The Shangri-La’s elusive key witness

Nathan Codrey is a tough man to get ahold of. 

The former assistant food and beverage director at the Hotel Shangri-La is the only person who claimed to have heard hotel owner Tehmina Adaya say she wanted to eject the “f—ing Jews” from the pool at the hotel she and her family own. But when the case went to trial, he didn’t appear in court as a witness. 

In order to avoid the agents sent by Adaya’s attorneys to subpoena him, Codrey first holed up in his apartment in downtown Los Angeles and instructed his building’s security guard not to let anyone up to see him. He later temporarily relocated to a site he wouldn’t disclose, but told the Journal it was outside of California, which meant he could not be served. 

Codrey gave testimony in pretrial deposition — which was read in court in his absence — but even that had to be completed on two separate days in 2011. He ended the first session abruptly after becoming uncomfortable with what he called “the angry, finger-pointing tone” used by one of the lawyers for the Shangri-La. (Codrey resumed his deposition, accompanied by his own lawyer, two weeks later.) 

And despite getting calls from various news outlets both during the 2012 trial and during the two-year process of appealing the verdict, Codrey — whose testimony was key to the jury’s decision to award almost $4 million in damages and legal fees to the plaintiffs and their lawyers — has been silent, all but invisible, and even now nearly impossible to find. 

Even for the Journal, which has covered the Shangri-La case more closely than any other news outlet, finding Codrey took serious digging. And though he spoke with the Journal once on the phone in 2013, he later said he didn’t want those comments on the case to be quoted. 

“I stand behind my deposition,” Codrey told the Journal on Aug. 14. “What I told was the truth, and I know it’s the truth. Tehmina’s lawyers are just trying to discredit my character.”

That’s precisely what the new lawyers from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher representing Adaya and the Shangri-La in the appellate court appear to be doing. In their brief, they called Codrey’s deposition testimony “inherently unreliable” and said that the account he gave to the partygoers of what Adaya told him was “inflammatory (and false).”

Adaya’s lawyers in the jury trial also took direct aim at Codrey. Philip Black, the lawyer who deposed Codrey in 2011, asked him about all sorts of episodes from his past — many of them involving Codrey’s use of alcohol, including a driving under the influence charge that led to a suspension of his driver’s license. Black also quizzed Codrey about his having been terminated from his post at the Shangri-La for drinking on the job. Codrey, in his deposition, did not deny drinking while on the job at the Shangri-La, but maintained that everyone else at the hotel did, as well, including Adaya and the managers who worked for her. 

Codrey was born to a Jewish mother and raised Christian by two adoptive parents, and he considers himself to be half-Jewish (although not Jewish by religion). And though he was not a party to the lawsuit, he testified in his deposition to hearing Adaya tell him that if her family found out “that there’s a Jewish event here, they will pull money from [her] immediately.” 

If his deposition — given under oath and therefore considered under law as if delivered in the courtroom — reflected somewhat badly upon Codrey, it was highly problematic for the lawyers defending Adaya and the hotel. Codrey painted a picture of a hotel where policies were rarely agreed upon and could change in a split second, a management structure that was unclear even to those who were part of it, and an owner — Adaya — who was, on the day in question, “flipping out like a little child.”

“She [Adaya] was yelling, you know, ‘I can’t have this f—ing event,’ ” Codrey recalled. “ ‘This is ridiculous. I can’t believe that this was approved. Who approved this? Who knew about this?’ ”

The key part of Codrey’s deposition was his claim that Adaya made explicitly anti-Semitic remarks to him, which he then relayed to event promoter Scott Paletz at the July 2010 pool party organized by the local young leadership division of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces.  

The new lawyers for Adaya and the hotel argue that not only did Codrey lie about what he heard Adaya say, but that his account conflicts with testimony given by some of the plaintiffs, who claimed to have heard Adaya’s statement relayed to them by Codrey directly. In his deposition, Codrey said he told only one person — Paletz — what Adaya had said, and that he tried to ensure that nobody else overheard him. 

Plaintiffs’ attorney Jim Turken and his team, recognizing that Codrey’s testimony was key to their clients’ case against the Shangri-La, took great pains to ensure that Codrey was deposed under oath. About a year before the trial, Turken twice bought Codrey lunch at The Palm restaurant downtown, where they talked about the case. 

Codrey said in his deposition that he also had “eight or nine” phone conversations with Turken and members of his team. And according to the deposition transcripts, Amy Rubinfeld, another lawyer on the plaintiffs’ team from Dickstein Shapiro, made frequent objections to the questions Codrey was being asked during the deposition — objections that seem to have been as much designed to preserve a key witness’s credibility as to protect Codrey from what she called “bullying” by Black, the defendants’ attorney.

“I’m not your lawyer today, I can’t instruct you not to answer, but that’s crossing the lines of privacy in my view,” Rubinfeld said after defense attorney Black asked Codrey whether he’d been arrested in 2001 for having an open container of alcohol in public. “He’s not really allowed to ask about arrests. So it’s up to you what you want to do with that question.”

Impugning a witness’ character is often part of any lawyer’s job, as is coaching the witnesses who bolsters your side of the case. 

“We did what we needed to do to,” Turken said, when asked about his contact with Codrey. 

Among the parties to the Shangri-La case, Codrey occupies an unusual position. Unlike the plaintiffs and their attorneys, he never stood to gain financially from the case, nor did he have any financial assets to defend, like Adaya did. 

Nevertheless, the case has had a lasting impact on Codrey’s life and work. In the wake of the incidents, Codrey was fired from his job — an act he felt was unjustified and illegal. He failed to file a wrongful termination lawsuit against the Shangri-La’s parent company in a timely manner, however, which left him with no legal recourse. When he spoke to the Journal last year, Codrey said he still resented Turken’s advising him not to file that suit — which, Codrey said, might have damaged Turken’s own efforts to sue the Shangri-La. Turken denied offering any such advice.

Codrey’s involvement in the trial impacted his personal life, too. His marriage ended, and today, when his name is typed into a Google search engine, the links that come up — from The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and elsewhere — all still relate to the case. 

Codrey said that since the trial he has had difficulty finding work in the hospitality industry, despite having worked in hotels and restaurants for more than a decade.  He told the Journal that his conversations with Turken had led him to believe that the high-powered lawyers — or their well-connected clients — would help him find work after he left the Shangri-La. That never happened, which, he said, is a source of some bitterness for him. 

Codrey was still working in the hospitality business in 2011 but said he left the industry sometime in the last year, three years after his firing. Asked about his current employment, Codrey declined to answer.

Rob Eshman contributed to this report.

Deadly Bulgaria attack survivors recall chaos, tragedy

Vered Kuza was standing with her daughter, Amit, on an airport shuttle bus at Sarafovo International Airport in Burgas, Bulgaria, when she suddenly heard a blast.

“It’s an attack!” Kuza, 54, shouted at Amit, 26. “We need to get out of here!”

She pushed her daughter through the door just as the bus exploded. Kuza was knocked unconscious. Her daughter landed on the ground, debris ripping into her left shoulder, through her chest and down to her liver.

When Vered Kuza regained consciousness, her feet “were swollen to a ridiculous size.” Her daughter was nowhere to be seen.

“Everything was broken,” Kuza told JTA, lying in a hospital bed in a Tel Aviv emergency room on Thursday, her feet wrapped in gauze and plastic and a red No. 2 scrawled on her forehead. “There were body parts around me. I didn’t know what was happening. It was smoking, hellish. It was horrifying.”

Five Israelis died in the attack that Kuza survived. According to Israeli reports, the five deceased are Amir Menashe, 27; Itzik Kolengi, 27; childhood friends Maor Harush, 26, and Elior Priess, 26; and Kochava Shriki, 44. In addition, the bus driver and suicide bomber died in the attack.

Ynet News reported that minutes before the attack, Shriki called her sister and told her that she was pregnant for the first time. Shriki’s husband, Yitzhak, survived and spent hours searching for his wife.

After the bomb exploded, “I walked toward the exit and called to my wife, ‘Come toward the door!’” he told Ynet. “After a few seconds I realized she wasn’t with me. The fog was thick like sand, and I went to look for her but it was impossible to get through.”

Kuza was one of 33 Israelis injured in the attack to be flown back to Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport on Thursday afternoon and sent to hospitals throughout the country, according to the Israel Defense Forces. Her daughter was one of three Israelis who were too seriously injured to make the trip and remained hospitalized in Bulgaria.

The head of the IDF Medical Corps, Itzik Kreis, said that the injured passengers who arrived in Israel “got very good medical care in Bulgaria” and “were less seriously hurt than we expected.”

The IDF Medical Corps landed in Bulgaria on Wednesday night to tend to the victims and bring them back to Israel. Kreis said that the injuries the corps saw were similar to those suffered by bus bombing victims in Israel.

A plane carrying 70 Israeli tourists in Bulgaria scheduled to fly home on Wednesday night was delayed, but arrived on Thursday.

Seven people died in the attack, which occurred Wednesday at about 5 p.m. The dead included five Israelis, the bus driver and the suicide bomber. Names of those killed were scheduled to be announced on Thursday night after their bodies arrived in Israel.

An airport security camera at the Sarafovo airport in Burgas revealed that the bomber was a Caucasian man with long hair and a backpack who had been wandering around the area for about an hour. He reportedly was carrying a fake Michigan driver’s license.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly accused Iran of sponsoring the attack. In a statement on Thursday, Netanyahu called on “the world’s leading powers” to recognize “that Iran is the country that stands behind this terror campaign.  Iran must be exposed by the international community as the premiere terrorist-supporting state that it is.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he had information that the attack was the joint work of the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Iran has denied the allegations.

Soon after the attack, Amit Kuza was taken by paramedics to a hospital in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital. Her mother “sat on the side of the road,” unattended for two hours because she was deemed to be in stable condition, she said.

“I had no one to talk to,” Vered Kuza said. “I didn’t even have a glass of water. They don’t know English. It was primitive.”

Bulgarian officials told Kuza that her daughter was in Sofia and in a stable condition. But Kuza was not able to speak to her daughter until Thursday morning. Amit and the two others who had remained in Bulgaria were scheduled to arrive in Israel on Thursday evening.

When news of the attack reached Israel, Arik Kuza, Vered’s husband, called the Foreign Ministry to find out if his wife and daughter were alive.

“I called 50 times,” he said, standing at Vered’s bedside. “They put me on hold and I heard music. I waited for hours.”

Lying in her hospital bed, she spoke in a calm and even tone. With her daughter scheduled to arrive in a few hours, she said she felt lucky to be alive.

WITNESS ACCOUNT: ‘We think that (it was a suicide bomber)’

A suicide bomber probably caused an explosion on a bus at Bulgaria’s Burgas airport which killed three people, an Israeli woman who was on the bus said.

“We think that (it was a suicide bomber),” witness Aviva Malka told Israeli Army Radio in answer to a question in a telephone interview from the scene.

“We sat down and within a few seconds we heard a huge boom and we ran away. We managed to escape through a hole on the bus. We saw bodies and many people injured,” she said.

Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Louise Ireland

Color puts Holocaust in new dimension

When Monise Neumann, the incredible director of the March of the Living, came to my school to recruit students for the trip to Polish concentration camps and then Israel, I listened respectfully, picked up a paper and stuffed it in the deepest corner of my backpack.

At the time, I thought, “I have been in Jewish day school my whole life. I have read Holocaust books, seen Holocaust movies and heard Holocaust survivors speak. I get it. If anyone should go, it should be all the non-Jews, so they can see what they did to us.”

A few weeks later, I was sorting through my desk when I came across the crumpled application. As I skimmed the first page, the word “photo” caught my attention. A friend who went on the trip last year told me of a particular photo at Auschwitz. This photo was just another picture on the wall, until one of the survivors pointed to a certain gaunt child and said, “That’s me.”

As I sat there reflecting, I realized the time had come for me to step up and become a firsthand witness. The survivors would not be around much longer, so it was now or never. I chose now.

Months later, I stood inside one of the most feared camps the Nazis had constructed, Auschwitz-Birkenau. We stood in a group and listened to some of the survivors tell stories. We then divided up into smaller groups to walk around the camp.

The leader of our small group told us many history book-type facts that for me went in one ear and out the other. I was concentrating on the camp. However, one of the last things he said stopped me in my tracks. He said, “Remember guys, the Holocaust didn’t happen in black and white, it happened in full Technicolor.” Oh.

Every picture, every movie, every book I had seen had been in black and white. I now imagined them in color.

A few days before, I had seen a black-and-white picture of women standing at attention inside Auschwitz-Birkenau. But now I knew. Those dresses hadn’t all been a dirty gray. They had been red and green and yellow. Those eyes weren’t really black but blue or green or brown. And that sky hadn’t been gray, it had been blue, maybe the same color of the sky today in front of dark woody barracks surrounded by bright yellow flowers. All enclosed by gray, lifeless barbed wire.

So here was the truth. The Holocaust did not happen in a different dimension. It happened in my world, in a sleepy town you might expect to see on a postcard. Here, on the spot that I was standing, 1.1 million of my people had been slaughtered. Horrifying doesn’t begin to describe it.

That day we, the Los Angeles delegation sponsored by the Bureau of Jewish Education, an agency of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, marched from Auschwitz to Birkenau along with 10,000 other people from 40 different countries. Some chose to march in silence, others in wild exuberance. I tried both and found that it didn’t matter.

The simple fact that we were all there, transforming a march that had foreshadowed death into a march that celebrated life, was enough. And not only did we march into Birkenau; we marched out. More than 60 years after the Holocaust, it was obvious who had won.

Exactly one week after our march from Auschwitz to Birkenau, we stood outside the Old City of Jerusalem, preparing for another march. But this was not a march of mourning, remembrance, defiance. This was a march of celebration.

More than 6,000 of the 10,000 people from Poland had continued with us to Israel, and on Israel’s 60th anniversary we marched through the streets of Jerusalem. Everyone was singing and dancing to their favorite Israeli tunes. People held flags and conga-lined through the group. One of my friends was even thrown several feet in the air by some overexcited New Jersey boys.

One week before, we ended our march at one of the darkest places in Jewish history. That day, we ended our march in the heart of Jerusalem at the Western Wall.

One week we walked through a place of despair. The next week we stood in front of the symbol of hope. I had felt horror, pain, humor, despair, wonder, joy and now as I stared at the wall, I felt pride. Pride in how my people rose above the cruelty of the world and built for themselves this haven in our spiritual homeland.

I thought of the survivors, the heroes of our journey who traveled with us and woke painful memories so that we would become the next link in the chain of remembrance. And as I sat there reflecting, I made a promise — I will never forget.

Andrea Gero graduated from New Community Jewish High School last week.

Fortunoff Archive preserves Holocaust testimonies

Until his 50th birthday, Geoffrey Hartman had little Jewish involvement after fleeing Nazi Germany as part of the Kindertransport to England. Instead, this Sterling professor emeritus of English and comparative literature at Yale University devoted time to establishing his reputation as a scholar of Wordsworth, Keats and the romantic poets.

It took a non-Jewish colleague, Bart Giammati, Yale’s president at the time, to re-direct Hartman’s energies to the task of elevating and expanding the Jewish studies curriculum at the university and simultaneously preserving memories of the Holocaust. In the 1980s, Hartman helped establish the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, a Yale-based collection of videotaped Holocaust testimonies he continues to head. The archive preceded Spielberg’s Shoah Visual History Foundation by more than a decade.

“I have always thought of literature as dealing with extreme situations. It wasn’t just a sense of duty that motivated me. Rather because it is a part of the human condition, the Holocaust is what the humanities should be studying. While it was a change in my direction, I felt no discontinuity,” said Hartman, who is now in his late 70s.

During a recent stay in Los Angeles as a Getty scholar, Hartman met with students of the UCLA Jewish studies program and addressed an audience comprised largely of Holocaust survivors and their families at the American Jewish University (AJU), formerly the University of Judaism.

In his talk at the AJU, given under the auspices of the Sigi Ziering Institute and titled, “Holocaust Testimony in a Genocidal Era,” Hartman touched on a number of salient contemporary issues, among them what he described as “the globalization of grief.”

“The Shoah was not the end of all genocide. Each collective trauma has its own unique character, and as long as eyewitnesses are able to testify, we must preserve their memories,” he said, adding that no one has a monopoly on suffering.

“We surely have no intention to show that Jewish suffering is special,” he said.

As Hartman began his efforts to expand teaching resources for Yale’s Judaic studies program, his wife was volunteering to help a grass-roots group in New Haven that had begun videotaping Holocaust witnesses. Founded by television journalist Laurel Vlock and Holocaust survivor Dr. Dori Laub, a psychiatrist, the Holocaust Survivors Film Project was having trouble reaching a national audience, let alone an international one.

“I was struck by the project’s relevance for education in an audiovisual age, and convinced the university to adopt the project and lend it its name and prestige,” he said.

Hartman joined with Vlock, Laub and William Rosenberg, president of the New Haven Farband and the New Haven survivors fellowship group, to expand its scope to Europe, Israel and wherever survivors could be found. Their efforts resulted in an initial collection of almost 200 videotaped testimonies, as well as the 1981 Emmy Award-winning documentary, “Forever Yesterday,” produced by New York’s WNEW.

Hartman emphasized that when gathering the testimonies, trained volunteer interviewers use no prepared set of questions and allow the survivors to speak freely for as long as they wish.

“We’re interested in their memories, not history, and we strive to cover the survivor’s life before, during and after the Holocaust. This has resulted in deeply emotional responses and adds an important sociological dimension,” he said.

With support from the Revson Foundation, Yale provided space for the testimonies, as well as technical assistance in 1981. The project received a major grant from the Fortunoff Family Foundation in 1987, and became known thereafter as the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies. While the Fortunoff grant is adequate to support the archive’s ongoing operations and maintenance, Hartman said that some $800,000 is now needed to digitize the testimonies, which were recorded more than a quarter century ago using technology that has become obsolete.

The archive currently holds more than 4,300 testimonies, comprising more than 10,000 hours of videotape. The tapes are housed at the Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University and are available to the general public.

In addition to the testimonies available through the Fortunoff archive, as well as USC’s Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education, Hartman believes the proliferation of genocide documentaries and docudramas have value in educating people about the Holocaust and other examples of genocide. But he cautioned that there is also the danger that showing so much violence tends to create a sanitizing effect.

He said that some survivors who reacted to those depictions have said, “First we were killed and now they’re taking our stories away.”

For more information call (203) 432-1879 or visit

A Year to Remember

I once had a history teacher who was ambivalent about dates.Before a test, an anxious student would invariably ask whether we’d need to remember what year an event happened.

He’d wave off the question, “Just remember the big ones.”

Don’t you get the feeling 2003 will be a Big One?

Every generation believes it is witness to momentous times.That desire accounts for people at the fringes who forecast the imminent end ofthe world — then are forced to readjust their predictions when, say, 2000 cameand went like lunchtime.

But it also accounts for the rest of us who smirk whenreciting the Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times,” certain that,as opposed to the Chinese guy who came up with the phrase, ours really areinteresting times.

Even those of us who don’t stand asteroid watch sense thatthe world has been spinning faster since Sept. 11, 2001. “I rise to issue a warning and sound the alarm to you, my dear congregation,” Rabbi JacobPressman of Temple Beth Am said in his Rosh Hashana sermon this year. Afterspeaking of the ominous clouds gathering over the heads of American Jewry, herevealed that his words, which rang true on Rosh Hashana 2002, were firstspoken by his rabbi on the first day of Rosh Hashana — 1938.

Indeed, 2003 looks like it could be, if not, heaven forbid,1939, then a date up there with the big ones. Consider:

The Second Gulf War — It’s not if, it’s when.

President Bush and his advisers see the fall of SaddamHussein as the key to democratization throughout the Mideast — the dominoeffect, with us pushing the first tile. Others say the president’s motivationis cheap oil. And Bush himself says it’s because Saddam is a weapon of massdestruction waiting to happen. All three motivations are no doubt at work,though in what proportion who can say.

War will bring havoc, but how much and to whom no one canpredict. Remember Gulf War syndrome? The burning oil fields? The Scuds? Theineffectual Patriot missile batteries? The chaotic and ill-informed end, whenwe deserted Saddam’s opposition to face his wrath? We will likely not facethose catastrophes again, but there will be new and unpredicted ones.

Israel — This week the Quartet pushed forward a Mideastpeace plan that outlines in relative detail the steps Israel and the Palestiniansmust take to disengage their forces. The plan will not go into effect untilafter Israel’s elections on Jan. 28, and even then it is predicated on thePalestinians adhering to a cease-fire and Israel suspending the growth of itssettlements. The former is something the various Palestinian factions have beenunwilling to do; the latter something the Israelis went on doing through everygovernment, including Ehud Barak’s.

During the Second Gulf War, Israel will face a far greaterthreat than will the United States. After the Second Gulf War, America, havingput its soldiers on the line in eradicating one of Israel’s greatest enemies,might come calling to cash in big chits. Until then, there is little sign thatthe terror and retaliation will cease.

The Economy — The lean times are upon us  with a vengeance.The California budget deficit of $34.8 billion (and ticking) will necessitateacross-the-board cuts in social services. Combine these with a failinghealth-care system, increased public expenditures on security needs and lowercharitable giving due to a slack economy, and the scope of the crisis seemshistoric.

The Other Shoe — This is the unpredictable lurking behindthe unknowables. To hear many of our own elected officials tell it, anothermajor terror attack is inevitable. I’m still not certain what they expect us todo with that information, other than remember not to vote them out of officeafterward for not warning us — should they or we be around for the afterward.

Graded on a curve, of course, we have much less reason forfear and foreboding than most people in the world, or, for that matter, thanmany people in our city. We are not an Iraqi mother waiting for the bombs tofall, an African teenager dying of AIDS, an Israeli father maimed by a suicideattack or an Angeleno sleeping on the streets these winter nights.

Many of us would do well to focus more on these people’sworries than our own, not just to improve our perspective but to improve ourworld. If we can’t worry any less, let’s give more — there’s one response to aworld that feels slated to go awry. Few of us can jump on the levers of power.Most of us have to choose in much, much smaller ways whether or not to be oneof the bright spots in a dark year. History may prove that 2003 was America’sdarkest hour, or its brightest.

As essayist Louis Menand reminds us, never “worry about whatfuture historians will think of us: they’ll despise us no matter what. It’swhat we think of us that we need to be concerned with.”

Happy New Year.