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Protests grow after singer says German hotel refused him over Star of David

Hundreds gather at Westin Leipzig following video from Israeli-German dual citizen Gil Ofarim, a local celebrity, who claims check-in manager told him to hide his pendant

Screen capture from video of Gil Ofarim, a German-Israeli singer, explaining how he had been denied a hotel room in Leipzig, Germany, because he was wearing a Star of David necklace. (Screenshot from Instagram video via JTA)
Screen capture from video of Gil Ofarim, a German-Israeli singer, explaining how he had been denied a hotel room in Leipzig, Germany, because he was wearing a Star of David necklace. (Screenshot from Instagram video via JTA)

Several hundred people protested in front of a hotel in Germany Tuesday after a Jewish musician said he had been refused service for wearing a Star of David pendant.

Gil Ofarim, a 39-year-old singer and dual citizen of Israel and Germany, posted a video to social media Tuesday night in which he accused the Westin Leipzig hotel of denying him service because he was wearing a Star of David necklace. The video, which he titled “Antisemitism in Germany 2021” in all capital letters, has gone viral, with antisemitism watchdogs and others sharing it widely.

“I am speechless,” Ofarim said in the video, which recorded of himself sitting outside the hotel shortly after the incident.

After waiting in line to check in, Ofarim said he asked why others who arrived after him were admitted before him. According to Ofarim, another customer replied telling him to “take off the star.” At least one employee then told Ofarim he needed to remove the pendant to get service, the singer said.

The employee, described by Ofarim as the “manager at the check-in counter” and whom he identified only as “Mr. W.” said to him, “Put away your Star [of David.]

Ofarim, who appeared visibly distraught, said he has been wearing the Star his “whole life.”

At least 600 people, some of them carrying signs with a Star of David and the Muslim crescent, showed up at the hotel that night, Leipziger Zeitung reported. The protesters accused the hotel staff of antisemitism.

A spokesperson for Westin Leipzig, which is of the Marriott multinational company, told DPA, a German publication, that the hotel was “deeply concerned” and was regarding the case “extremely seriously.” The hotel has reached out to Ofarim to hear more details about what happened, the spokesperson said. Leipzig police are also looking into the incident.

The hotel also posted a picture to Instagram that showed a line of people holding a banner with the hotel’s name and logo as well as Israeli flags and crescents that symbolize Islam. The picture did not have a caption.

The Central Council of Jews in Germany said in a statement it was “shocked” by what it called antisemitic behavior at the hotel. Leipzig is the largest city in Saxony, a region of Germany that is a stronghold for the country’s far-right political party, Alternative for Democracy or AfD.

The American Jewish Committee, which tweeted Ofarim’s video with English subtitles, described the incident as “heartbreaking.”

According to the AJC, one employee has been suspended, but, the committee said, “more must be done.”

It launched an online petition “calling on Marriott to not only apologize, but to commit to training its employees about antisemitism.”

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