Jerusalem Pizzeria Ordered to Pay $4,500 for Refusing Service to a Gay American Rabbinical Student

Kanter was assisted by The Israel Religious Action Center

The Ben Yehuda 2 Pizzeria in Jerusalem was ordered by an Israeli court to pay $4,500 as compensation for refusing to serve and kicking out an American rabbinical student for being gay. The incident happened in August 2018, when Sammy Kanter, a student at Jerusalem’s Hebrew Union College, walked into the pizzeria wearing a T-shirt with a rainbow design.

Kanter recalled the day, made distinct by the fact that the incident happened only a day after the Jerusalem Pride March. He was with his friends and the T-shirt he was wearing had rainbow colored letters that spelled out “Cincy,” the nickname of his hometown Cincinnati, OH.

The student wrote about the experience on Facebook. In his post, he expressed outrage, saying that this incident was his first time when it came to denial of service at any pizza store for being gay in Jerusalem. Going by his accounts, the man working at the counter saw his T-shirt and said “Atah Homo?” or translated into English “Are you gay?” Kanter replied in the affirmative, and the counter person told Kanter to get out of the pizzeria and even pointed his fingers towards the door. The student was shocked. Both Kanter and his friends were asked to leave.

Kanter subsequently filed a legal case in the Jerusalem Small Claims Court. He was helped in his legal proceedings by the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC). As per Israeli law, discrimination which centers on sexual orientation is against the law. The lawsuit filed by the student demanded 33,500 shekels which comes to approximately $9,100.

Incidences like this are not unusual in the Jewish state. Although Israel is regarded as a fort of LGBTQ rights within the Middle East, the discrimination faced by Kanter was symptomatic of the continuing struggle of LGBTQ Israeli citizens and visitors in Jerusalem, a city known for its religious conservatism. The Kanter verdict has been hailed as an important milestone for Israeli society by Anat Hoffman, the IRAC executive director. Hoffman said lawsuits like this one flex the legal muscles given to the LGBTQ people, and bigots will remain bigots if they do not suffer the consequences of their hateful actions.

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