Jewish reggae star Matisyahu apparently doesn’t like sharing the stage with anyone. At a show on Sunday night in Birmingham, Alabama at the JCC Maccabi Games taking place there, the singer grabbed by the shirt a 16-year-old teenage fan who was joined by a couple dozen other Jewish athletes and pushed her over the edge to a two-foot drop.
According to the girl’s father, Rabbi Barry Leff of Temple Beth El in Birmingham, ” It was only a two foot drop, all she got was a scrape and a little bit of a sore back, but it could have been much, much worse.” He called Matisyahu’s reaction “wildly inappropriate.”
Leff’s daughter Devorah was one of hundreds of atheletes aged 13-16 from JCCs around the US as well as delegations from Israel and the Ukraine who gathered at the University of Alabama’s Bartow Arena for the opening event of the Birmingham-hosted 2017 JCC Maccabi Games. The Games were organized by the world’s Jewish Community Centers as an Olympic-style international sports competition which runs through the first week of August.
Matisyahu was the featured performer for the opening ceremony, and at some point during his show, some of the athletes walked onto the stage to dance.
A video of the event showed there were some two dozen participants onstage dancing around Matisyahu and his band without interference from the security staff.
According to one attendee, one of the stage intruders purposefully knocked Matisyahu’s hat off his head, causing him to suddenly get angry.
The video showed him pushing more than one person off the stage in a violent manner.
“My understanding is the kids went up on the stage by themselves but security didn’t say anything or tell them they weren’t supposed to,” said Leff, adding that after Matisyahu pushed his daughter off the stage, security personnel cleared the rest of the youth in a more acceptable manner.
“Just saw @matisyahu push two 13 year old girls off a stage . . . You are a despicable human,” tweeted an attendee, according to the New York Post.
Another stated, “Used to be a fan. Not anymore! #NoClass.” Another responded, “He violently shoved kids.”
“One kid was crying she was so upset seeing Devorah get pushed off the stage,” said Leff. “I want to make sure Matisyahu gets the message that it’s not OK to assault 16 year old girls.
I think there needs to be some kind of consequences to his actions whether it’s a substantially reduced fee for him for the concert or something.”
The JCC Association of North America told the New York Post that they condemned Matisyahu’s actions.
“We are disappointed and dismayed that our opening concert performer, Matisyahu, forcibly removed some of our teen participants from the stage, and we will cooperate with any police investigation.
Violence is never acceptable . . . This is contrary to what we instill in our participants and in what we believe. We are relieved that the participants involved were not seriously injured,” the JCC statement said.
Matisyahu did not respond to an email query.