Jewish Journal

ZOA to protest outside Hotel Shangri-La

by Jonah Lowenfeld

August 21, 2012 | 11:07 pm

Hotel Shangri-La. Photo 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 oarfa@zoa.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.”

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