Tennessee hat shop apologizes for posting Star of David 'Not Vaccinated' patch; Jewish groups decry social media post

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A Tennessee hat seller removed an Instagram post after fueling social media controversy selling a patch that looks like the Jewish Star of David.

HatWRKS, run by hatmaker Gigi Gaskins, posted a photo of a woman wearing a bright yellow star sticker with the words: "Not Vaccinated."

Social media users responded with the hashtag #HateWorks, calling the patch anti-Semitic and "disgusting." The original Instagram post had thousands of comments before being taken down.

The Star of David has six points and is formed of two, often interlaced, equilateral triangles. Approximately 6 million Jewish people were killed in the Holocaust, when Nazis forced Jews to identify themselves by wearing a yellow six-pointed star.

The business responded with an Instagram statement defending the move:

"People are so outraged by my post? But are you outraged with the tyranny the world is experiencing? If you don't understand what is happening, that is on you not me. I pay much more respect to history by standing up with the fallen than offering silence and compliance."

In a separate Instagram post, @hatwrksnashville said it was drawing a "historical parallel to fascism," hypothetically if people start having to "show your papers" regarding vaccination.

Hatwrks later posted an apology Saturday, stating the business did not mean to "trivialize" or "disrespect" what happened during the Holocaust.

"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."

The statement added: "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."

Jewish groups slam social media post

The Tennessee Holocaust Commission responded to the original post on Saturday, calling it "horrific."

"We have seen a surge in antisemitism across the US and abroad," the commission posted on Facebook. "We must continue to speak out. Using the yellow star or any Holocaust imagery or symbols for another purpose is beyond reprehensible and a disservice to the memory of the six million Jews who were systematically murdered in the Holocaust."

The Jewish Federation & Jewish Foundation of Nashville & Middle Tennessee also responded to the controversy on social media on Sunday.

"Thank you to everyone locally and nationally who expressed collective outrage regarding the offensiveness of Nazi and Holocaust imagery to promote a political agenda here in Nashville," the foundation posted on Facebook. "This level of willful ignorance and craven cruelty is a disservice to the memory of the six million Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust."

"In the coming days, the Jewish community will continue to call on all Nashvillians, including religious, civic, business and political organizations and leaders, to work with us to make sure that our community is one of respect, love and belonging. This is a time to continue to come together as a community with positive action, to ensure that Nashville is a #NOHATE community, where everyone feels safe, welcome and included."

Stetson bows out of distribution

Calling the original Star of David post "offensive," iconic hatmaker Stetson USA announced on its Twitter account Saturday that it would stop distributing its products to the store.

"As a result of the offensive content and opinions shared by HatWRKS in Nashville, Stetson and our distribution partners will cease the sale of all Stetson products. We thank you for your continued support and patience," the post said.

Contributing: Kerri Bartlett, The Tennessean

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: COVID vaccine patch: Hat shop apologizes for Star of David post