New York City is all atwitter over the fact that Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota made a “faux pas” by walking into a Jewish temple with — gasp! — women with him, though it seems to me that this is entirely the wrong part of the story to focus on.
Lhota’s first blunder occurred Wednesday, as he, aides and reporters made what appeared to be an impromptu stop at Congregation Shomrei Shabbos, a small synagogue famous for holding services every 15 minutes almost around the clock.
Lhota’s entourage included his liaison to the Jewish community, Michael Fragin, a couple of women among the clutch of campaign staffers and six or seven reporters, said those who were with him. When they walked into Shomrei Shabbos, afternoon prayers were taking place in the sanctuary and the women were soon asked to leave. “The rabbi was clearly agitated and wanted the women gone,” New York Observer reporter Ross Barkan told Haaretz. “Lhota paid his respects and dropped a dollar into the donation box” and then the group left the synagogue. Lhota “didn’t seem as well briefed as he might have been” on the customs, Barkan said.
Yeah, if he had been briefed he might have — should have — stood in front of the temple and told the press that the temple’s gender segregation is unjust and absurd. After one female journalist who was with the candidate posted about it, a Jewish journalist responded to her:
One of those reporters, Erin Durkin of The Daily News, tweeted Wednesday, “Female reporters and staffers ejected from @JoeLhota4Mayor stop at Borough Park synagogue,” while her story about the incident was headlined “Joe Lhota does nothing as women with him are kicked out of Brooklyn synagogue.”
Jacob Kornbluh, a reporter for Yeshiva World News and a Borough Park resident, said he spoke to Durkin as Lhota made his way into the synagogue. “I told Erin when we entered I’m pretty sure you won’t be able to go in, you should stand by the door,” Kornbluh told Haaretz.
He added that Lhota was accompanied by female staffers and that Durkin “pushed herself in” when she saw the other women enter the temple. “Within a minute were all asked to leave because it’s disrespectful to enter with women while people are praying,” he said.
Well of course. It’s “disrespectful” to let icky women into the building while those far more important men are talking to their imaginary friend. It’s not at all “disrespectful” to women to think they’re so dirty that they can’t come in.
When asked about the incident by reporters, Lhota defended the synagogue, saying, “Throughout the Orthodox world, the Orthodox Jewish world as well as the Orthodox Muslim world, there are certain places that women are not involved in. I will not as mayor violate their First Amendment constitutional rights for their religious practices.”
That’s a non-sequitur. That they have a first amendment right to be sexist does not mean that you have to respect that or refrain from criticizing it. It’s misogyny, plain and simple. And it should be condemned by anyone who wants to hold public office.