Orthodox Jews Want Dress Code


The same ultra-orthodox Jews in New York who have tried to require women to ride in the back of city buses are now trying to control how people dress when they walk into their stores, putting up signs that refuse service to anyone who wears shorts or sleeveless dresses.

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish business owners are lashing out at customers at dozens of stores in Williamsburg, trying to ban sleeveless tops and plunging necklines from their aisles. It’s only the latest example of the Hasidic community trying to enforce their strict religious laws for everyone who lives near their New York enclave.

“No Shorts, No Barefoot, No Sleeveless, No Low Cut Neckline Allowed in the Store,” declare the English/Spanish signs that appear in stores throughout the Hasidic section of the hipster haven. The retailers do not just serve Jews — they include stores for hardware, clothes and electronics…

“We have our way of life, and this is the way we want everyone to respect that,” said Shalom Cooper, a manager at Glauber’s Cuisine on Division Avenue.

Orthodox men typically wear suits and black hats in public, while women dress in long-sleeved blouses and below-the-knee skirts.

“We’re not concerned about the way women dress in Manhattan — but we are concerned with bringing 42nd Street to this neighborhood,” said Mark Halpern, who is Orthodox and lives in Williamsburg.

It’s a good thing these are Jews rather than Muslims. If they were Muslims, Pam Geller would be screaming about the imposition of Sharia law.

Comments

  1. lynxreign says

    If they’re successful enough, perhaps they’ll run themselves out of business. The most likely response isn’t people dressing they way they’re told, it is that they lose customers. It’d be nice if the market works the way it is supposed to for a change.

  2. Ava, Oporornis maledetta says

    This isn’t to do with clothing, but here in Newton, Mass. there was once a Hasidic deli. A prominent sign on its door said that no one entering should have any chocolate or anything with milk products on their persons. (Separation of meat and milk.) If you had anything with any dairy products in your tote, pocket, etc., you were supposed to get rid of it. I always wondered, what were they going to do to enforce this–pat people down?

  3. slc1 says

    Wait a minute here. Many restaurants especially in recreation areas impose dress codes on their customers. How is this different from what these folks are doing?

  4. says

    Yeah, you’d really have to be selling something that people can’t get anywhere else. I mean, hardware?…Electronics. Uhhh. Best Buy anyone?

  5. frog says

    Question one: does this qualify as religious discrimination? They’re not requiring that customers be Jewish, only that they dress in a particular way. No one’s religion requires them to dress in shorts and tank tops.

    Question two: If it doesn’t meet the definition of a bias against a protected group (“people in summer clothes” aren’t protected; OTOH, an asthmatic might have a creative claim), then is it illegal or a civil rights violation?

    Stupid rhetorical question: will they have someone posted at the door with a supply of long wrap-around skirts and shawls so customers can easily comply with the rules? (I saw this at a church in Malta. All knees–men’s as well as women’s–had to be covered. Wraps were supplied.)

    This is the sort of thing that may take care of itself. When one’s business starts losing money, one learns to compromise as needed.

  6. frog says

    ashleybell@6:

    It’s Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Most people don’t own cars, or if they do, they’re not moving them for anything less than a road trip or an alternate-side-of-the-street parking day.

    I imagine for the big purchases, people will take the subway and have the store deliver the item, but for a quick “I want to buy this right now,” it may be inconvenient.

    That said, a secular person who wants to open an electronics store in Williamsburg might have a golden window here…

  7. sanford says

    I would suspect these people have been there a long time and are not worried about losing any business unless this is a particularly new rule. I would assume that most of the customers are all jewish as well. It would be interesting to see what the demographics of that area are.

  8. says

    It’s a good thing these are Jews rather than Muslims. If they were Muslims, Pam Geller would be screaming about the imposition of Sharia law.

    After many years of a negative portrayal, bias Against Islam and Muslims is deeply rooted in Western minds and it will be very difficult to eliminate it, Spanish journalist Yusuf Fernandez says.

    The Islamophobia is a real problem in the Western societies, not only for Muslims but for the whole society because it is a hatred phenomenon, which is harmful for all people. Today, many politicians attack Islam and Muslims just to gain votes and in some countries girls are banned to wear headscarves at high schools or work places. Opening a mosque is also becoming more and more difficult in some countries.

    Generally speaking, the image of Muslims in Western media is very negative and poor. When Western journalists speak about any issue, they are supposed to know the issue they are writing about. But this rule is broken when they write about Islam. They can then make claims that have nothing to do with the reality of Islam and Muslims. Muslims are presented as fanatics, terrorists or backwards people. Muslim women are presented as ignorant or submissive. These so-called “experts” ignore that Islam gave many rights to the women much before the Western societies did.

    There are extremists in Europe who are staunchly opposed to multiculturalism in the continent and are not afraid of physically removing whoever they deem threatening their ideology for a consolidated Europe free of immigrants and Muslims. The most prominent example was Anders Breivik who massacred 77 people simply because they had voiced support for the people of Palestine in a demonstration.
    IA
    http://www.londonschoolofislamics.org.uk

  9. roggg says

    We have our way of life, and this is the way we want everyone to respect that

    This is where they seem a little confused. Respecting their way of life is not that same as living it. I have no problem with allowing them to cover whatever bits they are compelled to be ashamed of, but covering my shameful bits is not the same as respecting their right to cover theirs.

  10. says

    This probably is not illegal under the Civil Rights Act or under state law. But that isn’t the point of the post. The point is that if these were Muslims doing this, the whackadoodles would be screaming “Sharia law!” But these are Jews, so it’s all okay.

  11. Chiroptera says

    frog, #7: Question two: If it doesn’t meet the definition of a bias against a protected group (“people in summer clothes” aren’t protected; OTOH, an asthmatic might have a creative claim), then is it illegal or a civil rights violation?

    I don’t think that Ed was saying there is a legally actionable civil rights violation here as much as here we have another example of a religious group wants to deal with the public but only on their own terms.

    And the following may not have been Ed’s main point, but it’s a pretty good one:

    It’s a good thing these are Jews rather than Muslims. If they were Muslims, Pam Geller would be screaming about the imposition of Sharia law.

    Remember how these nuts were screaming about the imposition of Sharia law because some large food manufactures were canning soup that Muslims could eat?

  12. sqlrob says

    Question one: does this qualify as religious discrimination? They’re not requiring that customers be Jewish, only that they dress in a particular way. No one’s religion requires them to dress in shorts and tank tops.

    My religion(*) says all religious dress codes are bunk. So yeah, they are religiously discriminating.

    (*) As relates to the law, not common definition.

  13. steve84 says

    When they say “42nd Street” they refer to a former redlight district. In other words, they are calling all women prostitutes.

  14. matty1 says

    @5 I agree, aside from the religious motive and the goods being sold, both of which are irrelevant, this is no different to the common dress codes you get in restaurants and bars. Personally I avoid such places but so long as no one has to buy from them I can’t see much of an issue.

  15. eoraptor013 says

    Ed @15

    But, this is Sharia law, only the name has been changed to protect the guilty. Sharia law is directly derived from Talmudic law, with 1,200 years of nomadic goat-hearding and banditry laid on top.

  16. TGAP Dad says

    I would LOVE to go there, just to stir up some s**t! The fun part is, I wouldn’t have to do anything out of my ordinary M.O. I could just be myself, and piss them off! This could be fun! (Maybe I’ll swing by Zeeland on my way there…)

  17. whheydt says

    @ #7, Frog says:

    Question one: does this qualify as religious discrimination? They’re not requiring that customers be Jewish, only that they dress in a particular way. No one’s religion requires them to dress in shorts and tank tops.

    It would be easy enough to start one….

    As regards “dress codes”…Randall Garrett used to relate a story about an Episcopal Church just off Times Square that ran a late Saturday night mass for people working in the local entertainment industry, and they allowed the entertainers to come in their costumes. For a time, much of this entertainment was…of rather low taste. According to Randall, the following conversation took place one night:

    Verger: Madam, you cannot come into the church dressed like that.

    Topless Performer: I have a perfect right!

    Verger: Yes, ma’am, and you also have a perfect left, but you have to wear a hat.

    (True or not…I don’t know. Randall was quite the raconteur and the quickest witted person I have *ever* met.)

    –W. H. Heydt

  18. Zugswang says

    “We have our way of life, and this is the way we want everyone to respect that,”

    OK, I’ll respect it by patronizing your competition, instead.

  19. baal says

    I don’t doubt the premise that if Muslims started requiring face coverings for women to enter stores we’d hear about it in the endless litany from Faux & Fiends on the creeping sharia.

    I’m more bothered that this particular religious community (the hasidim of a certain neighborhood in NYC) is going out of its way to push the envelope of what is an acceptable imposition of their religious beliefs on everyone else. Also from that article, they have a “private police force called the Shomrim.” Yikes!

    I’m not fond of the police (anyone who reads this blog regularly already knows why) but private cops are not a solution. Last thing we want in the US are the religious based extra-judicial enforcement squads. The examples of such entities in other countries are rife and scary.

  20. says

    If they get away with this, will businesses in the South be able to start keeping blacks out again? I really don’t see how the law can allow one without allowing the other. (The rule against bare feet is a standard sanitary precaution and makes perfect sense; the rest is bigoted bullying, pure and simple.)

  21. says

    It’s infuriating, I know, but Gellar et al would merely claim that it’s okay for Orthodox Jews to do this because they aren’t bent on taking over America like the Muslims are.

  22. eric says

    slc1 and frog: IANAL but they might have a problem with the “no low-cut neckline” bit, because that part of the regulation could reasonably be construed as targeting women. “No tank-tops or low-cut necklines” would be a less sex-specific wording.

    Of course, the ‘rubber hits the road’ in enforcement. If they use this dress code to target women, then it doesn’t matter how neutrally its phrased, they are going to have a problem. Without any evidence whatsoever, I will go out on a limb and guess that they are a lot more concerned about female arms, ankles and chests than they are about male ones.

  23. MikeMa says

    Time to get a few normally outrageously clad folks to march in Williamsburg? Everyone needs shoes but the rest is up to the creativity of the wearer.

    Pam Geller is a bigot and a moron. She should own up and get on with allowing our constitution to work. Equal rights without regard for religious foolishness.

  24. jthompson says

    @baal: They’re not a private police force. They’re actual police that openly admit they’re more concerned with certain citizens than others. Which is quite a bit worse.

    Their entire website is basically a bunch of wanking over how awesome Israel is.

    http://www.nypdshomrim.org/

  25. says

    Ava, Oporornis maledetta “This isn’t to do with clothing, but here in Newton, Mass. there was once a Hasidic deli. A prominent sign on its door said that no one entering should have any chocolate or anything with milk products on their persons. (Separation of meat and milk.)”
    What about breasts? Those have milk.

    “I always wondered, what were they going to do to enforce this–pat people down?”
    I apparently already answered my own question.

    steve84 “When they say ’42nd Street’ they refer to a former redlight district. In other words, they are calling all women prostitutes.”
    So, “Stop dressing like whores, you whores!“?

  26. d cwilson says

    frog@8:

    There’s a Best Buy on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, which is just a short bus ride from Williamsburg.

  27. Larry says

    I can’t get worked up over this. Many restaurants have dress codes of various severity. “No shirt, no shoes, no service” comes to mind but some of that is health related. Upscale restaurants often require gentlemen to wear jackets. These Jews have simply extended the same concept to their stores. It doesn’t appear to be racially or gender oriented so if they want their clientele to dress in a manner they want, so be it. Its their shop. If you don’t want to obey their dress code, shop elsewhere.

  28. laurentweppe says

    The point is that if these were Muslims doing this, the whackadoodles would be screaming “Sharia law!” But these are Jews, so it’s all okay.

    No: these are Whites, so it’s all okay. The reason so many people apply double standards regarding religious rules is that they don’t evaluate these rules on their own merit but on whether they are advocated by people they see as ethnically close to them or not.

  29. frog says

    d cwilson: Yeah, but I wouldn’t cart an air conditioner home on the bus. Makes it hard to get a metrocard out. ;-)

    eric@24: Hmm, yes, the correct test would be to send a woman and a man in identical shorts and tank top to the store and see if they both get turned away, or if just she does.

  30. d cwilson says

    @frog:

    I wouldn’t call an air conditioner a “I must have it now” purchase. In fact, unless you own an SUV, you’d be better off getting it delivered no matter where you live.

  31. Matrim says

    @d cwilson> Actually, AC can be an “I must have it now” purchase. In case you haven’t noticed, summers are getting worse and longer in most places. The heat can and will kill you if you aren’t prepared. I remember the heat wave a few years back (2005 I think?) where over 10,000 French died from the heat (many people in Europe don’t have AC, they previously haven’t needed all that much).

    But, yeah, I’d probably have it delivered were it me.

  32. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    I wouldn’t call an air conditioner a “I must have it now” purchase.

    Where the hell do you live?

  33. says

    …Bare feet aren’t any less sanitary than your shoes, and are probably far cleaner anyway.

    Bare feet are prone to injury from broken glass and other debris that can end up on a store floor on any given day; therefore it makes sense to require that shoes be worn, to protect the customers and minimize liability to the businesses.

    Also, there’s a difference between a store and a restaurant, so it’s not appropriate to compare the dress codes of restaurants to those of stores. A store is a place where people go in to get certain things and then get out, while restaurants serve their customers at greater liesure; so the atmosphere maintained by a dress code is more important to a restaurant than to a store.

    Here’s a hypothetical: I live in a townhouse development where the neighborhood streets, sidewalks and all other public spaces are owned by the homeowners’ association, not by the county. Could the HOA require women to wear chadors or burqas while walking on their privately-owned streets?

  34. nrdo says

    @ jthompson, baal

    Biased much?

    I don’t see any “police that openly admit they’re more concerned with certain citizens than others” on their website. They’re a fraternal club within the NYPD just like the dozens of other groups representing religious and ethnic minorities: http://nypdcops.org/FraternalOrganizations.htm

    It’s kind of funny:
    Islamophobia = unwarranted generalizations about Muslims
    What you did = unwarranted generalizations about Jews

  35. jesse says

    (Sigh)

    Honestly, this isn’t any different from restaurants or hotels requiring certain dress codes like jackets for men.

    @Raging Bee — no it’s not the same. If they said “No gentiles allowed” it would be different. But that isn’t what they have done.

    Have you ever been to a cathedral as a tourist? You don’t go in wearing a bikini. I realize these aren’t religious institutions, they are stores, but we have a stack of non-case law saying that dress codes are OK (i.e. nobody to my knowledge has brought suit against the hotel I was in that asked me to get a dinner jacket). Is atmosphere more important to a restaurant? Yup. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be important to some other business owner.

    Your hypothetical is interesting. In a gated community of some kind what yo describe would likely be legal. It’s private property after all. You can ask people to wear certain things in your house and kick them out if they don’t comply, after all. IANAL but odds are the issue would be how much access there is to the streets and whether enforcement of such is practical. If the streets are publicly accessible then the case for requiring certain dress would be much harder to make.

    This is why I think it’ bloody stupid and wrong of the orthodox to chuck rocks at women on the public streets. (They have done this occasionally). It is well within their rights to require certain dress of people in their stores, as it’s a private business. It is not within their rights to deny service to people based on something they can’t help, like their ethnicity or sex. You can always dress differently, but you can’t alter the color of your skin or your sex (well, you can change the latter, but you get the idea).

    That’s the crux of a lot of discrimination law right there. I can’t change the fact that I am, say, black or latino, so a store can’t refuse me service. They can say “no baggy pants or hoodies” and that’s generally OK, at least legally. It isn’t always so cut and dried though; I could not have a store policy prohibiting turbans or yarmulkes, for instance, as that’s clearly targeting one group. (Unless there was some really legit safety issue, but I can’t think of one).

    Is this policy aimed at women’s clothing? Probably, but the restrictions on what men can wear are also pretty strict. (Ever wonder why they always wear black suits? Even in 90 degree weather?)

    I should say, BTW, that this kind of stuff tends to be confined to Williamsburg. The B&H store in Manhattan doesn’t do this at all and never has. And it’s run by very religious Jews. (If you’ve never been there — well, you’ll see when you step in).

  36. left0ver1under says

    This thread and others are doing naught more than pointing out the ridiculousness of trying to dictate not just to their own members, but to non-members as well. But you can bet the farm that at least *one* nutbag somewhere who will attempt to call this “anti-semitism”.

    It happened in Germany after the call to ban circumcision, and it happened after an eight year old girl in Israel was called a “slut” and a backlash ensued. Almost certainly, those pointing out this silliness will be labelled “anti-semites” as well.

  37. pwillow1 says

    Wonder what the response would be if a store posted a sign saying they refused service to customers who were too covered up. “We will not serve customers who wear any sort of head or face covering. Customers may not cover their hands or forearms and may not wear loose-fitting clothing as this mode of dress is associated with shoplifting and theft.” Just how long would it take for this business owner to get sued for religious discrimination?

  38. dingojack says

    “… but we are concerned with bringing 42nd Street to this neighborhood,” said Mark Halpern… ”

    Perhaps they’re worried that devil might drag them under by the wide lapels of their chequered coats…

    Dingo

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