Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee CEO responds to controversial hatWRKS Instagram post

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The fallout continues, following a controversial post on social media.

Last Friday, the owner of hatWRKS hat shop on 8th Ave South in Nashville posted a photo to Instagram with a yellow patch resembling the Star of David along with the words “not vaccinated”.

As of Monday, more than 15 hat companies have cut ties with the Nashville hat store, HatWRKS, after many say the owner made light of the Star of David, comparing patches that Jewish people were forced to wear during the Holocaust to those unvaccinated from COVID-19.

“For me, it was like a punch in the gut,” Eric Stillman said, CEO of the Jewish Federation & Jewish Foundation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee. “It does a disservice to the memory of the six million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust and it’s very upsetting.”

Others, rallied behind the group, protesting over the weekend outside of the hat shop.

The Instagram post has since been deleted, but others remain on the HatWRKS Instagram page, with Gigi Gaskins, the owner, questioning why people were outraged by her original post and not with the “tyranny the world is experiencing,” later writing that she’s willing to put her business on the line.

The owner of the company did post an apology to Instagram Saturday which included the following message, “In NO WAY did I intend to trivialize the Star of David or disrespect what happened to millions of people. That is not who I am & what I stand for. My intent was not to exploit or make a profit. My hope was to share my genuine concern & fear, and to do all that I can to make sure that nothing like that ever happens again. I sincerely apologize for any insensitivity.”

Stillman says he has no idea whether the apology was sincere. Members from his group have tried reaching out, with no response.

“The lesson that needs to be learned from this experience is actually a lesson about the holocaust and to know its a such a unique horrific event that occurred in our history and the systematic murder of 6 million Jews during the Holocaust, therefore, any symbols or images associated with the Holocaust cannot be used in any other context I think that’s the takeaway of the lesson,” Stillman said.

He added, Gaskins, actions do not reflect the Nashville community he knows and loves. He says we live in a community that truly cares.

“It shows me that we as a community can come together and can care for each other, even when it means embracing people from a different race, religion, or background and understand that when something is so upsetting to one of the groups of people within our community that we all need to be aware and embrace that group and show our love and support for those folks.”

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