Matisyahu accuses venues of antisemitism after gigs cancelled amid anti-Israel protests

Staff at sold-out concerts in Arizona and New Mexico refuse to work after venues targeted by protesters


Matisyahu performs at European Maccabi Games in 2015 in Berlin, Germany (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Sold-out Matisyahu concerts in Arizona and New Mexico have been cancelled after anti-Israel protesters targeted the theatres where he had been due to perform.

The American singer accused the venues of antisemitism after staff refused to work and the organisers cited “safety concerns”.

Protesters objected to the Jewish singer’s support for Israel and staff then refused to work.

Matisyahu said he offered to pay for additional staffing and security but had been rebuffed.

The Rialto Theatre in Tuscon, Arizona, announced that Matisyahu’s Thursday concert was cancelled over “safety concerns and staff shortages” just hours before it was to begin.

The venue said in a post on Facebook: “We will always prioritise the safety of our employees and our guests”, without explaining what prompted those fears. 

As a result, singer performed a free show at a different Arizona venue for hundreds of people.

Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, New Mexico, cancelled Matisyahu’s Wednesday concert one hour before the gig was due to begin. 

The  reggae star posted in response: “My band and I should have played a sold out show at Meow Wolf in Santa Fe last night and we were excited for tonight's show at the Rialto Theater in Tucson.

“Instead, the staff at these venues refused to come to work, forcing cancellations.”

More than 150 staffers at Meow Wolf reportedly expressed safety concerns after protesters were expected to show up to the sold-out concert, according to KOAT television station in Albuquerque.

KOAT reported that “several local pro-Palestinian activist groups credited themselves for pressuring Meow Wolf to cancel the event.”

Matisyahu accused both venues and staff of antisemitism.

“Tonight in Tucson, we have offered to supplement their staff shortages on our own dime, but to no avail,” he wrote. “They do this 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.

“It truly is a sad day when dialogue with those you disagree with is abandoned for hate mongering and silencing artistic expression.

“My band and I will keep moving forward always! We will perform songs that celebrate unity, peace and perseverance, and we will connect with our fans through the sacredness of shared music, which has always brought people together. Unfortunately, it seems that more and more people are choosing to cast their lot with actions that tear people apart.

"Preventing fans of all ethnic and religious backgrounds from singing together in Santa Fe or Tucson does not bring peace. In fact, it does the opposite. It may make some people feel good to express anger publicly in hopes that it will obscure the hypocrisy of us Americans living on actual colonized land taken through an actual genocide of Native Americans.

“But I refuse to succumb to such destructive behaviour which helps nobody and only fuels more anger.

“So to my fans in Santa Fe and Tucson, I am sorry you were denied a show. I love you all. My band and I will be back. We will not respond to hate with more hate. We will be together again. We will make music together again. We will sing together again.”

Matisyahu was once known for his signature beard and Chasidic garb. He recently flew to Israel and performed his peace anthem One Day for IDF soldiers and met with relatives of the hostages.

In his US shows he has displayed the Golani infantry flag and said that the IDF symbol “is a reminder for me every time I perform for our family of warriors fighting for the soul of our nation”.

Cathy Rivers, Executive Director, Rialto Theatre, Tucson, said: “Let me be very clear on this situation. The decision to not have Matisyahu play was not made about politics or religion. This decision was made based on safety. 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.

Rivers went on, “I like you wake up every day and read about violence and shootings in our country, I was unwilling to wake up to that happening in my community. We have hosted Matisyahu at our theatre many times but today was not the day to have him play. He was paid in full and ticket refunds are available to all ticket holders.”

A spokesperson for Meow Wolf in Santa Fe said: “On February 14th, we cancelled a concert at the House of Eternal Return. Two hours before the show was set to begin, we found ourselves without adequate staff to safely manage the sold out crowd. Meow Wolf will always prioritize the safety of our employees and our guests. We are in the process of refunding all ticket holders.

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.”

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