update deskJewish & Israeli Culture

Matisyahu says Jew-hatred or confusion behind two venues canceling his shows

Both venues cited “security concerns” and staff shortages and claimed the shows weren’t scrapped due to the Jewish singer’s support for Israel.

Matisyahu (right) performs with Adam Weinberg in Jacksonville, Fla., on March 19, 2023. Credit: Bill Ragan/Shutterstock.
Matisyahu (right) performs with Adam Weinberg in Jacksonville, Fla., on March 19, 2023. Credit: Bill Ragan/Shutterstock.

Two venues, one in Santa Fe, N.M.—and the other in Tucson, Ariz.—recently canceled concerts of Jewish musician Matisyahu and his band.

Meow Wolf, in Santa Fe, pulled the plug on the Feb. 14 show due to “security” concerns, reportedly because staff didn’t show up, fearing protests against the musician, who has publically supported Israel.

“Two hours before the show was set to begin, we found ourselves without adequate staff to safely manage the sold-out crowd,” Meow Wolf posted on social media.

“Meow Wolf believes in free expression, respectful discourse and the power of art to bring people together. We do not tolerate antisemitism, Islamophobia, hate, racism, discrimination or violence of any kind,” it added.

The Rialto Theatre in Tucson also referred to “safety concerns and staff shortage” when it wrote that it was canceling Matisyahu’s Feb. 15 show.

“Let me be very clear on this situation. The decision to not have Matisyahu play tonight was not made about politics or religion. This decision was made based on safety,” Cathay Rivers, executive director of the Rialto, told Fox 10 Phoenix. “The temperature of the day changed, and the tone was not set by us. This escalated to a concern of safety for our patrons, our staff and our community.”

“We have hosted Matisyahu at our theater many times, but today was not the day to have him play,” Rivers added. “He was paid in full and ticket refunds are available to all ticket holders.”

Matisyahu wrote on social media that the venues decided to cancel the show “because they are either antisemitic or have confused their empathy for the Palestinian people with hatred for someone like me who holds empathy for both Israelis and Palestinians.”

Alma Hernandez, an Arizona state representative, wrote that she intends to file an official IRS complaint about Rialto, which is a nonprofit, “for refusing to allow a Jewish artist, Matisyahu, from performing in their venue due to his views on Israel.”

“It’s unbelievable that they would do this and cancel a peace artist who sings ‘One Day,’” she added. “Also, as a reminder, the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that no business (public or private) serving the public can discriminate based on a customer’s national origin, sex, religion, color or race. Not in my district.”

Meghan McCain, a commentator and daughter of the late John McCain, offered to help Matisyahu find a different venue in Arizona.

“People should not be deprived of your music because of a small minority of ignorant, ugly antisemitic people,” she wrote. “This incident is not reflective of my home state or the millions of Arizonans who are loving, open-hearted, supporters of our Jewish brothers and sisters.”

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