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OFF BEAT: Man can sue for anti-Semitism even though he's not Jewish


Just as in the old commercial where you don’t have to be Jewish to love Jewish rye bread, at least in New Jersey you also don’t have to be Jewish to claim anti-Semitism.

According to a ruling in Myron Cowher vs. Carson & Roberts in the New Jersey appellate court in Newark, Mr. Cowher, a former truck driver for Lafayette, N.J.-based Carson & Roberts, sued his company and three supervisors after he allegedly was the target of anti-Semitic remarks for more than a year, even though he is not Jewish.

Mr. Cowher produced DVDs that appear to show two of the supervisors making such comments as: “Only a Jew would argue over his hours,” according to an April 18 appeals court ruling that was publicized this week.

According to the ruling, one of the supervisors testified that “perhaps” he had commented to Mr. Cowher about “Jew money,” and he admitted using the Hebrew folk song “Hava Nagila” as the ring tone for calls on his cellphone from the plaintiff.

“The record in the present matter, construed in plaintiff’s favor…demonstrates that the individual defendants, all of whom were Plaintiff’s supervisors, were motivated by their belief that the plaintiff was Jewish, and thus engaged in ‘real discrimination and harassment’ of the kind” that the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination seeks to eliminate, said the three-judge panel’s unanimous ruling, in quoting another decision.

“That their target happened not to be Jewish should not serve to excuse their conduct. We thus find that plaintiff has offered proofs sufficient to meet his primary facie burden,” said the court.

The ruling upheld the dismissal of the case against one supervisor, finding there was no individual liability on his part, but reversed the summary judgment in favor of two other supervisors and the company.

The ruling concerned only whether Mr. Cowher had standing to pursue the case, not its merits.

There was no explanation as to why the supervisors had allegedly mistakenly assumed Mr. Cowher was Jewish.