Sunday, July 22, 2012

When Old World and New World Values Clash

Today the New York Post published an article about 'outrage' at some businesses in Hasidic neighborhoods asking customers to observe modesty guidelines. "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." You don't say? Posting the Hasidic equivalent of a 'No shirt, no shoes, no service' sign in a store is now the same as forcing non-Jews to eat kosher, observe shabes and dress modestly all the time? Or, alternatively, the New York Post has just unloaded a pile of anti-Semitic garbage on the reading public.

Let's unpack, shall we?

As we all probably know, the encroachment of hipsters, or, artistn, as the Hasidim call them in Yiddish, onto the Hasidic section of Williamsburg has sparked any number of uncomfortable encounters between the two groups. Hasidim want to maintain communal separation at all costs. They value modesty and group coherence, things not so fashionable in American mainstream culture, and certainly not so popular among the young, liberal, and at leisure. To what extent are the artistn obligated to tolerate intolerance, especially the perceived intolerance of the Hasidim who are their neighbors (and often landlords)? 

These are certainly legitimate questions and there are times when some parts of the Hasidic community have pushed too far, as in the illegal sex-segregation of the B110 bus line, a privately operated bus route awarded to them by the government.

For some reason, however, the Post has taken a hodgepodge of issues and incidents and cooked up something which isn't just bad journalism, but reeks of bad intentions.

The story here is the 'outrage' of non-Hasidic customers at Hasidic businesses which have taken to posting signs saying "No Shorts, No Barefoot, No Sleeveless, No Low Cut Neckline Allowed in the Store." Just like the signs you see pretty much everywhere saying 'No shirt, no shoes, no service.' The signs in the Hasidic stores go an extra step in accordance with the modesty norms already practiced by their community.

It is perfectly legal to post (and enforce) dress requirements for a private business, as long as the owners are not discriminating against a protected class. The Post even points this out: "City lawyer Gabriel Taussig said the signs appeared kosher, provided they don’t “impermissibly discriminate based upon gender, religion or some other protected class.”

OK... then nobody's actually doing anything illegal. So, where's the outrage? Where are all the customers in Daisy Dukes  humiliated and thrown out of stores up and down Lee Ave?

"When a Post reporter visited Lee Avenue in a sleeveless dress, some store owners stared at her shoulders, while others refused to look her in the face."


Wait, what? That's it? Surely, there must be stories of customers being turned away, scorned, yelled at for flaunting their sexy, sexy shoulders, no?

Um, no. All the Post's got is a couple of hipsters miffed that their right to 'bare arms' (herp derp) might possibly be infringed in a perfectly legal way. This possibility is too terrible to bear without calling the white knights at the Post to the rescue:

“Religious freedom is one thing, but we do not have the right to enforce our beliefs on someone else,” charged Bob Kim, 39, comfy in tight jeans and a T-shirt.
“Why should they be able to say that on their signs? It’s not OK,” added Hana Dagostin, 32, wearing a sleeveless top.
“People should be able to wear what . . . makes them comfortable,” said Fabian Vega, 34, also wearing shorts and a T-shirt.
D'ja here that, Hasidim? Bob, Hana and Fabian want to be comfortable. It's hot as balls out here in Williamsburg.  Not everyone is happier wearing 3 pounds of beaver fur on their heads all summer. Why do you want Bob, Hana and Fabian to be so hot? Why do you hate freedom, Hasidim? Why so fucking un-American, Hasidim?

See, there's no story there. No one was even refused service (as far as the Post is reporting.) Since there's no actual story, the writers at the Post have no choice but to throw together a bunch of unrelated incidents (some legal and some not) and smear them all by association. What do the B110 bus, the air brushing of Hillary Clinton in the Yiddish papers and the bike lane kerfuffle have to do with the perfectly legal actions of some Hasidic business owners?  How can a legitimate journalist honestly imply that there is something sinister about the community run Shomrim and Hatzolah? They can't, because to do so would be dishonest and a gross violation of journalistic ethics. The whole thrust of the article isn't to call attention to a real injustice but to sensationalize and exploit the differences between those funny looking Jews (with intolerable values) and their neighbors.

Which is why this article needs to be called out as some straight-up anti-semitic bullshit. The writers take minimally related incidents, wrap them around a non-story, and juxtapose THAT with quotes from experts suggesting (and stating) that the Hasidim of Williamsburg are "dangerous for tolerance.... and dangerous for peace." The odious (and unaccountable) "some people" are called in to claim that the Hasidic store policies are "un-American." Jesus Christ. What, did they edit out "rootless cosmopolitans" for word length? I mean, were "fifth column" or "dirty fucking Jews" not appropriate for a family paper like the New York Post? Why the hell did the legal actions of some store owners become an excuse for inexcusable race-baiting?

The New York Post, and its writers Gary Buiso and Kate Briquelet, need to re-think their casual anti-Semitism real quick. And they better remember that Jews read the paper on Sunday, too.


  1. i agree w/ rokhl. sounds perfectly legal what the Hasidim are doing. (and I'm no lawyer, so I know what I'm talking about.)

    Decades ago, a Cleveland restaurant had a sign "no blue jeans." I thought it was stupid -- the sign -- but, hey, totally legit. I didn't patronize the place.

    I like the new signs in my 'hood that say "No saggy pants, hats or white t-shirts." The black club owners put these signs up. Interesting.

  2. What a disgusting blog post. Aside from being terribly written, it makes my skin crawl. There is so much wrong with it I barely know where to start.

    First, the cry of anti-Semitism every time someone disagrees with chasidim is getting really old really fast. Second, are they really calling for people to tolerate their intolerance? Why should anyone extend them a courtesy they are unwilling to extend to others?

    Third, chasidim are waging war on the outside world. They see Williamsburg as "theirs" and see the hipsters as "encroaching" on their home. Have they forgotten that they're basically immigrants? They're third generation Americans at most. Some of the hipsters' ancestors came to America on the Mayflower. So what gives them the right to claim Williamsburg for themselves?

    Fourth, the signs are probably not illegal. There are other things chasidim are doing that are unquestionably illegal (welfare fraud etc) but this one happens not to be, as despicable as it is. That doesn't mean it's right though. And just as chasidim have the right to put up the signs, others have the right to complain about them if they wish. Where's the story?? Really? This is the latest front in the chasidic takeover.

    Fifth, the chasidic value of intolerance IS un-American. No one is asking chasidim to change their way of life. They can wear their fur hats and bullet proof stockings. They can keep popping out babies with reckless abandon. They can speak only Yiddish and keep to themselves. But it would behoove them to at least make a show of trying to be nice to their neighbors who have the same rights they do if they want others to respect their rights.

    As an aside, it's kind of ironic that you're defending chasidim while cussing. Not exactly great middos to say the least.

    1. Regardless of whatever the original blogpost said, the above comment is filled with the most vile kind of hypocrisy, nativism and racism that I have read in quite some time. Let's make it illegal for anyone without the requisite Mayflower yichus to express their opinions, speak a language other than English or wear clothes sold anywhere other than the GAP, shall we? Because those first "Americans" were really such a bunch of culturally tolerant people to begin with, weren't You talk of middos, which would imply you might be Jewish or even, G-t zol ophitn, a self-hating ex-khosid yourself. All the Jews in the United States are immigrants by your definition then, yes? Are you volunteering for deportation? Because I would be grateful if you, Jewish or non-Jewish, stopped treating this country as though it were "yours," you who are afraid of the invasion of the immigrants and the people who look different than yourself.

      "Chasidic takover"? "They can keep popping out babies with reckless abandon."? Do I even need to dignify this revolting racist bullshit hidden behind the the proud nom de guerre of "Anonymous"? If I were to replace the word "chasidim" in your comments with Latinos or Blacks, I would hear no end to what kind of awful and disrespectful American I was.

      And how dare you condemn Rokhl for "cussing" when you talk about Hasidim as though they were animals, an encroaching disease or at very best some sort of human filth? And you think _she_ is being ironic.

  3. Miss Anonymous, your points have a few problems.
    Point 1. The blog post does not cry Anti Semitism for a critique of Chasidim. It points out that in this case, the net result of reporting such a non story is Anti Semitic, because it makes the issue about the "otherness " of Chasidim, rather than an actual legal or moral question, and it does this with no attempt at understanding the issue from their point of view.
    Point 2. Merely asking people to dress a certain way in a private establishment is not intolerance. Someone would actually have to force someone to leave the store, or forbid entry forcefully, for that spectre to even be raised. Get over yourself, hipsters are not a protected class, and they are certainly not persecuted. Although they should be, on aesthetic grounds at the very least.
    Point 3. Well, Misha addressed this rather well. Really???? They see Williamsburg as theirs? How silly. They see their stores as theirs. Which, of course, they are. Your comments about the Mayflower and third generation Americans are beneath contempt. If you don't know that, I cannot help you.
    Point 4. Now what you have here is a classic case of what magicians call "misdirection." You get us to look over at the illegal things Chasidim do, draw a difference in this case, but make sure we have in the back of our minds the fact that Chasidim are lawbreakers, not really part of good upstanding American society, they are evil, conniving ....hmmm....let's think of a word.....kikes. You see, this is what the blog is saying. Making the story about otherness and difference, rather than about some legitimate complaint is what leads to an anti Semitic result, which you successfully achieved yourself in points 3 and 4. As far as the rest of point 4, you are almost correct. The Chasidic store owners are not doing anything illegal. At this point, had you, or for that matter the hipsters in the story said, "Well gosh, I guess I just wont shop there," there would not be a story at all. And that would have been a legitimate, and may I say, American response. Store owner does something I dont like, I dont shop there.
    Point 5. You seem to think that being nice to your neighbors means that when they do something odious to you, you merely accept it. NOw, I am not a big believer in the Chasidic concept of sexuality and temptation, which is derived largely from Kabbalistic teachings and R' Nachman. But they take this stuff seriously, and are entitled to draw lines in places where they have a say. I think its bit much, but it is certainly no cause for cries of injustice, and the remedy they seek does not impose any kind of undue burden on people. You have a right to dress as you want, and a private store has a right to say, not in my store, where saying so does not constitute some kind of infringement on a civil right.
    I think there is more at play here, by the way, but that would require me to do exactly what the Post story and you do and draw sweeping conclusions about the problems and motivations of an entire group.