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Hotel Shangri-La donation halts protest plan after anti-Semitism trial

A screenshot of the Shangri-La hotel in Santa Monica.
A screenshot of the Shangri-La hotel in Santa Monica.
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The owner of Hotel Shangri-La in Santa Monica, Tehmina Adaya, announced Friday a plan to make donations to Jewish organizations following a jury decision which determined the hotel and Adaya violated California's Unruh Civil Rights Act barring discriminating on the basis of sex, race, color or religion.

In a Hotel Shangri-La statement, Adaya said she never made disparaging remarks about the 2010 event attendees, and that she planned to appeal the jury decision. The owner said she believes the allegations were based on "false information from a disgruntled former employee" who did not appear in court.

Per Hotel Shangri-La:

Ms. Adaya, who has always supported diversity, announced an equal donation of $3,600 to both the Koby Mandell Foundation and Zahal Disabled Veterans Organization to reinforce her commitment to supporting Israel and appreciating diversity.


In addition, she extended a personal invitation to leaders of the Jewish and pro-Israel community to attend a private event, hosted by the Shangri-La, to be led by and coordinated with the Zionist Organization of America in Los Angeles within the next 12 months.


"I care deeply about the hurt, anger and misunderstanding that has resulted and I want the Jewish and pro-Israel community to know I condemn anti-Semitism. I welcome diversity and never made disparaging comments to anyone who attended an event here," said Ms. Adaya.

Sparking reaction is a section of the hotel's announcement that claims, "While the jury found that the hotel did not have proper business protocols in place, they did not claim or believe she made discriminatory comments to any of the plaintiffs."

Attorney James Turken, who represented the plaintiffs, calls the hotel's statement "100 percent false" and "spin control," the Jewish Journal reports, saying the verdict made no comment about the hotel’s business protocols.

The jury awarded more than $1.6 million in combined compensatory and punitive damages. Turken told the Jewish Press, "The award of punitive damages was only legally permissible because the jury found Adaya had acted with malice, oppression and fraud." 

The Jewish Journal reports that the Western Region of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) called off a protest that was planned for Sunday after coming to an agreement with the hotel and its owner. ZOA’s regional chairman, Steve Goldberg, told the Journal, however, "We’re not stopping anybody else...They can protest whatever they want."

The anti-Semitism case was brought by Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, who gathered two years ago at the hotel. The jury said Adaya, who is a Pakistani-born Muslim, discriminated against the Jewish group during a poolside charity event, ordering the removal of literature and banners, and ordering people out of the pool.