A Yokoso Japanese Steakhouse employee was fired from the Waterfront restaurant after sharing an anti-Semitic post on social media. The image depicted the inside of an oven with the words “Jewish bunk bed for sale.”
“We thought it was really important to fire him because that doesn’t reflect the views of the restaurant or anyone who works here, so we had to let him go,” said Sydney Rickert, a manager at the steakhouse. “We didn’t want that to represent us. We didn’t want anybody to think we are anti-Semitic so we had to do what we had to do.”
Jeff Kim, general manager and owner of Yokoso, called the post “inexcusable,” and said, “nothing can make up for it” in a Facebook message.
“Please know that his comments and views do not reflect the values of the restaurant and its employees. His employment has been terminated. No forms of discrimination or prejudice are tolerated at Yokoso. Yokoso is a family establishment, and everyone from all walks of life are welcome here,” added Kim.
Joshua Sayles, Community Relations Council director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, commended Yokoso’s response.
“We are appreciative to Yokoso for taking this as seriously as they did and for acting as swiftly as they did to let the rest of Pittsburgh know that this won’t be tolerated in their establishment,” Sayles said. “When activities like this Facebook post are left unchecked, that’s when anti-Semites feel emboldened and more similar incidents like this take place. Unfortunately, we don’t have to look beyond our own community to know what the worst-case scenario looks like for that.”
Just hours after the June 23 anti-Semitic image was posted, Brad Orsini, Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s director of Jewish community security, had already been contacted nearly 25 times, he said. Such an inundation of texts and emails was appropriate and appreciated, he explained.
“This is exactly what we want the community to do, to report these signs of hate so we can figure out if they’re a real sign of hate or not,” said Orsini. “The day is gone where we ignore this.”
Regardless of medium or context, “we want everything,” he continued. “No matter what the circumstances are, these signs of hate need to be reported because we need to determine what the true threat is out there, whether it’s just a really stupid thing by someone who is not very evolved and very aware of what’s going on, or the worst-case scenerio that it’s a true threat.”
The fired employee was identified as Stephen Guyer of Munhall by the Tribune-Review. Guyer told the paper the post was “a huge mistake,” and said, “I can’t read real well and my eyes are very bad. I thought [the meme] was something about a Danish bunk bed. My life has been ruined now. I would never disrespect Jewish people intentionally. I love all people no matter their race, color or religion. I made a mistake and I’m very sorry for the outcome.”
A phone number listed for Guyer was no longer working as of June 26.
Rickert described her former colleague as “an outlier” whose behavior opposed the restaurant’s culture. Since coming to Yokoso nearly a year ago, she said, “I haven’t had anybody be like that. I haven’t had to deal with anybody being racist or anti-religion of any sort.”
“I recognize this cannot have been easy and am sorry for any pain that his actions or words have caused,” wrote Kim.
Added Rickert, “We just want to apologize and let you guys know that something like this will never happen again.” pjc
Adam Reinherz can be reached at areinherz@