Smitten Ice Cream reopened on Nov. 21, a month after vandals broke the windows and left pro-Palestinian graffiti. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)
Smitten Ice Cream reopened on Nov. 21, a month after vandals broke the windows and left pro-Palestinian graffiti. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

Vandalized Jewish-owned Smitten Ice Cream reopens with gratitude

Smitten Ice Cream, the Jewish-owned shop in San Francisco whose windows were smashed and covered with pro-Palestinian graffiti weeks after the Oct. 7 terrorist attack in Israel, reopened on Tuesday with a ribbon cutting, a visit by a state senator and the announcement of a new flavor meant to celebrate unity.

The local chain, founded and operated by Robyn Sue Fisher, temporarily closed its location on Valencia Street in the Mission District after the Oct. 25 incident. In addition to broken windows, the messages “Out the Mission” and “Free Palestien” (misspelling Palestine) were spray-painted across the storefront.

“Opening up again Thanksgiving week was symbolic for us because it allows us to give thanks to the community for their support,” said Fisher, who also has Smitten shops in San Jose and Las Vegas.

She expressed gratitude for the community’s generosity, saying it was the driving force behind the reopening.

“I’ve been so incredibly grateful for the support from the Jewish community, who have really shown up for me, and also the non-Jewish community, who also really showed up for me,” Fisher told J. She said the outpouring makes her feel hopeful about efforts to combat hate.

Smitten, ice cream, Jewish-owned business, Jewish business, sf, San Francisco, Mission DistrictSmitten’s ‘I Choose Love’ flavor comes with mixed berry ice cream with heart-shaped sprinkles. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)
Smitten’s ‘I Choose Love’ flavor comes with mixed berry ice cream with heart-shaped sprinkles. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

A GoFundMe campaign on Fisher’s behalf raised over $109,000 from 855 donors. With the money raised, Fisher was able to pay all 16 employees the wages they lost while the business was closed and to upgrade the store’s security. Fisher thanked supporters in a statement: “We cannot wait to serve up joy and love to the community once again.”

The vandalism occurred less than three weeks after Hamas infiltrated Israel, killing over 1,200 people and taking an estimated 240 hostages. Israel’s subsequent war on Hamas has resulted in thousands of deaths in Gaza — and intensifying anti-Israel protests across the U.S.

On Oct. 31, Fisher addressed what had happened to her shop, acknowledging that though Smitten has no religious or political affiliation, the nature of the graffiti suggests that the shop was targeted because she is Jewish. She also confirmed that police were investigating it as a hate crime. 

SFPD spokesperson Gonee Sepulveda told J. on Wednesday the investigation remains ongoing.

Fisher was joined in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the store’s reopening by state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-S.F.), who co-chairs the California Legislative Jewish Caucus and has been vocal against antisemitism throughout his career. She also introduced a new flavor called “Choose Love,” a mixed berry ice cream with heart-shaped sprinkles, and unveiled the “Pillar of Love,” a crowd-sourced art project inside the store.

A “Pillar of Love” in the middle of Smitten ice cream invites customers to write notes on heart-shaped paper. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)
A “Pillar of Love” in the middle of Smitten ice cream invites customers to write notes on heart-shaped paper. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

A pillar in the middle of the shop is decorated with some wooden hearts, and customers are invited to participate by adding a heart-shaped sticky note with a message of love. The wooden hearts were created by teens Hannah Price and Frankie Lemieux and their classmates Kate Spaulding, Beatrice Buell,  Amber Price, Lilah Edelson and Leila Colbert. Price and Lemieux had covered the boarded-up windows with red and white hearts shortly after the vandalism.

“The symbolism of it is this pillar holds the roof up, and love is what is holding us up,” said Fisher. “The community has shown so much of that for us, and that’s our whole message in the aftermath of the attack.”

Additionally, Smitten is selling “I Choose Love” shirts and sweatshirts to benefit the Courage Museum, scheduled to open in the Presidio in 2025. The museum will be an immersive learning center that aims to address hate, violence and discrimination through education. Fisher has worked in the past with the sponsoring organization, Futures Without Violence, and hopes the partnership can help prevent future acts of hate.

Fisher said she has more plans for amplifying her message of love.

“Love is fierce,” she said, “and ice cream brings us together.”

Lea Loeb
(Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)
Lea Loeb

Lea Loeb is engagement reporter at J. She previously served as editorial assistant.