Scottish Jew says he was fired for wearing Magen David

Under Scotland’s broad anti-racist laws, the incident will be investigated for anti-Semitism

Deputy Editor Amanda Borschel-Dan is the host of The Times of Israel's Daily Briefing and What Matters Now podcasts and heads up The Times of Israel's Jewish World and Archaeology coverage.

Jonathan McKean-Litewski wearing his Star of David pendant on a recent trip to Jerusalem. (courtesy)
Jonathan McKean-Litewski wearing his Star of David pendant on a recent trip to Jerusalem. (courtesy)

Edinburgh native Jonathan McKean-Litewski told The Times of Israel he was fired from his job Tuesday because he refused his manager’s repeated requests to remove his Star of David pendant.

The 26-year-old Scottish Jew was an employee of the trendy Old Town Context retro homewares store owned by Andrew and Alice McRae, and claims store manager Joyce Boal had an anti-Semitic motive in his dismissal.

McKean-Litewski said he is working with the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC) in reporting the event to the authorities who, in Scotland, are required to investigate based on his accusations.

Scotland has a broad anti-racist law that implements the 1999 Macpherson Principle, which states, “A racist incident is any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person.” In Scotland, the impetus for an investigation can come from a victim, witness, or even a third party who has merely heard about an event.

‘A racist incident is any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person’

McKean-Litewski’s report requires the Scottish police to investigate the dismissal and whether it was an anti-Semitic act.

Reports of anti-Semitic incidents have sharply risen in the past six weeks throughout the country, as Israel battled Hamas in the Gaza Strip. In the past week alone, according to the SCoJeC website, the council has received as many reports of anti-Semitic incidents as in all of 2013.

McKean-Litewski claimed he hadn’t heard complaints about his work prior to Tuesday’s dismissal. Quite the contrary: He was recently made a keyholder, a step on the way to becoming a floor manager.

McKean-Litewski said since Operation Protective Edge and the ensuing heightened tensions and anti-Semitic atmosphere in Edinburgh, however, his manager Boal has asked him several times to remove his Star of David.

McKean-Litewski told the Times of Israel that since his partner is now deep into a conversion program, he has recently become more religiously observant. Last week, said McKean-Litewski, he told Boal when submitting his requested days off that he would like to wear a yarmulke after sundown on Friday nights.

“She just laughed at me,” said McKean-Litewski.

Recently Boal told McKean-Litewski she had participated in an anti-Israel protest, saying it was “a marvelous experience,” with “a carnival atmosphere.” She told her Jewish subordinate it “felt good to belong to something that’s going to make a difference.”

McKean-Litewski claimed Boal told him Tuesday, “since you came back from Israel your work has gone downhill.” He was escorted from the building by Boal immediately after his dismissal, and wasn’t allowed to pick up his belongings.

‘I feel I’ve given a thousand percent to that business’

“I feel I’ve given a thousand percent to that business,” said McKean-Litewski.

In a phone call with The Times of Israel, Boal refused to comment. Homewares store Old Town Context was approached through repeated emails for a statement, but has not issued a response.

SCoJeC, the Jewish organization McKean-Litewski said is helping him, told The Times of Israel it would not be appropriate to comment on the case at this time.

SCoJeC has a track record, however, of giving support and advice to people in situations in which there has been discrimination, and has liaised with the police when needed. In cases of feared anti-Semitism, community members can even file a report through the SCoJeC website that will be given to the police.

One high-profile case SCoJeC successfully fought, together with the chaplaincy, involved a St Andrew’s University student who was party to a lewd anti-Semitic attack for decorating his dorm room with an Israeli flag given to him by his IDF soldier brother. The case was heard in August 2011 and went to appeal in May 2012 where the perpetrator’s expulsion and conviction were upheld.

McKean-Litewski had planned to earn enough money to make aliya to Israel and serve in the IDF. But now that he’s unemployed, he said he feels stuck in Scotland.

“There’s so much more to life than living in this anti-Semitic country,” he said.

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