Women Getting Rosa Parks Treatment in Brooklyn

This is actually about a month old and it’s already been reversed, but it’s still worth calling attention to an appalling situation that was going on in Brooklyn, where an Orthodox Jewish community was forcing women to sit in the back of city buses for religious reasons.

On the morning of October 12, Melissa Franchy boarded the B110 bus in Brooklyn and sat down near the front. For a few minutes she was left in silence, although the other passengers gave her a noticeably wide berth. But as the bus began to fill up, the men told her that she had to get up. Move to the back, they insisted.

They were Orthodox Jews with full beards, sidecurls and long black coats, who told her that she was riding a “private bus” and a “Jewish bus.” When she asked why she had to move, a man scolded her.

“If God makes a rule, you don’t ask ‘Why make the rule?’” he told Franchy, who rode the bus at the invitation of a New York World reporter. She then moved to the back where the other women were sitting. The driver did not intervene in the incident.

The B110 bus travels between Williamsburg and Borough Park in Brooklyn. It is open to the public, and has a route number and tall blue bus stop signs like any other city bus. But the B110 operates according to its own distinct rules. The bus line is run by a private company and serves the Hasidic communities of the two neighborhoods. To avoid physical contact between members of opposite sexes that is prohibited by Hasidic tradition, men sit in the front of the bus and women sit in the back.

It doesn’t matter that it was run by a private company, it was providing a public service and being paid with public money. And this is blatantly illegal. And it turns out this has been going on for at least two years because a local group of rabbis declared that it should be so:

Further, the bus company’s board of consulting rabbis directed that male passengers occupy the front of the bus and females the back. When a bus driver attempts to service an overflow of passengers, men and women are unacceptably intermingled. Accordingly, when buses are full, the board of rabbis has directed that buses not stop for additional passengers.

Absolutely disgusting. The bus company has now reversed itself as a result of the bad publicity, but that may not be the end of it. Even without an official rule from the company there will almost certainly be coercion to force women to ride in the back of the bus. These are highly insular communities that really do believe that they are commanded by God to enforce such medieval rules and I predict there will be all sorts of intimidation going on in lieu of official enforcement of those rules.

This is the same town, after all, that had street signs that ordered “precious Jewish daughters” to move to the side when a man walks by on the sidewalk. And when the city forced them to remove those signs, many of the local residents claimed that this violated their liberty!

23 comments on this post.
  1. Aquaria:

    The sexism in Judaism is astounding. Take a look at this, from the Jewish 101 site, about the role of women in Judaism (http://www.jewfaq.org/women.htm):

    Because women are not required to perform certain mitzvot, their observance of those mitzvot does not “count” for group purposes. Thus, a woman’s voluntary attendance at daily worship services does not count toward a minyan (the 10 people necessary to recite certain prayers), a woman’s voluntary recitation of certain prayers does not count on behalf of the group (thus women cannot lead services), and a woman’s voluntary reading from the Torah does not count towards the community’s obligation to read from the Torah. The same is true of boys under the age of 13, who are not obligated to perform any mitzvot, though they are permitted to perform them.

    In addition, because women are not obligated to perform as many mitzvot as men are, women are regarded as less privileged. It is in this light that one must understand the man’s prayer thanking G-d for “not making me a woman.” The prayer does not indicate that it is bad to be a woman, but only that men are fortunate to be privileged to have more obligations. The corresponding women’s prayer, thanking G-d for making me “according to his will,” is not a statement of resignation to a lower status (hardly an appropriate sentiment for prayer!) On the contrary, this prayer should be understood as thanking G-d for giving women greater binah, for making women closer to G-d’s idea of spiritual perfection, and for all the joys of being a woman generally.

    The second thing that must be understood is the separation of men and women during prayer. According to Jewish Law, men and women must be separated during prayer, usually by a wall or curtain called a mechitzah or by placing women in a second floor balcony. There are two reasons for this: first, your mind is supposed to be on prayer, not on the pretty girl praying near you. Second, many pagan religious ceremonies at the time Judaism was founded involved sexual activity and orgies, and the separation prevents or at least discourages this. Interestingly, although men should not be able to see women during prayer, women are permitted to see men during prayer. This seems to reflect the opinion that women are better able to concentrate on prayer with an attractive member of the opposite sex visible.

  2. Trebuchet:

    No doubt the second class status of women in Judaism is at least partly the source of similar discrimination in Christianity and Islam.

  3. jimaido:

    Looks like they may not have changed the policy after all.
    http://failedmessiah.typepad.com/failed_messiahcom/2011/11/hasidic-bus-company-uses-yiddish-to-illegally-order-passengers-to-segregate-by-gender-678.html

  4. fastlane:

    So, if it’s only about not mixing, why don’t the men ride in the back and women ride in the front?

    Surely that would be just as equitable, and serve the same purpose. Maybe, just maybe, it’s more about ‘keeping women in their place’? [/Captain Obvious]

  5. freemage:

    My reaction to this story is the same as when it first came out: Sounds like a great neighborhood for a Slutwalk (Slutride?). A bunch of women, wearing as little as they feel comfortable with, mingling at all points on the bus with the menfolk. No deliberate contact (there is a consent issue there, much as I’m mentally amused by the notion of one of these guys reacting to a deliberate butt-grind), but neither take extraordinary steps to avoid it, either–it’s something that WILL happen on a moving bus.

  6. reverendrodney:

    This is happening to women in Jerusalem, Israel.
    see: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/45290450/ns/world_news-mideast_n_africa/t/women-fight-back-bus-battle-jerusalem/

    We are fortunate to have the 1st Amendment!

  7. ashleybell:

    It’s actually a health issue. The orthodox Jewish tradition forbids the peer to peer innoculation against cooties by fellow 2nd grade boys. The famous “cootie shot”(a vicious punch to the arm that raises a temporary welt)So as adults, they remain vulnerable to that devistating and heartbreaking disease…And remember. Girls ARE yukky AND gross. ewwwww

  8. tacitus:

    I actually saw this type of thing happen next to me on a flight to London a few years ago. I thought I’d lucked out because the seat next to me, on a center row of four, was the last empty seat on the plane, but just before they closed the door, an Orthodox Jewish man showed up, took one look at the seat and said “I can’t sit there” and disappeared off to find a flight attendant.

    I looked at the women who was sitting on the other side of his seat and we shrugged, having no idea what had happened, but when he came back with the flight attendant he was telling her that he had specifically asked not to be sat next to a women when he’d booked his flight.

    I was not about to give up my aisle seat for a man with religious hang ups (I’m tall and need every spare millimeter of leg-room going) and I don’t recall being asked to (which is strange, in hindsight), but there was absolutely no way he was going to sit in that seat with a woman next to him. After he went off again with the flight attendant, the woman asked me what was going on, and I explained that she was the problem.

    As it turned out, she was traveling with her son, who was in the other aisle seat, so she kindly said she would switch seats with him, and the Jewish guy’s problems were solved. (The only problem after that was that he had terrible halitosis, which made for a very unpleasant flight.)

    I don’t know what would have happened if the women has refused to budge. I guess they would have eventually found someone who wasn’t sitting next to a women who would have been willing to move into that seat. Absent that, I suspect the cabin crew would have insisted that either I or the women on the other side move, since if would have been the quickest way to get the flight off the ground, otherwise the Jewish guy’s bags would have had to have been removed from the plane since I suspect he would have gotten off the plane rather than sit next to a women.

  9. eric:

    So, if it’s only about not mixing, why don’t the men ride in the back and women ride in the front?

    Or separate the left vs. right. Or, let people sit where they want and if you don’t want to sit next to a woman, pick another seat or stand.

    Or, finally if you can’t abide women on the bus with you, don’t take the bus.

  10. bigjohn756:

    “…medieval rules…”
    These ridiculous religious ‘laws’ predate medieval times by a couple of thousand years. Yet, here we are in the 21st century being forced to adhere to such dogma because of of people who cannot drag their brains from the muck of antiquity.

  11. Aquaria:

    So, if it’s only about not mixing, why don’t the men ride in the back and women ride in the front?

    Did you read the blockquote I posted? It’s there:

    Interestingly, although men should not be able to see women during prayer, women are permitted to see men during prayer. This seems to reflect the opinion that women are better able to concentrate on prayer with an attractive member of the opposite sex visible.

    The bus seating is merely a variation on that. Seriously. The same bullshit that justifies putting women in the back of an Orthodox synagogue is the same thing that justifies putting them at the back of the bus. They’re so useless that the only way they’ll pay attention to holiness is to look at a man doing it.

  12. peterh:

    All of which shows to go ya that it’s helpful to hold the Abrahamic religions© in the lowest possible regard.

  13. slc1:

    Re tacitus @ #8

    What the pilot of the plane should have done is to tell the fucktard to either sit in the designated seat or get the fuck off the plane. Fuck his luggage. Take it off the plane at it’s destination and send it back.

  14. meg:

    Interesting, as this article showed up in our main paper in Sydney this morning:

    http://www.smh.com.au/world/when-women-and-girls-are-the-enemy-20111118-1nn4d.html

  15. tacitus:

    Fuck his luggage

    Not an option, unfortunately. The rule is there to prevent terrorists from checking bags and then not flying with the plane.

  16. LightningRose:

    “If God makes a rule, you don’t ask ‘Why make the rule?’”

    Not my fucking god!

  17. Modusoperandi:

    ‘If God makes a rule, you don’t ask ‘Why make the rule?”

    I went all through my Tanakh, and I can’t find a single mention of where women should sit on the bus. I smell something fishy.

    Fastlane “So, if it’s only about not mixing, why don’t the men ride in the back and women ride in the front?Surely that would be just as equitable, and serve the same purpose. Maybe, just maybe, it’s more about ‘keeping women in their place’?”
    If the men don’t want to mingle with women on public transit, the men can damn well walk.

  18. dingojack:

    OMG! – Creeping SHARIA!!eleventy!!
    Oh wait now… well that’s completely different, isn’t it? @@
    Dingo

  19. Aquaria:

    I went all through my Tanakh, and I can’t find a single mention of where women should sit on the bus. I smell something fishy.

    I know you like to tease, but, for those of you who want to know why some Jews do the things they do, you won’t find all of it in the Tanakh (actually, the T’orah). There are of, course the halakha (laws) from the book itself, but there also additional sources based on interpretations of the laws in the T’orah, enshrined customs and so on: the Talmud, the Shulchan Aruch, and other assorted Jewish law collections that have been practiced often for centuries, if not millennia.

    The key to all of this is Niddah, the concept that Jewish women who are menstruating or have recently given birth are “unclean” and nothing can make them clean. I realize most of you know that part, and anyone who’s read the Tanakh understands it comes from the entire book’s obsession with blood; however, laws dealing with arayos (unclean women; singular: erva) are extensive, particularly in the Even Ha’ezar.

    Certain arayos, such as married women you’re not related to/close to, can’t be looked at, technically, not even one pinkie, and looking at their clothes is also forbidden. Watching arayos doing the laundry that touches their uncleanliness is forbidden. For the khareydim, to look upon any part of them is no different from putting your face in their crotches. Even their perfume is not to be smelled, if they wear it. And so on. And on. And on.

    Hence why women you’re not permitted to look at must be behind the men whenever possible, where they can’t tempt the poor dears into being unclean. I mean, you never know when you have an erva on your hands, ready to get you unclean!

    IOW: It’s “girls have cooites” writ large.

  20. sh:

    So all Abrahamic main religions make you fear the cooties. Why are we asked to respect these religions, again…?

  21. tommykey:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, “Orthodox Judaism is a mental disorder.”

  22. LightningRose:

    Tommykey @21,

    *All* religion is delusion.

  23. fergusdk:

    I smell the creeping of mosaic law…wonder where all the fundamentalist are. They should be up in arms over this.

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