Security footage showed two men breaking into Ta’am Grill and Deli on Bury New Road in Whitefield Bury on Friday night and pouring an accelerant in the restaurant. Flames can be seen on the surveillance video racing rapidly through the newly refurbished eatery before apparently dying out on their own, miraculously sparing the building from extensive damage.
The deli’s owners, Amos and Martine Vaizman, learned of the fire after Shabbos ended when they received a notification that their alarm had gone off and reported the incident to the Greater Manchester Police.
The Vaizmans initially assumed that the cause of the blaze must have been electrical, but according to the Jewish Chronicle, security footage viewed by Amos Vaizman proved otherwise.
“He sat there watching the CCTV and saw these two men checking the place out, hiding behind petrol cans, breaking in, checking the coast was clear and dousing the place in petrol,” said Mrs. Vaizman.
The fact that the fire went out on its own was one of several blessings, according to Mrs. Vaizman.
“Thank G-d the fire engines didn’t come out because the place would’ve been covered with water and we would have had water damage,” said Mrs. Vaizman, who said that it was a miracle that an on-site gas line didn’t explode.
“It could’ve blown up the whole neighborhood,” said Mrs. Vaizman.
The restaurant, which is under the supervision of the Manchester Beth Din and will ultimately feature an eating area, a takeout counter, a 150 seat hall and an onsite bakery, was due to have a limited opening of its takeout section on Monday.
Police are looking for witnesses who may have been in the area Friday night and are attempting to track the movements of the two suspects both before and after the incident. According to the Ta’am Grill and Deli Facebook page, security footage shows the two suspects sending a group of Asian boys to buy gasoline from a nearby garage.
After a massive two day cleanup, Ta’am Grill and Deli will open for business on Wednesday night.
“People have been coming to volunteer and help us to clean up,” said Mrs. Vaizman. “We’re so blessed to have the most special community around us.”
Police said that at this time there is no evidence to prove that the attack was a hate crime, but that they are investigating all possibilities.
“The offenders appear to have gone to great lengths to do what they did and the owners were extremely lucky that more damage was not caused,” said Detective Inspector Jonathan Kelly of the Greater Manchester Police’s Bury division.
The Vaizmans have close relationships both inside and outside the Jewish community. Manchester Evening News reported that Amos Vaizman was profiled in a 2014 episode of a British documentary celebrating the area’s cultural diversity, highlighting Vaizman’s relationship with his employee Mohammed Mamond, who Vaizman describes as his “Muslim brother.”
“I think it is very good that it is being shown how we live alongside each other and everyone getting along,” said Vaizman. “It’s something which is not shown enough.”
A former employee who went only by the name Jamal recalled arriving in Manchester in 2014 after fleeing from Gaza and asking someone to direct him to the Jewish section of the city. Jamal found himself standing in front of Ta’am Grill and Deli where he was immediately hired by Vaizman.
“He had nothing to eat,” recalled Vaizman. “Of course I gave him work with the restaurant. He was very sweet and told me he’d been helped by Jews before and had hope we would help again.”