Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
On Tuesday, Aug. 21, the Western Region of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) sent out a notice that it was planning a protest Sunday, Aug. 26, in front of the Hotel Shangri-La to “express outrage” following a recent jury decision that found the hotel and its owner had discriminated against a group of Jews in 2010.
On Friday morning, the ZOA announced that it had cancelled its planned protest after coming to an agreement with the hotel and its owner.
In a statement released on Aug. 24, Hotel Shangri-La President, CEO and part-owner Tehmina Adaya condemned anti-Semitism and declared her support for Israel, even as she reaffirmed her intent to appeal the jury’s decision and maintained that she had never made any discriminatory comments to any of the plaintiffs who brought the lawsuit.
Earlier this month, Adaya and the hotel were found to have violated the civil rights of 18 Jewish and non-Jewish plaintiffs when hotel staff, acting on Adaya’s instructions, significantly disrupted a pool party held by a pro-Israel group at the Hotel Shangri-La in July 2010.
After a 10-day civil trial, a jury in California Superior Court ordered the hotel and Adaya to pay the plaintiffs a combined $1.65 million in damages, statutory payments and punitive damages.
The hotel’s release on Friday also included an invitation from Adaya to “leaders of the Jewish and pro-Israel community” to attend a private event sometime in the next 12 months to be coordinated with the ZOA and hosted by the Shangri-La.
Adaya also announced donations of $3,600 each to two Israeli foundations, the Koby Mandell Foundation that supports Israeli victims of terror and the Zahal Disabled Veterans Organization, which supports wounded Israeli soldiers.
The ZOA announced the cancellation of the protest in a separate release circulated on Friday morning, moments after the hotel’s.
“The mere fear of a protest evoked these concessions,” Steve Goldberg, chairman of the ZOA’s Los Angeles region and its national vice chair, said. “We actually got something tangible, as opposed to a group of people walking in front of a hotel.”
“I care deeply about the hurt, anger and misunderstanding that has resulted and I want the Jewish and pro-Israel community to know I condemn anti-Semitism,” Adaya said in Friday’s statement. “I welcome diversity and never made disparaging comments to anyone who attended an event here.”
James Turken, the attorney who represented the plaintiffs in their successful lawsuit, called the hotel’s statement “clearly an effort at damage control” and “spin control.”
As an example, Turken pointed to the statement’s interpretation of the jury’s verdict. “While the jury found that the hotel did not have proper business protocols in place,” the statement read, “they did not claim or believe she made discriminatory comments to any of the plaintiffs.”
The jury unanimously decided in the cases of each of the 18 plaintiffs that the hotel and Adaya had violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act, and further found that in most cases, the hotel and its owner had acted maliciously.
The verdict made no comment about the hotel’s business protocols, and Turken called the hotel’s portrayal, “100 percent false.”
“There’s no way to spin the verdict as anything other than what it was,” Turken said. “All that one needs to do is look at the court record. This isn’t something you can hide.”
Asked how the hotel had come to that interpretation of the verdict, Miles Lozano, the director of PR/Marketing, wrote in an email, “None of the plaintiffs claimed to have heard any discriminatory comments, it was based on hearsay from a former disgruntled employee who did not show up in court to testify.”
That former employee, Nathan Codrey, had his deposition read into the record for the jury during the trial. A number of plaintiffs who testified during the trial said that they while they had not heard Adaya make discriminatory comments, Codrey had reported to them on the day of the event in 2010 that Adaya had instructed him to “Get the [expletive] Jews out of the hotel.” At the time, he was the hotel’s assistant food and beverage manager. He was terminated from his position shortly after the event.
The plaintiffs, who had nothing to do with the planning of the protest, were also not consulted by ZOA about the decision to cancel it.
“We’re not stopping anybody else,” the ZOA’s Goldberg said. “They can protest whatever they want.”
The complete text of both statements is below.
The Hotel Shangri-La’s:
Hotel Shangri-La Owner Reaches Out to Jewish Community Makes Donation and Invites Pro-Israel Groups to Hotel
August 24, 2012, Santa Monica, CA -‐-‐-‐ Tehmina Adaya, owner of the Hotel Shangri‐La, today publicly voiced her sensitivity to Jewish groups and Israel by announcing a plan that supports Israel, condemns anti-Semitism and embraces cultural understanding.
Ms. Adaya, who has always supported diversity, announced an equal donation of $3,600 to both the Koby Mandell Foundation (www.kobymandell.org) and Zahal Disabled Veterans Organization (www.zdvo.org) to reinforce her commitment to supporting Israel and appreciating diversity.
In addition, she extended a personal invitation to leaders of the Jewish and pro-Israel community to attend a private event, hosted by the Shangri‐La, to be led by and coordinated with the Zionist Organization of America in Los Angeles within the next 12 months.
Ms. Adaya, a longtime Santa Monica resident and board member of the Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau, is eager to clarify misinformation and improve relationships with Jewish leaders following a recent jury decision alleging discriminatory remarks.
“I care deeply about the hurt, anger and misunderstanding that has resulted and I want the Jewish and pro‐Israel community to know I condemn anti-Semitism. I welcome diversity and never made disparaging comments to anyone who attended an event here,” said Ms. Adaya. “I pride myself on having close Jewish friends and senior staff, employees representing 12 countries, and we welcome guests from around the world. While I regret I didn’t publicly address this sooner given my belief in my innocence, I support Israel and seek to enhance relationships with people of all backgrounds.”
Ms. Adaya plans to appeal the jury decision based on plaintiffs who attended an event for the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, comprised of Jewish and non-Jewish supporters. She believes the claims were based on false information from a disgruntled former employee who did not show up in court to testify. While the jury found that the hotel did not have proper business protocols in place, they did not claim or believe she made discriminatory comments to any of the plaintiffs.
Opened in 1939, the 70-room oceanfront Hotel Shangri-‐La has been a destination for international visitors throughout its long history.
Protest in front of Hotel Shangri La CANCELLED!
August 24, 2012 - In response to Ms. Tehmina Adaya’s public statement today condemning anti-Semitism and expressing support for Israel, the ZOA is cancelling the community-wide protest that it had planned for Sunday, August 26, 2012, 11 am. Please alert everyone you know who was planning to attend the protest.
The ZOA has made this decision in light of a public statement (which can be found here) in which Ms. Adaya and Hotel Shangri La have expressed support for Israel and a condemnation of anti-Semitism; a pledge to give to charities that assist Israeli victims of terror and IDF war veterans; and a pledge to host an event for the Jewish and pro-Israel community of Los Angeles to be coordinated with the ZOA.
In the wake of the ZOA’s announcement on August 20, 2012 that it was leading a community-wide protest with regard to the civil rights violations against a group of Jewish young professionals at Hotel Shangri La, the ZOA was approached by Hotel Shangri La to achieve reconciliation.
Although, based on a finding of clear and convincing evidence, the jury held that Ms. Adaya and the Hotel acted with malicious intent in evicting the group of Jewish young professionals, we believe that her statement exhibits the Jewish value of teshuva, repentance. Thus, the main purpose of the protest, which was to express outrage at anti-Semitism as well as Jewish pride, has been sufficiently addressed. We look forward to working with the Hotel to hold a Jewish community event that also expresses Jewish pride and support for Israel.
We at the ZOA greatly admire the 18 plaintiffs, “the Santa Monica Chai,” who refused to be victims of anti-Semitism and who had the courage and determination to seek justice. They are true Jewish heroes. We at the ZOA are also grateful to all those whose willingness to join the ZOA in the planned protest led to the satisfying resolution we have reached with Hotel Shangri La. We are proud to have demonstrated that Jewish activism is alive and kicking on the West Coast and that anti-Semitism will never again be quietly tolerated.
Shabbat Shalom to the entire House of Israel,
THE ZOA WESTERN REGION
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4.4.13 at 11:35 pm | This time, he's off to Turkey.
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August 21, 2012 | 11:07 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
In the wake of the recent jury verdict that found the Hotel Shangri-La and its owner, Tehmina Adaya, had illegally discriminated against a group of young Jews in 2010, the Western Region of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) is planning to hold a peaceful protest outside the boutique Santa Monica hotel on Sunday morning, Aug. 26.
“We have to come out and show our outrage at this act of anti-Semitism,” ZOA West Executive Director Orit Arfa said. The planned action is intended as an expression of Jewish pride, Arfa said, as well as a way to further publicize the verdict.
Adaya, a Pakistani-born Muslim, is president, CEO and part owner of the Shangri-La. She and the hotel were the targets of a successful lawsuit brought by a group of 18 plaintiffs, most of them Jewish, who had attended a pool party at the Shangri-La that was significantly disrupted by Adaya and members of the hotel staff. In a lengthy civil trial that concluded on Aug. 16, a jury in California Superior Court found that the actions taken by Adaya and the hotel had been discriminatory, and that both had violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act in all 18 cases.
The jury ordered the hotel and Adaya to pay the plaintiffs a combined $1.65 million in damages, statutory payments and punitive damages; Arfa said she still felt her protest was warranted.
“There’s monetary punishment and then there’s moral and spiritual punishment,” Arfa said. “We have to show—spiritually and morally—that what she did was wrong.”
Arfa said that the 18 plaintiffs – she dubbed them “The Santa Monica Chai,” using the Hebrew word for “life,” which has a numerological value of 18—are not involved in the planned protest.
In an email to The Journal, plaintiff Ari Ryan confirmed that neither he, nor any of the plaintiffs he had been in touch with, were involved.
“I do support any peaceful action that the community desires to take as a reaction to last week’s 18 guilty verdicts,” Ryan wrote.
In a statement emailed to The Journal, Ellen Adelman, senior business development officer at the Shangri-La, said that she and rest of the hotel staff were “saddened to learn of [the planned protest] and want our Jewish neighbors, friends and staff to know we are sensitive to their feelings.”
Representatives for Adaya have said that she intends to appeal the verdict, and in her emailed statement, Adelman called the recently concluded trial, in which the defense only called two witnesses, “one-sided.”
“Ms. Adaya never made discriminatory remarks to any of the plaintiffs,” Adelman said in the statement. “In the three years I’ve worked closely with Tamie Adaya, she has always treated me and our diverse staff and guests with the greatest respect.”
Attorney James Turken, who represented the plaintiffs in their successful lawsuit against the hotel and Adaya, called the planned protest “entirely appropriate.”
“Apparently it’s going to be a peaceful protest in response to what has been judicially determined to be egregious anti-Semitic conduct, and I think that any group would properly react in a similar manner to any entity that was engaged in such discrimination,” Turken said.
The protest is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. The text of the ZOA’s original announcement as well as the complete statement from the Shangri-La’s Adelman, can be found below.
The text of the email from ZOA West Executive Director Orit Arfa announcing the protest:
On August 15, 2012, a jury in a Superior Court of Los Angeles County found Hotel Shangri La in Santa Monica and its co-owner guilty of 18 counts of discrimination against a group of Jewish young professionals. In a trial that began in July 2012, the jury found that a co-owner of the hotel, Tehmina Adaya, an American-Muslim of Pakistani descent, violated the California Unruh Civil Rights act when she forced the plaintiffs to leave the premises of the hotel where they were holding a pool party for the Young Leadership Division of the Friends of Israel Defense Force (FIDF), in which they were raising funds to send the children of fallen soldiers to summer camp.
In a clear and shocking expression of modern anti-Semitism, witnesses said Adaya called on her staff to “get the f—-ing Jews out of my pool.” In addition, Adaya was said to have feared repercussions from her family and/or investors if they found out the event was taking place. Hotel security began the process of evicting the Jews from the pool and the patio premises, while a party that was open to the public continued uninterrupted. She also forced the group to remove the FIDF group’s promotional material and banners. We commend the 18 plaintiffs, “The Santa Monica Chai,” for their courage to speak out, take action, and hold Adaya accountable for her despicable crime.
The jury put the total price-tag for the malicious anti-Semitic actions of Adaya at about $1.65 million, including pending punitive damages. While the hotel and its owner have been punished by the court of law, the court of public opinion must also speak out against this disgusting form of Jew hatred and ensure that nothing like this ever happens again. Let the Jewish community show its haters that it is prepared to defend its own interests and civil rights.
On Sunday, August 26, 2012, 11 am, the ZOA Western Region is leading a community-wide peaceful picket in front of Hotel Shangri La. We encourage all Los Angeles Jewish and pro-Israel groups and synagogues to take part. Bring your friends, colleagues, and family members, as well as additional signs, to express outrage at this bigotry and also pride in the Jewish people.
We will begin protesting at 11 am. The hotel is located on 1301 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90401.
The media is invited to cover the event. Please spread the word about the protest to draw the line in the Santa Monica sand that says: “NEVER AGAIN!”
For more information and to rsvp, contact Orit Arfa, ZOA West Executive Director, at email@example.com. To help ensure an orderly protest, please let us know you’ll be there!
A statement from a Jewish member of the Hotel Shangri-La staff, emailed to The Journal:
“On behalf of me, my other Jewish colleagues, and everyone at the hotel, we’re saddened to learn of this and want our Jewish neighbors, friends and staff to know we are sensitive to their feelings. Unfortunately, this has been a one-sided case and Ms. Adaya never made discriminatory remarks to any of the plaintiffs. These false accusations were based on heresay from a disgruntled former employee who didn’t show up in court to testify,” said Ellen Adelman, the hotel’s senior business development officer. “I was on the witness list and not allowed to testify and, in the three years I’ve worked closely with Tamie Adaya, she has always treated me and our diverse staff and guests with the greatest respect.”
August 16, 2012 | 10:56 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
One day after it found that the Hotel Shangri-La and its part-owner had discriminated against a group of young Jews in 2010, a jury in California Superior Court ordered the hotel and owner to pay approximately $440,000 in additional punitive damages to the plaintiffs.
That brings the total amount of the payment due to the young Jewish Angelenos who brought the discrimination lawsuit to over $1.6 million.
The hotel’s part-owner and co-defendant, Tehmina Adaya, was not present in court on Aug. 16, despite a request from the court the day before that she appear.
Ellen Adelman, the hotel’s chief business development officer, was one of a number of members of the hotel staff in court on Thursday. She said Adaya was disappointed in the verdict and intended to appeal the jury’s decision.
“I’ve worked for Tehmina Adaya for over two years and I have always received the utmost respect from her,” Adelman, who is Jewish, said. Adaya, who was born in Pakistan, is Muslim.
“I found it a very one-sided case,” Adelman added.
The proceedings that took place on Thursday were solely devoted to calculating punitive damages in the trial, so the witnesses who testified – including accountants for Adaya and the hotel – focused their remarks on matters that could help the jury to determine the net worth of the hotel and its owner.
In his testimony, Kapil Jain, the hotel’s CPA, said that the 70-room hotel in Santa Monica had been appraised in 2011 and found to be worth $31 million. Adaya’s personal CPA, Ismail Sattar, testified that Adaya had earned wages of about $200,000 in 2009 and 2010, but did not disclose any information about the handful of investment trusts that include her as a beneficiary.
As was the case throughout the trial, this second phase was also characterized by disputes of fact. In his testimony, Sattar said that to calculate the value of Adaya’s personal home at $1.5 million, he used the real estate assessment web site Zillow.com.
But attorney James Turken, who represented the 18 plaintiffs in the case, called a third witness to the stand, real estate agent Mark Rogo. Drawing on a number of other resources, including assessors public records, Rogo concluded that Adaya’s home was likely worth “just under $4.8 million.”
Like the defendants, however, the plaintiffs remained focused on the message the jury had sent in its verdict the day before.
Ari Ryan, who had spent the entirety of the trial – 19 days, from the start of jury selection to the final day – in the courtroom, said he was “very satisfied and proud of this verdict.”
“We stood together as a group, as members of our community, to stand up to injustice,” Ryan said.
August 15, 2012 | 8:38 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
The Hotel Shangri-La in Santa Monica and its owner illegally discriminated against a group of young Jews, a jury in a California Superior Court found on Aug. 15.
The verdict in this closely watched case was read late Wednesday afternoon, at the end of the fifth full day of deliberation by the jury. The jury found that the hotel and its part-owner, Tehmina Adaya, had violated California state law when Adaya and members of her staff brought to an end a party that the plaintiffs had been holding at the hotel’s pool in July 2010.
The jury also decided that almost every one of the 18 individual plaintiffs had suffered negligent emotional distress and that most had also suffered intentionally inflicted emotional distress. They ordered Adaya and the hotel to pay damages and statutory penalties to each individual plaintiff, in differing amounts. For some individual plaintiffs, the sums added up to more than $100,000; the total amount awarded to the group was not announced in court, but appeared to be in excess of $1 million.
“The jury clearly felt that the defendants acted intentionally, with malice, and discriminated against this group of young Jews, and justice was done,” James Turken, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, said after the verdict was read.
Because the jury found that Adaya and the hotel had “acted with malice, oppression or fraud,” additional punitive damages may still be awarded to at least some of the individual plaintiffs, as well as to the one business entity on the plaintiffs’ side. The jury is scheduled to decide the amounts of punitive damages to award on Thursday.
The case centered on events that took place at the Hotel Shangri-La in July 2010 when the plaintiffs, most of them members of the Young Leadership Division of the local chapter of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF), held a party at the hotel’s pool.
On that Sunday, after examining some of the FIDF group’s promotional literature, Adaya took a number of actions against the group – including forcing the FIDF group to take down the banners, literature and other evidence of its presence and directing hotel security guards to prevent members of the group from swimming in the pool. The plaintiffs also alleged that Adaya had made comments about wanting to remove “the [expletive] Jews” from the hotel or the pool.
Adaya was not present in court on Wednesday; when she took the stand, she denied having made any discriminatory statements. Her lawyers made the case that the plaintiffs, who had organized the pool party through an outside promoter who had been working with the management of the hotel, had not prearranged the event with the hotel.
The jury sided with the plaintiffs, finding that Adaya and the hotel in violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act, which outlaws discrimination on the basis of “sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, marital status, or sexual orientation,” and entitles all Californians to “the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.”
Some of the plaintiffs had been present in court throughout the 18-day process of selecting a jury and hearing the case, and almost all were in court to hear the verdict. Jordan Freedman, who was awarded $80,000 in damages and $100,000 in statutory penalties by the jury, had tears in her eyes as she listened to the verdict.
“I am incredibly proud of my group of clients,” Turken said. “They are charitable people, they were doing something good and never should have undergone what they did. And they stood up, and they fought back and they won.”
Adaya’s attorney, Philip Black, was in court when the verdict was read. He declined to comment.
August 14, 2012 | 3:38 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
As anyone who read the article in this week’s issue of The Journal about the dearth of healthy, hot and kosher lunches in Los Angeles Jewish schools learned, bringing a bagged lunch is probably the healthiest and best thing a parent can do for their children at lunchtime.
But packing lunches isn’t easy, and for many students attending schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, 80 percent of whom qualify for free and reduced school lunch, bagged lunches are just unaffordable.
So what did students – who returned to LAUSD schools on Aug. 14 for the first day of classes – find in their lunch lines?
For starters, access to drinking water in every school cafeteria, in accordance with a new California state law. A handful of schools equipped with salad bars. And a menu of foods that has gone back to basics, after some widely publicized attempts to diversify the offerings by introducing quinoa and hummus proved unsuccessful.
“Rather than giving them a tater tot, let’s give them a real potato,” David Binkle, acting director of food services for the LAUSD, said. There’s pizza on the menu, but it’s “more of an Italian flatbread-style” dish, he said, with a thinner crust and a random shape, thanks to its “natural, hand-laid crust.”
All of the food served by LAUSD to it students conforms to regulations set up by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which means that there’s a balance of foods on every student’s plate. Every aspect, down to the colors of the vegetables (this many orange vegetables, this many green leafy ones), is regulated, Binkle said.
“It’s very restrictive, but we have an epidemic of childhood obesity in America,” he said.
The food program isn’t limited to public school students per se – Binkle said that the Catholic Diocese, for instance, runs a USDA-funded program – but he knew of no private Jewish schools participating through the LAUSD.
In researching the article about kosher food in Jewish day schools, I heard a lot from school administrators and lunch program organizers about how much more difficult it is for private schools to provide school lunches for their students – particularly when those lunches have to be kosher, healthy and at least somewhat affordable.
But getting the publicly funded food into kids’ bellies is no walk in the park, either.
“The hardest thing to deal with is that child must take a certain amount of food, and they can only decline so much of the choices,” Binkle said. So if, for example, a child who qualifies for free or reduced lunch only wants to eat a banana for breakfast, the employee ringing up the purchase will tell the child to pick out two more items in order for the school to get credit for having served the meal. Otherwise, that child will have to pay for the banana alone.
Understandably, a lot of food ends up in the trash.
“Obviously, teaching kids to take fruits and vegetables is what we want to do,” Binkle said. “But we’re trying to teach kids social skills, citizenship, about the environment. How does that [pushing kids to take food they don’t want] lead to teaching them good environmental skills?”
Still, the way public schools serve students makes nutritionists happy, who see restricting a student’s choices in the lunch line to healthy foods in specific amounts as a way to inculcate good eating habits.
The best offerings just might be in the 80 schools in the LAUSD that have salad bars in their lunchrooms.
The district manages 1100 locations, according to Binkle, and though parents would all like to have salad bars in their children’s schools, many of the schools have their students eat outside, which means that the food had to be prepackaged.
“The issue with the salad bars is that they have to be in a covered four-walled, enclosed room,” Binkle said.
August 13, 2012 | 11:07 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
In the civil case brought by a group of young Jewish members of a pro-Israel group against the Hotel Shangri-La in Santa Monica and its owner, before the trial even began, the court was the setting for a three-day process of selecting a jury that a member of the courtroom staff described as, “grueling.”
With the ten-day trial behind them, one can only wonder what the 12 jurors themselves are thinking and feeling. After three full days of deliberations, the jury still has not yet returned a verdict.
Whatever their feelings, the jurors are set to resume deliberations at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, August 14.
August 13, 2012 | 8:50 am
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
While the Jewish press was intimately involved in the events that led up to Jonah Lehrer’s latest book being pulled by its publisher, the people of the book have largely ignored other news on the retraction beat that broke last week – namely, that David Barton, a self-trained historian whose portrayal of America’s founding fathers as men motivated by Christian values has made him very popular among evangelicals, had his most recent book pulled by its publisher.
But while Lehrer-gate unfolded quickly – it was only a matter of weeks between the discovery of “self-plagiarism” and the uncovering of fabricated Bob Dylan quotes – the pulling of Barton’s book over concerns that it misrepresents basic historical facts about its subject, Thomas Jefferson, was decades in the making.
“The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson,” was published earlier this year by Christian publisher Thomas Nelson. Since then, many eminent historians have rejected some of Barton’s basic claims about Jefferson, including the claim that he was a “conventional Christian.”
In a recent NPR report, Barton also was quoted as saying that the slave-owning founding father was actually a “civil rights visionary.”
Company executives explained that they had lost confidence in the accuracy of Barton’s book. “There were historical details — matters of fact, not matters of opinion, that were not supported at all,” Thomas Nelson Senior Vice President and Publisher Brian Hampton told bloggers for NPR.
Barton is a favorite among evangelical Christians; he’s also been on the Jewish world’s radar for a long time, at least since 1994, when the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported that he had addressed two events in 1991 held by “Christian Identity” groups.
According to the ADL, Christian Identity is “a racist and anti-Semitic religious sect whose adherents believe that white people of European descent are the descendants of the ‘Lost Tribes,’ of ancient Israel.”
There’s no link between Barton and Christian Identity, according to Marilyn Mayo, the co-director of the ADL Center on Extremism, who said that Barton later told a reporter he did not know what kinds of groups he was addressing.
The basic subject of Barton’s talks in 1991—“He was advertised as a special speaker who would talk about America’s godly heritage,” Mayo said – seemed innocuous, although the flyer might have hinted at the more bigoted agenda of the audience. “Was it the plan of our forefathers that America be the melting pot home of various religions and philosophies?” Mayo said, quoting from the material promoting the Barton speech.
But, Mayo said, Barton is no anti-Semite; if anything, he’s a philo-Semite, in the way that American evangelical Christians are. Last year, Barton was a featured speaker at one of Glenn Beck’s rallies in Israel. Barton quoted from John Adams, praising Jews, saying, “I will insist that the Hebrews have done more to civilize men than any other nation,”
But that’s not to say that there’s no reason for Jews to be concerned about Barton’s vision of America’s future – in which the country would be a Christian nation. And there’s good reason for everyone to take particular note of his claims about the American past.
“He clearly believes that separation of church and state wasn’t really the idea of the founding fathers,” Mayo said, and while that may not make Barton an anti-Semite, “it means that he believes that this country was founded on Christian precepts. That’s just not something that we agree with.”
August 10, 2012 | 10:23 am
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
UPDATE: As of 4:35 pm on Friday, Aug. 10, the jury had yet to come back with a verdict in the case. Deliberations are set to resume on Monday morning.
The jury in the discrimination case brought by members of a pro-Israel group against the Hotel Shangri-La and its owner ended its first day of deliberations on Thursday, Aug. 9, without returning a verdict.
Attorneys for both sides delivered closing statements on Wednesday, Aug. 8. As of 5 p.m. on Thursday, the jury had not reached a verdict.
Tthere are 18 individual plaintiffs and one business entity involved in this suit against the Hotel Shangri-La in Santa Monica and its owner, Tehmina Adaya, and the 12-person jury must consider each one separately. The case includes multiple claims made by each plaintiff; were the jury to find in favor of any or all of the plaintiffs, jurors would also have to decide in each case whether to hold Adaya, the hotel or both culpable of discrimination, and would need to decide how much money, if any to award in damages.
On all these matters, at least nine jurors have to agree on any decision before moving on to the next one.
And then there’s the added wrinkle that many of the facts in this case are contested – not least of them, whether the hotel owner is herself anti-Semitic.
“The cases that we find the most troubling, the most difficult to deal with, are ‘He said, She said’ cases,” Alison Mayersohn, a spokesperson for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), said.
On July 11, 2010, the plaintiffs in this case, a group of young Jews in their 20s and 30s held a party at the Shangri-La’s pool. They allege that Adaya, a Pakistani-born Muslim, brought the party to an end after learning it had been organized by the young leadership division of the Los Angeles chapter of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF).
The defense in this case maintains that no agreement had been reached between the hotel and the plaintiffs in advance of the party, which was organized by a promoter, and that the hotel was only following its own policies. Adaya, who was called to take the stand early in the trial by the plaintiffs’ attorney James Turken, denied she had acted in a discriminatory way, and denied ever making any comments about wanting “the [expletive] Jews” out of her hotel.
Mayersohn said the ADL had heard about the incident that ultimately led to this trial when it first occurred two years ago, and reached out to some of the plaintiffs at the time, but was ultimately not consulted on this case.
“We just couldn’t get any information,” Mayersohn said. “It seemed at the time that maybe people didn’t want to talk to us.”
The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, which often comments on cases of discrimination against Jews, also was not officially involved in this case, although Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper said he had been consulted by one of the plaintiffs in a personal capacity.
Cooper said the plaintiff, whose name he declined to state, was “an individual with integrity, not someone with an axe to grind.” As a result, Cooper believes that the allegations made by the plaintiffs against Adaya and the hotel happened “did take place.”
More importantly, Cooper said that the case sent a signal that anti-Semitism would not be tolerated.
“The fact that there was a lawsuit, that it went to trial, that the judicial system thought it serious enough that it merited one…itself is a very important thing, win or lose,” Cooper said.
Muslim civil rights groups have also not been involved in this case.
“We’re just following the news,” said Munira Syeda, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The jury is scheduled to resume deliberations in the Santa Monica courthouse on Friday. According to a court employee, juries often conclude their deliberations by the end of the day on Friday, as many jurors are reluctant to return to the courthouse on a Monday. In an email sent to the Journal the end of the day on Thursday, Aug. 9, confirming that no verdict had been returned by the jury, Turken said that he “would suspect [we] will have one tomorrow.”