SM COURTHOUSE — A member of the Board of Directors of the youth arm of a Jewish charity took the stand Tuesday in a lawsuit alleging that a Santa Monica hotel owner had violated the rights of his organization by shutting down an event because they were Jewish.
Scott Gold, the co-chair of marketing for the Friends of the Israeli Defense Force, told the jury that he had never felt discriminated against for being Jewish until July 11, 2010, when his organization tried to put on an event at the Shangri-La Hotel on Ocean Avenue.
He and 17 other plaintiffs in the case charge that hotel owner Tehmina Adaya shut down the event once she learned which organization was putting it on.
Hours after the pool party had begun, a security officer came to a table the group had set up with literature about Friends of the Israeli Defense Force, a charity that, according to its website, offers educational, social, economic, spiritual, recreational and cultural programs for IDF soldiers and their families.
That security guard took a pamphlet to Adaya, Gold said, at which point she reacted harshly. After that, what had begun as a successful event went downhill, Gold said.
Staff removed stanchions that closed off the area, took away a table that had been set up for towels for the charity’s guests and asked them to take down banners and other paraphernalia.
A member of hotel staff told Gold and other members of the charity that Adaya “wanted to get the f****** Jews out of her hotel,” Gold said on the witness stand.
The experience was scarring, he said.
“I felt anxious, scared. I didn’t even know what to feel. I hadn’t experienced anything like it before and maybe it sounds naive, but I didn’t think that it could happen,” Gold said.
John Levitt, Adaya’s attorney, tried to poke holes in Gold’s testimony during his cross examination.
Levitt tried to show that the organization had made false promises or assumptions about what it would be allowed to do at the event, questioning Gold on an invite he approved that stated the group would have full access to the pool and bar area.
He also pointed to an event one year before by the Guardians, another Jewish organization, that had not been shut down by the hotel.
“If (Adaya) were anti-Semitic she would have kicked out the Guardians, too, would she not?” Levitt asked.
Adaya is expected to take the stand today.