Florida Governor Apologizes to Rabbi for Motel Discrimination

Gov. LeRoy Collins, of Florida, has personally apologized to Rabbi Yaakov Rosenberg, spiritual leader of Beth David Synagogue here, for the indignity of being barred from two motels at Pompano Beach because he is a Jew.

Writing to the rabbi on official State of Florida stationery, Gov. Collins offered his “personal apologies for any indignity you or your family may have received.”

Rabbi Rosenberg went to Pompano Beach last month, with his family, to help the Jewish community there, numbering 45 families, to establish a synagogue. The rabbi tried to obtain accommodations at one motel where he was rejected by the owner who assured him that he had “nothing against Jews” and who asserted that “some of my best friends are Jews.” However, the motel owner asserted that he barred Jews because it was the policy in the area.

The rabbi then registered at another motel, the Briney Breakers. After a room had been assigned to the Rosenbergs, they were visited by a woman who sought to assure herself that “they were not Jews.” This woman suggested to Rabbi Rosenberg that he re-register under an assumed name, and tell no one that the family had been given accommodations at the Briney Breakers. Rabbi Rosenberg declined this offer and moved his family out of the motel.

In his letter to Rabbi Rosenberg, Gov. Collins pointed out that Florida law explicitly forbids hotel or motel owners from advertising religious discrimination–but the Governor emphasized that the statute also grants “the right of hostelry operators “to refuse accommodations to any person they consider objectionable.”

“While I am sure,” the Governor wrote Rabbi Rosenberg, “that there is no disagreement as to the desirability of such a law as a means for protecting the comfort and safety of the patrons of such an establishment, unfortunately it also provides the means by which the management may practice religious discrimination.”

“Such abuses,” continued the Governor, “are among the prices we pay for free society. The only real solution lies in the education of our people in the true meaning of Americanism.” Regretfully, the Governor noted, “as long as some people harbor hatred in their hearts for other members of the human family, they will always find ways in which to express this.” His “personal apologies,” Gov. Collins informed Rabbi Rosenberg, “are, I know, inadequate consolation.”

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