Pizzeria ordered to pay $4,500 for booting gay rabbinical student

The Ben Yehuda 2 pizzeria in Jerusalem. Photo via Sammy Kanter/Facebook

JERUSALEM (RNS) — An Israeli court ordered a Jerusalem pizzeria to pay $4,500 to an American rabbinical student who was ejected from its premises for being gay.

Last August, Sammy Kanter, who is studying at the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem, entered the Ben Yehuda 2 pizzeria wearing a T-shirt that bore rainbow colors.

“Today, for the first time in my life, I was denied service at a pizza store for being who I am (in Jerusalem),” Kanter wrote on Facebook. “I walked in … and the guy behind the counter said, Are you gay. I said yes. He said ‘out’ and pointed at the door. My jaw dropped, and he instructed my classmates and I to leave.”

Soon afterward Kanter filed a suit in Jerusalem Small Claims Court with guidance from the Israel Religious Action Center. Discrimination based on sexual orientation is illegal in Israel.

Although Israel is considered a bastion of LGBTQ rights in the Middle East, Kanter’s experience focused a harsh spotlight on the ongoing struggle of LGBTQ people to feel at home in Jerusalem, a religiously conservative city.

While Tel Aviv holds a weeklong Pride festival each year, culminating in a large parade in the heart of the city, the opposite is true of Jerusalem, where ultra-Orthodox Jews and Muslims comprise 70 percent of the city’s population.

In 2015 an ultra-Orthodox man stabbed to death 16-year-old Shira Banki as she participated in the Jerusalem Pride march; six others also were wounded.

Last year’s Pride parade through the capital, which drew some 20,000 LGBTQ people and supporters, was guarded by 2,500 police officers.

Anat Hoffman, executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, called the Kanter verdict an important one for Israeli society.

“Israel has an excellent anti-discrimination law but often, it’s a muscle that isn’t being used. If people don’t face the consequences of their bigotry they will continue to being bigots. Lawsuits like this make the muscle work and society is better for it,” Hoffman said.

A Wider Bridge, a North American LGBTQ organization building support for Israel and its LGBTQ community, said the court’s decision is a “reminder that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is illegal in Israel, and that there are legal ramifications for homophobic actions. We applaud Sammy and the greater Israeli LGBTQ community for this important victory.”

About the author

Michele Chabin


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  • In Israel. Here they will soon be winning Supreme Court cases with the newly (bought and paid for) conservative court.

  • Just curious – why is this news story on RNS? Is it the fact that he was a rabbinical student that makes it a relevant topic for discussion here?

  • It’s not every day you see a headline with the words “pizzeria” and “rabbinical.” It’s really a watershed moment.

    Seriously, this isn’t a particularly informative article. First of all, restaurants don’t pay judgments. People do. Was the guy behind the counter the owner of the establishment or an employee? And, if the latter, was he acting on his own or was he reflecting store policy? Is he still working there?

    More importantly, was the man who killed the girl in the 2015 Jerusalem Pride march tried for murder or even arrested? It’s not only the killing that’s important but also how the nation responded to it.

  • More discrimination. This time it’s in Indiana. Tax preparation company, citing Pence’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, refused service to a gay couple.

  • The judgement seems to be unfair. After all, Kanter is on a mission to subjugate the Jews religion, studying in Israel with the idea that someday the LGBTQ will “queer the religion” and now Kanter is further emboldened. If a Jew can’t find peace in Jerusalem, there is no place on this earth where religion is safe from the LGBTQ. That’s some serious persecution. Spreading worldwide, the LGBTQ seems to be making progress where the Nazis also had the same dream.

    Wearing the rainbow colors = you must get educated. Wearing his Jewish cap = I am a Jew. What has blinded the world to this persecution?

  • How about the white kid that doesn’t get a scholarship because he’s male and not a minority?
    That’s discrimination.

  • There appears to be some off-site collusion going on between Elgabalus, patrick and Ben in Oakland.

    Apparently finding themselves increasingly isolated and unable to make coherent reasoned defensible posts, this is the chosen defense mechanism.

    I’ve flagged it.

  • You’re asking some decent reporter-type questions there. (One might also ask why the RNS writer apparently didn’t strive to interview both sides instead of merely one side. No joke: This article is a gay clergy Puff Piece Pizza.)

    But such questions and reflections take us back to Parker12’s question: What is the purpose of this particular RNS story, anyway?

    Giving readers the what and the why in a balanced two-sided manner? Or merely baking up a one-sided Propaganda slice, to support gay clergy at a time when American gay clergy just lost a major battle?

  • I think you have the persecution thing upside down. Kanter was discriminated against because he wore the rainbow colours and answered truthfully that he was gay. You call his action against the pizzeria “emboldened”; I call it fighting back against discrimination. You seem to equate LGBTQ with Nazis; in fact, the Nazis persecuted both Jews and homosexuals.

    You say you want peace from “the LGBTQ”; I suggest you simply live and let live.

  • Affirmative Action policies have nothing to do with refusing to serve people in restaurants. Nice try.

  • All we know about Kanter from this article is that he’s gay and he wanted pizza. The rest is pure speculation on your part.

  • The salient thing I said was; people of faith are being persecuted by the LGBTQ on a global scale and that Kanter has made it his mission, or has been assigned this mission, to attack the Jews’ religion. This is consistent with the LGBTQ dividing and the conquering of multiple Christian based religions.

    Your suggestion to “simply live and let live” is not what the LGBTQ live by. They have chosen to wage a global war against humanity. Humanity belongs to the Creator, not to the created.

  • Another one of your unenlightened comments here, no insight involved. Judiasm has nothing to do with Christianity. It is NOT a Christian based religion! Christianity is a former Jewish offshoot. The guy is a Jew. He is a rabinical student, meaning he is studying to be a Jewish rabbi. Granted in the most liberal Jewish sect today.

    There isn’t any appearent mission to destroy anything involved here, especially Christianity.

    Remember to take your meds!

  • It’s pointing out anti-gay sentiments and actions among some of the religious conservatives. But it was never made clear if the owner’s reason was religion-based. Not a very well thought out.

    Both sides got to tell their story in a court of law and the court found he was discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation. The court agreed, a judgement was made. Case closed.

  • Be that as it may, systemic policies are not the same thing as individual bias. That much is obvious.

  • So anyone who avails themselves of the legal system is “inciting?” That’s silly on the face of it. And justice is a matter for the courts to decide, not you.

    Yes, the case is closed. Sadly, the result is not to your liking.

  • The difference is freedom of choice. A school administrator may have no choice but to accept a minority candidate for a scholarship because of institutional policy, so that administrator is not responsible for the decision. But a restaurant owner who, of his own free will, refuses to serve a gay person is entirely responsible. See the difference?

    Whether of not affirmative action is a good or a bad thing is worthy of discussion. But comparing it to what happened in the pizza place is ridiculous.

  • Boy, it’s a shame Jews have never been on the receiving end of discrimination and bigotry, so they’d know what it’s like.

  • Parker12, I think the story helps us look at an issue that is in Israel just as it is in many other countries. And, it helps make the point that Judaism has the same kind of divides as Christianity – the very orthodox/authoritarian and the less orthodox/authoritarian – and how that is influencing public policies in countries where that divide is at work.

    We certainly have quite a divide in this country that is driven by differences in religion – from very conservative/orthodox religious ideas, to less conservative/orthodox, to no religious beliefs at all. Think of the huge divide over abortion, gay marriage, religious freedom versus discrimination by skin color, ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identity, to christian symbols on public places.

    One other thought on this. Israel is turning more orthodox and that could have an impact on the ability to find peace in the Middle East. The issues of settlements in lands not part of the original area recognized by the United Nations is an issue, as is how Jerusalem is divided. It appears those who are more Orthodox are pushing for actions that could raise tensions across the Middle East just as this issue of a gay person getting a pizza raises tensions within Israel.

    This story is about how religion divides us and creates tension in society.

  • Wow, A lotta thoughts to unpack…
    1) I agree, a guy should be able to get a slice of pizza without being hassled. Thank goodness he only had a rainbow shirt on; and not a MAGA hat.
    2) regarding whether Israel is orthodox or not; there will be no peace in the Middle East as long as one Jew is standing (gay or not-gay). To imply that religious orthodoxy by Israel is the cause of tensions is crazy. Maybe you should check out the orthodoxy on the other side where kids have bombs strapped to them. To that point, maybe the good rabbinic student should try to catch a kebab wearing that shirt on the Gaza Strip.

  • Where is your evidence that “the LGBTQ” have chosen to wage a global war against humanity? All I see is a young gay man who happened to be Jewish, and who stood up for his rights.

    Regarding people you disagree with as the enemy turns you into the very monster you fear in others.

  • ::snark:: You incite folks to discriminate against you when you wear rainbow attire! Don’t ya know???? ::/snark::

  • I think orthodoxy in Israel is becoming more entrenched and that it is leading Israel into becoming not the home for all Jews, but only a true home for those who agree to live by the orthodox rules. Admittedly, Israeli governments over the past 10-15 years have had elections and made laws that, presumably, are supported by the majority.

    However, even though there are more Christians in this country than any other religious group – I don’t want our laws formed around any one particular sect, even a particular sect of Christianity. (Probably why I think Evangelicals are so dangerous to democracy.)

    The bigger problem is that it has been an appeal to the Orthodox of Israel – that has led to the establishment of many (most?) of the settlements Israel allowed to be built on lands not recognized as part of Israel in the original UN approved creation of the State. Israel is increasingly claiming that land that was designated for Palestinians – claiming it for the Israeli state. They are limiting what Palestinians can do, taking land/farms, orchards and destroying it, tearing down houses and trees, driving out the Palestinians. Israel is dividing the areas that are supposed to be the Palestinian country into separate spaces.

    I get that this is war and Israel is fighting to exist. But so are those who lived in that area for a couple of thousand years and are those we call “Palestinians.” I don’t see Israel recognizing them, their humanity, their need to live and create a community that reflects their own values and religion.

    In Dec 2018, Netanyahu said “he would legalize thousands of Jewish homes in the West Bank, hours after two Israeli soldiers were killed and two others were wounded in a shooting attack. The Prime Minister’s Office said it would promote the construction of 82 new housing units in the settlement of Ofra, as well as two new industrial zones near the settlements of Avnei Hefetz and Betar Ilit.” This is on land that the UN intended to be for Palestinians. Do they matter any more? If they are refugees, would we be willing to offer refuge? (Silly me! Of course not.)

    I want Israel to exist. But the Palestinians need a home, too.

  • Nope. It means he is just mediocre or below average for his community. Colleges don’t need underachievers who are outclassed by their local peers.

    Irrelevant here anyway.

  • Nope. Its just tears shed for the mediocre or inadequate. Those who could not even compete with the peers in their own community.

  • That kid was obviously not much of an achiever compared to peers. Someone average or below average within their community.

  • That is what parents of lazy and mediocre kids say about their special snowflake children.

    Minorities who get scholarships exceed community averages and standards. People who stand out and do stuff.

    I guess it stinks to you that nobody wants to commemorate underachievers for having pale complexions.

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