11 October 2011
Yet another example of entrenched sexism within religion....and a failure to understand what "freedom of speech" actually means. Originally published in the New York Daily News: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/brooklyn/2011/10/11/2011-10-11_city_in_signoff_removal_of_posts_irks_hasid_nabe.html
City workers have removed signs warning women in a Hasidic neighborhood in Brooklyn to step aside for men.
But the Parks Department says the teardowns in South Williamsburg had nothing to do with the message itself; it's just illegal to post signs on street trees.
"We do not know who put up the signs," said Parks spokeswoman Trish Bertuccio.
The large signs started popping up in the neighborhood more than a week ago. They had a Yiddish message that translates as: "Precious Jewish daughter, please move to the side when a man approaches."
Neighborhood residents were annoyed the plastic signs, which were bolted into the wood, were taken away.
"The signs don't bother anybody," said Abraham Klein, 18. "Men and ladies don't go together. It's just our religion."
Faye Grwnfeld, 70, said the signs were "a private thing" - even though they were posted on public property.
"It's taking away freedom of speech," she said.
The signs didn't indicate who put them up, but talk in the neighborhood suggested they were posted by a hard-line rabbinical group.
Deborah Feldman, an ex-Hasid and author of "Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of my Hasidic Roots," said no one in the neighborhood, where she once lived, would have been surprised by the signs.
"This is standard practice in Hasidic communities all over: Step aside when a man is approaching you from the opposite direction," she said.
She said the signs likely were posted as part of a crackdown on rebellious behavior by women.
"It's a way of the community reminding people to stay in line, so to speak," she said.
Feldman noted that similar signs can be seen in Hasidic strongholds like upstate Kiryas Joel and New Square - and they didn't make the papers like the ones in Williamsburg did.
"This is nothing new. It's getting attention because it's Brooklyn, and Williamsburg is no longer an isolated bubble," she said.