Friday, October 28, 2011

NYC Threatens To Shut Down Segregated Orthodox Jewish Bus Line

At issue is the B110 bus, which runs through the heavily Orthodox Jewish sections of Brooklyn
The bus requires that women sit in the back.

Now New York City wants to close the Orthodox bus line for requiring men and women to sit separately:
The city is now threatening to shut down the route if the carrier, Private Transportation Corporation, doesn’t stop its practice of segregating passengers based on sex.


The New York World, which broke the story on Tuesday, recounts the experience of passenger Melissa Franchy, who boarded the bus on October 12 and took a vacant seat near the front. Franchy claims she was immediately warmed by curious glances from the men on the bus, all wearing full beards and long black coats.

When the vehicle began to fill, one of the men rose and told her she would need to move to the back, adding that the B110 is a “Jewish bus.” When she inquired why she had to move, the man responded sternly, “If God makes a rule, you don’t ask ‘Why make the rule?’”

After the World story ran, the New York Post got in on the action. The paper dispatched one of its photographers to Williamsbug, one of the two Hasidic communities serviced by the line, and instructed her to refuse to change seats. She did. Like clockwork, the driver told her the bus would not budge until she moved to the “non-reserved” section at the back. At the time, the vehicle was half-empty.

Yesterday, Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan (a woman yet!) fired off a letter to Jacob Marmurstein, reminding him that his comapny's franchise agreement with the city prohibits discrimination “based on race, creed, color, national origin, sex, age, handicap, marital status, or real or perceived sexual orientation.”

The letter further warned that if the company continued its discriminatory practice, the city would terminate the agreement.
To hear The Forward tell it--the Ultra-Orthodox are out to take over:
Orthodox individuals interviewed by the Forward insisted they were hewing to age-old traditions by separating men and women in public spaces. But outside observers said that the gender segregation on city buses — as well as other recent incidents — pointed to the fact that sex separation in the Haredi world has become more entrenched in recent years. What’s more, they say, by taking these practices from private worship halls and extending them into public spaces like buses and streets, the ultra-Orthodox community is asserting itself in new ways, staking its claim as a cultural force of American life.

“What is special about this isn’t the segregation of sexes, but the segregation in the public domain,” said Samuel Heilman, a sociologist at Queens College who has written extensively on the ultra-Orthodox. “That didn’t happen before. They separated men and women, but they would have never thought to do it on turf that isn’t completely theirs. They are saying, ‘We own the street, we own the bus, we own the public square.’”
Funny--we don't seem to hear about the same amount of pushback when Muslims assert their beliefs.
Maybe this signals a new attitude.
Then again, maybe it signals the same old double standard.

Anyway, according to The New York Post, the bus company which runs the Williamsburg-to- Borough Park B110 bus has written a letter to the Department of Transportation promising to instruct its drivers not to move women to the back.

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