The trouble began when they spotted a rodent in the hallway, claim Rafael and Devorah Streicher, but after being escorted by police from the Days Inn in Catskill, N.Y., the Brooklyn couple began to smell a rat.
The Streichers and three of their five children checked into the motel, about two hours from New York City, on a Friday last month en route to visit their son at a nearby summer camp. The following afternoon, the Orthodox family watched as housekeepers packed up their cholent pot and other belongings and sent them to another hotel.
"We begged them to [let us] stay until Sunday," to no avail said Rafael Streicher. Unable to ride, they walked along a highway for 15 minutes as a hotel employee drove their car.
Devorah Streicher says the stay at Days Inn was uneventful until her husband complained about the pest in the hallway. She admits Rafael may have warned a clerk that he would sue.
A short time later, motel employees began to complain that there were too many children in the room, and later that the couple had been undercharged.
When the family could not pay the difference because they were unable to transact business on Shabbat, state troopers were called. The Streichers were told accommodations had been arranged at a nearby hotel, which turned out to be full. Devorah Streicher said the family then endured a nine-hour wait until sundown. (During that time, one of her sons was stung by a bee and another threw up.) After Shabbat, they traveled to relatives in Monsey.
Devorah Streicher said she did not attribute the incident to anti-Semitism until she read comments in the New York Post by motel manager Mathai George, who said he evicted the family because of "Muslim workers from Arabia who all got mad" when Rafael complained about the rat. He said he didn't want to see the family's Lexus damaged by the workers.
Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind said there was "no doubt in my mind that this involves bias. In 20 years as an elected official, I have never seen a case so egregious."
The Anti-Defamation League is investigating the incident, as is the state attorney general's human rights division. The Streichers plan to sue.
A spokeswoman for Days Inn's parent company, Cendant Corp., said she could not comment on the case because of pending litigation. But she said Days Inn locations are run by franchisees and, "We do not tolerate franchisees who do not abide by [anti-discrimination] laws."
The franchisee, Kolath George, did not return calls left at the motel.
Streicher said there was one bright spot during their ordeal, when a stranger from Long Island gave the family the key to his nearby bungalow.
"He said, 'If you're so religious that you can't touch a car today, I can trust you to use the bathroom,'" she recalled.