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Java justice finally served

It took almost 14 years, but Brooklyn Rabbi Israel Steinberg can finally drink his coffee from a paper cup in a Manhattan eatery in peace.
Steinberg made what seemed to be a simple request when he ordered coffee at the Nations Cafe in 1992: He asked the waiter to pour the beverage into a takeout cup because Jewish dietary laws forbid the use of nonkosher porcelain.

But Steinberg said the waiter told him he had to drink from the porcelain cups, just like other customers – or get out.

“He embarrassed and ridiculed me because I’m Jewish – in front of all the customers,” Steinberg said.

The confrontation escalated when Steinberg, who lives in Borough Park and is head of an Orthodox Jewish congregation in Queens, told the waiter that refusing such a request violated state law.

“He said, ‘Get out, you ******** Jew,’ ” Steinberg recalled.

Steinberg, a Holocaust survivor, left the diner across from the United Nations but filed a complaint with the state Division of Human Rights.

To investigate the allegations, a state agent wearing a yarmulke went to the diner and asked for coffee in a disposable cup, citing kosher restrictions. He too was tossed out, said Steinberg’s attorney Robert Miller.

The human rights division finally handed down a ruling in Steinberg’s favor last week and awarded him $500.

A state spokeswoman said the case was delayed because the agency has a backlog it is trying to reduce. During the considerable delay, the Nations Cafe was apparently sold to Michael Aronis.

“We were upset that they did that to the gentleman,” said Aronis, adding that his family purchased the First Ave. eatery in March 2000.

Aronis said he offers disposable cups upon request.

Former owner Nicholas Kalas, who is named in Steinberg’s complaint, could not be reached.

Steinberg said he was glad his ordeal was over. “I feel relieved,” he said.

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