Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
A new survey conducted by American Jewish Committee (AJC) earlier this month shows that 69 percent of Jewish voters in Florida are backing President Barack Obama; 25 percent of respondents said they would support Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney.
The results, which are drawn from AJC’s not-yet-released national poll, confirm a great deal of conventional wisdom. They show that Jewish Democrats vastly outnumber Jewish Republicans, that Florida Jews are going to be casting their votes primarily based on the candidates’ positions on domestic issues like the economy and health care, and that they overwhelmingly trust Democrats more than Republicans when it comes to social issues including abortion rights and the separation of church and state.
The survey also found that 49 percent of respondents strongly disapproved of Romney’s choice of Rep. Paul Ryan (R – Wisc.) as his running mate, compared to 11 percent who strongly disapproved of Vice President Joe Biden.
But how much to infer from the survey’s most closely watched finding – that Obama would win Florida’s Jews 69 - 25 percent if the election had been held in early September – is hard to tell.
The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) put out a press release on Thursday stating that the poll “Hints at Trouble for Obama in Jewish Community.”
On the blog of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC), meanwhile, the poll was interpreted as showing that the President was “Clearly Ahead Among Florida Jews.”
In dispute here isn’t whether Obama will win among Florida Jews, but how close he’ll be able to come to his 2008 result, when he took 78 percent of Jewish votes nationwide.
“We have seen ample evidence in many recent polls that Pres. Obama will have difficulty reaching the same level of Jewish support that he received in 2008,” Matt Brooks, executive director of RJC, said in the press release, which described the AJC poll as showing the President “would receive just 69 percent of the Jewish vote in Florida.”
The NJDC blog post, which went live before the RJC’s press release was distributed, anticipated and attempted to rebut the RJC’s line of argument.
Five percent of the Florida Jewish voters in the AJC survey were undecided on whom to support in the Presidential contest, leading the NJDC blogger to conclude that since “there are (generally) no undecided voters on Eelction Day,” a better number to use would be the poll’s result without the undecided voters. Such a sample yields an Obama win by a margin of 73-26 percent among Florida Jews.
Drawn from a sample of 254 Jewish voters in this hotly contested swing state, the AJC survey was circulated without one crucial piece of information: its margin of error. Without that piece of data, it’s hard to say how much meaning to attribute to the apparent nine-point (or six-point, if the NJDC’s argument is convincing) drop from Obama’s 2008 result.
Thanks to $6.5 million from wealthy Jewish Republicans, including casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, the RJC is making a strong push for Jewish votes in Florida, one of a few key swing states that could decide the election.
But even if the RJC’s effort can help peel off some number of Jewish voters who supported Obama in 2008, a number of recent polls show Obama leading Romney nationally by margins ranging between 1 and 8 points.
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September 20, 2012 | 12:36 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
For weeks, the warnings on Freeway signs have been advising motorists about the second weekend-long closure of the 405 Freeway on Sept. 29-30. But for observant Jews living in Los Angeles, there’s a separate hassle looming a few days earlier, and the warnings have been announced in dire tones and bold, red capital letters on the Los Angeles Community Eruv Web site.
“[T]here will be NO ERUV ON YOM KIPPUR THIS YEAR,” the text on the site reads. “The construction cannot be halted for us.”
Because Yom Kippur, which begins at sundown on Sept. 25, falls on a weekday when construction crews will be working on the expansion of the 405 Freeway, the Los Angeles eruv, a massive symbolic enclosure that allows observant Jews throughout most of the city to carry objects in public spaces almost every single Shabbat, will not be in operation.
The Day of Atonement may be the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, but as far as the prohibition on certain work-like activities goes, Yom Kippur is very much like an ordinary Sabbath, which means that carrying objects from a privately owned space to a public one is prohibited without an eruv.
And while fasting Jews won’t need to carry, say, bottles of wine or pans of kugel down the block for lunch next week, there are bound to be inconveniences, particularly for families with young children. Strollers, which may only be used with an eruv, will be prohibited this Yom Kippur, which could strand some parents at home this holiday.
If “Yom Kippurgeddon” was unavoidable, what’s notable about the eruv’s downing is how rarely it happens.
“We’ve been up for 10 years; we’ve ben down for two Shabboses [Sabbaths],” Howard Witkin, the L.A. eruv’s administrator, said. “We’ve got a pretty good track record.”
That record is even more impressive, considering just how much work has been going on each week to keep the eruv’s Western “wall” intact while construction has been going on. The L.A. eruv has a 40-mile circumference, most of which is made up of solid freeway walls in fences; along that entire circuit, there is no break wider than eight inches.
The section under construction, the 10-mile stretch of the 405 between the 10 and 101 Freeways, presents a difficulty, but with the cooperation of the contractor, Witkin said, most weekends haven’t presented a problem.
“There’s a trench right now that they’re putting in, on Sepulveda,” Witkin said. That trench, which is being built to facilitate drainage, leaves a 12- or 13-foot break in the wall, enough of a gap to render the entire eruv unkosher.
To keep the eruv in operation, Witkin explained, the eruv administrators have worked with the contractor, Kiewit, to ensure that such gaps are filled with “movable walls” made of “poles and some really flexible chicken wire” that are put in place by workers to eliminate those gaps.
“They play with scheduling of work,” Witkin said. “They just don’t use those areas on Saturdays. To ask them to do that in the middle of the week, on a working Wednesday, is just impossible.”
Dealing with the construction, however, has brought with it an increase in cost. The budget for the eruv in previous years, Witkin said, was about $80,000; this year, the costs have gone up to around $100,000. That expense is paid by members of orthodox synagogues across the city, whose members currently pay $56 per family year to support the eruv.
Witkin said he hoped the costs would go back down next year, once the 405 construction is completed.
Witkin was comfortable discussing the precise procedure of putting up temporary fencing – it takes about seven minutes, involves steel zip-ties and is done on an as-needed basis by (mostly non-Jewish) construction workers – but he didn’t want to weigh in on the intricacies of what is and is not permitted on Yom Kippur without an eruv.
“Talk to your local rav [rabbi] and have him tell you how you’re supposed to handle it,” he said.
September 15, 2012 | 10:30 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
A group of activists affiliated with the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions, or B.D.S. movement, which seeks to pressure Israel in various ways, publicly opposed the renewal of a bus contract between the city of Los Angeles and a company whose corporate parent does business in the West Bank.
At a meeting of the Los Angeles City Council transportation committee on Sept. 12, members of the Dump Veolia LA Coalition urged the committee members to oppose renewal of a contract with Veolia Transportation to operate DASH shuttle bus services in the Downtown and Mid-City areas.
“The basic message was that there are other companies bidding for this contract and we don’t believe that Veolia lives up to our city’s standards,” Estee Chandler, the Los Angeles organizer for Jewish Voice for Peace, told The Journal a few days after the hearing. “We feel that rewarding a company that is willing to enforce racist policies and run a segregated bus line reflects poorly on Los Angeles.”
By “racist policies,” Chandler was referring in part to the West Bank roads that are open to Jews but are inaccessible to the Palestinians who live in the area. Buses operated by French multinational Veolia TransDev run from Jerusalem to Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The company also had a role in building the Jerusalem tram line, which it now operates, and operates a waste facility in the West Bank.
Chandler said that about 50 people affiliated with the anti-Veolia coalition attended the meeting, and 33 were permitted to speak. The committee was not swayed by the BDS activists’ pleas, however. Councilmen Paul Koretz, Jose Huizar and Tom Labonge voted unanimously to recommend the five-year, $160 million contract to operate the DASH bus service in Los Angeles be awarded to Veolia.
Representatives from the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles were present at the hearing to urge committee members not to pay heed to the Dump Veolia Coalition.
Catherine Schneider, the senior vice president for community engagement at Federation, said that the Israel Action Network, a joint project of the Jewish Federations of North American and Jewish Council for Public Affairs, had helped alert Federation to the BDS effort.
Together with lay leaders from Federation’s community engagement committee, Schneider drafted a letter signed by eight local Jewish organizations. At the hearing, each speaker was allotted one minute; Schneider and three members of the community engagement committee used their time to read the letter into the record, each one picking up where the last left off.
“[W]hile we have no position on whether or not Veolia Transportation should be awarded the Downtown DASH contract,” the letter stated, “we are strongly opposed to the [Dump Veolia Coalition’s] misguided effort to entangle the City in a complex territorial dispute that can only be resolved through direct negotiations between the parties.”
The letter further also noted that heeding the protesters demands to drop Veolia might be illegal.
“Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions are not helpful for our city, not helpful for the advancement of peace, and the City Council's obligation is to pick the best vendor,” Schneider said. “Our main point here is that this was and should be about what’s best for the City of Los Angeles.”
Koretz, who chaired the meeting on Wednesday, at which he acknowledged that he is a supporter of Israel, agreed that the question wasn’t about Israel, but about L.A. The city, Koretz said in a statement emailed to the Journal, has “very specific laws about city contracting, especially regarding what is and isn’t to be considered.”
Koretz said the committee “took very much into account that staff strongly recommended Veolia Transportation due to its safety record and procedures and customer track record.”
BDS activists in Europe have been more successful in their efforts to get cities to drop contracts with Veolia than their counterparts in the United States have been, according to Marsha Steinberg, an independent Jewish activist who helped organize the Dump Veolia L.A. Coalition.
The matter has been placed on the consent calendar for the Sept. 19 meeting of the full City Council. No time will be specifically allocated to discuss the matter. Nevertheless, Steinberg said, BDS activists plan to attend the hearing.
September 11, 2012 | 2:20 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
Sheldon Adelson’s pledge to spend $100 million this year trying to elect a Republican President may have been eye-popping, but it’s not as large as the tax cut the billionaire casino mogul could reap should Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney be elected this November.
The potential windfall could add up to $2 billion over a four-year presidential term, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
That report, published today, adds up the impact of the lower tax rates proposed by Romney on Adelson’s various income streams, including executive compensation, corporate dividends, capital gains and corporate earnings.
Adding those numbers up yields a $2.3 billion tax advantage for Adelson under a Romney-style tax code.
The real monetary advantage of a Romney tax plan might not accrue to Adelson himself, but rather to his heirs.
“All of these figures are dwarfed by the potential tax windfall that Adelson’s family would receive from Gov. Romney’s estate tax plan,” writes report author Seth Hanlon, director of fiscal reform at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Estate taxes – “death taxes” in Republican parlance – have existed since 1916. Adelson’s net worth is estimated at $19.7 billion; the difference between what his heirs would inherit under Obama’s proposed estate tax plan and Romney’s total abolition of the estate tax is $8.9 billion, or 89 times what Adelson has pledged to spend on political giving this year.
The Center for American Progress Action Fund is the sister organization of the Center for American Progress, a nine-year-old resarch and advocacy organization founded by alumni of the Clinton Administration. Both organizations share the same overall progressive outlook, but the action fund is, under U.S. tax law, allowed to engage in direct lobbying activites in ways that the Center for American Progress cannot.
Click here (pdf) to read the report.
August 24, 2012 | 2:47 pm
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.