbluth, worked on a Reuben sandwich while minding his young kids. He, too, appreciated the fundraising help, especially now. “I have noticed a crystallizing of the need to resist like I haven’t seen in years,” he said. “There’s something sustaining about doing something with a social message.”

Saul’s Deli co-owners Karen Adelman and Peter Levitt acknowledge their liberal leanings but admitted that, as restaurateurs, they had previously maintained a nonpartisan posture.

That was before Trump.

We are a restaurant and welcome everybody, but I think American Jews have a responsibility to stand on the side of justice and equality. — Saul’s Deli co-owner Karen Adelman

“We’ve never done anything like this before,” Adelman said. “We are a restaurant and welcome everybody, but I think American Jews have a responsibility to stand on the side of justice and equality.”

Inequality Media makes short films featuring Reich explaining economic issues from a liberal perspective. In the clips, he tackles everything from stagnant wages to capital gains taxes, and somehow makes the subjects entertaining. According to the website, the videos tallied nearly 100 million views on social media last year. Reich and Kornbluth and their staff routinely dine at Saul’s.

Several weeks ago, Adelman and Levitt approached Reich and Kornbluth about hosting a fundraiser, then got the word out via social media and email. Saul’s Deli regulars apparently got the message, as the place was packed at 3 p.m. on a Friday.

“It feels like a dark moment,” said patron Josh Losben, who chowed down on a latke. “Inequality is a defining issue of our time. I applaud [Reich’s] efforts to bring attention to it.”

At a neighboring table, Israeli-born Los Angeles resident Elat Goldin Levitan ate lunch with her daughter. Both wore the knitted pink hats emblematic of the women’s march to take place the next day and came to Saul’s specifically to support the Inequality Media fundraiser.

Levitan was not feeling charitable toward the new president.

“The language I hear now is very much the same as Nazi Germany,” she said. “I cannot believe people fall for this garbage. [Trump is] not giving any solutions, not uniting anyone. The moron racist sexist with zero values; what kind of role model is he?”

Her daughter, Talia, said Inauguration Day was the perfect time to seek out comfort food. “I am actually getting out into the community,” she said while noshing on a knish. “It feels meaningful to channel energy into action.”

Reich had just come from U.C. Berkeley, where he teaches economics. Noting the tendency of Trump and some of his aides to distort and tell demonstrable falsehoods, he called facts “the foundation of a democracy. We cannot retain it if the truth becomes a plaything of whoever holds the reins of power.”

As for the Saul’s Deli fundraiser for his nonprofit, Reich was grateful, especially to the Bay Area Jewish community, which he described as among the most generous of any in America.

“Generosity and activism are more important now than any time I can remember,” he said.

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.