Protests break out in Germany over singer reportedly turned away from hotel for Star of David necklace

Critics call the incident a ‘shocking display of antisemitism in Germany in living memory of the Holocaust’

Arpan Rai
Thursday 07 October 2021 16:12
<p>People gather in front of the Westin Hotel in Leipzig, Germany on 5 October 2021 to show their solidarity with musician Gil Ofarim</p>

People gather in front of the Westin Hotel in Leipzig, Germany on 5 October 2021 to show their solidarity with musician Gil Ofarim

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A hotel in Germany allegedly turned away a Jewish singer for wearing a Star of David necklace, sparking huge protests outside its premises.

Gil Ofarim, the 39-year-old Israeli-German singer, posted a video of himself on social media late Monday night, narrating the alleged act of antisemitism in German.

In the video, the visibly emotional singer claimed employees at the Westin Leipzig hotel allegedly told him to remove his Star of David necklace to gain entry.

Soon after, the video went viral, sparking large protests outside the hotel by Tuesday evening. At least 600 people turned up to protest, according to German newspaper Leipziger Zeitung.

“I am speechless. I don’t know how to say this. In the past, I’ve often been asked about anti-semitism in Germany,” said Mr Ofarim, adding that he was standing in a long queue at the hotel’s check-in counter with other guests, but was overlooked by a manager, who continued serving others.

“I am not going to mention the name of the manager at the check-in counter. It was Mr W. There was a long line because their computers crashed. These things happen, no problem,” he said in the video.

Mr Ofarim then said he was made to wait in line for 15 minutes, when guests after him were being serviced first.

“But I’m standing here with my chain. That’s my right. I’ve been doing it my whole life. And one person after another is taken ahead of me in line. And I don’t understand why,” he said.

When the singer enquired about the delay, he heard someone asking him to remove the necklace he had been wearing his “whole life”.

“And then someone shouts from the corner, ‘Put away your Star [of David]!’,” Mr Ofarim said.

“And then the manager says that if I put it away, then I can check in,” Mr Ofarim, now seen to be tearing up, can be heard saying in the video.

“Really? Germany 2021,” he added.

Several social media users expressed their anger at the incident.

Julie Lenarz, the director of social media at American Jewish Committee, shared the video of the incident, calling it a “shocking display of antisemitism in Germany in living memory of the Holocaust.”

Others expressed their solidarity with the singer by showing their Star of David, asking for an end to hatred towards Jews.

“I’m wearing my #StarofDavid with pride and in solidarity with @GilOfarim who was not allowed to check-in to the Westin Hotel in Leipzig for wearing this Jewish symbol,” said author Brooke Goldstein.

The Westin Leipzig told The Associated Press in an email that it was “concerned and alarmed by the intolerable accusations by Mr. Ofarim.”

General manager Andreas Hachmeister said in a statement two employees have been suspended while the hotel tries to shed light on the entire incident. A police spokesperson said one of the hotel employees had filed a defamation complaint as his account differed from that of the musician, according to Reuters.

The German Foreign minister also added his voice in condemnation of the incident in a speech on Wednesday evening: “I am stunned by the anti-Semitic insult that the artist Gil Ofarim received,” he said.

“Many Jews in our country are exposed to this anti-Semitism every day. Leipzig is not a case on its own,” he said, adding Germans had to counter any and every form of anti-Semitism. “Anti-Semitism has no place in our country,” he added.

Reacting to the incident, the Central Council of Jews in Germany, a federation of German Jews, said the alleged anti-semitic behaviour by the hotel authorities shocked them.

German state-owned broadcaster DW reached out for comment to the hotel, which falls under the Marriott multinational company. Its spokesperson told the broadcaster that officials were “deeply concerned” and have regarded the case as “extremely serious”.

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