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Oakland location is closing, but Conflict Kitchen’s mission carries on | TribLIVE.com
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Oakland location is closing, but Conflict Kitchen’s mission carries on

The Associated Press
| Friday, March 17, 2017 4:30 p.m
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James Knox | Trib Total Media
The Conflict Kitchen in Schenley Plaza is open for business Wednesday Nov. 12, 2014. The kitchen, which serves foods from areas of the world the U.S. is in conflict with, was shuttered during the weekend following a death threat.
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Guy Wathen | Trib Total Media
Raghav Sharma, a University of Pittsburgh sophomore, sings a Bob Dylan song on Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014, during a small gathering at Conflict Kitchen in Schenley Plaza. Sharma is a Students for Justice in Palestine board member.
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Guy Wathen | Trib Total Media
Andy Karl, of East Liberty, speaks during a rally supporting Conflict Kitchen in Schenley Plaza on Monday, Nov. 10, 2014. The restaurant recently closed after receiving death threats. Karl is an intern with the Thomas Merton Center.
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Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Leo Monsaingeon of Squirrel Hill, Daniel Schwarz of Shadyside and Elisa Davoli of Shadyside eat at the Conflict Kitchen in Schenley Plaza, Oakland.
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James Knox | Trib Total Media
Conflict Kitchen co-owners Dawn Weleski (right) and Jon Rubin (center) chat with chef Robert Sayer (right) before opening the eatery in Schenley Plaza for business Wednesday Nov. 12, 2014.

Conflict Kitchen is closing May 31 after seven years of serving fare from countries or territories with which the United States has had strained relations.

Sometimes the effort to promote greater understanding of different cultures has strained relations in the Pittsburgh community.

“Conflict Kitchen provides a forum for critical dialogue, challenging xenophobia by supporting voices less heard and cultures less considered in the United States. … Although we will no longer be based in Schenley Plaza, Conflict Kitchen will continue to expand our educational initiatives throughout the Greater Pittsburgh region,” a statement on the eatery’s website said.

Co-owners Jon Rubin and Dawn Weleski did not return messages.

The statement said Carnegie Mellon University no longer will provide administrative support for the restaurant, which opened in 2010 in East Liberty and then in 2013 in Schenley Plaza in Oakland. The university, however, will continue to support Conflict Kitchen’s “creative and programmatic activities,” the statement said.

Conflict Kitchen said it plans to produce curriculum, publications, performances and public events with cultural institutions, community groups and schools.

Over the years, Conflict Kitchen has served fare from Afghanistan, North Korea, Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, Palestine and, most recently, the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois Confederacy.

After launching a Palestinian-themed culinary project in 2014, Conflict Kitchen closed for several days after someone directed a death threat toward the restaurant in a letter to Pittsburgh police. Jewish groups — including the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s Community Relations Council — condemned the threat but criticized the restaurant for distributing what they considered anti-Israel messages with meals. At the time, former council director Gregg Roman said the project was “hurtful and incites against Israelis and Jews.”

When some in the community called for more two-sided dialogue or perhaps an Israel-themed project, Rubin told the Trib, “It sort of ignores the premise of our project,” noting that the United States and Israel had long been allies.

Tom Fontaine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

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