Hasids on Bikes
Why was prison-bar mitzvah chaplain meeting with City Hall?
Last Thursday, the New York Post broke the story of Tuvia Stern, an ultra-Orthodox inmate at the Manhattan lockup known as the Tombs, who somehow managed to host a kosher bar mitzvah reception for his son and some 60 guests in the prison gymnasium. In the days since, the Post and other city dailies have breathlessly reported on the fallout—and written some delicious headlines in the process (“Bars Mitzvah,” “Bagels and Locks,” “Kosher Kings”). Today’s stories focus on Leib Glanz, the prison chaplain and Satmar Hasid who seems to have made the party possible. He has resigned (“RAB-BYE,” screamed the Post), but the plot continues to thicken. Today’s Times reports that official calendars show three meetings between Glanz and deputy mayor Kevin Sheekey in the closing months of 2008. Asked what the meetings were about, the mayor’s chief spokesman, Stu Loeser, cited what the Times calls “community issues.” Like the creation of bike lanes on the Brooklyn waterfront, he said.
Now, as anyone who has tried to ride a bike while wearing an ankle-length caftan can attest, Hasidim are not big cyclists. If Glanz was indeed talking about bike lanes with the mayor’s office, it wasn’t about creating them, as the mayor’s office seems to be suggesting, but keeping them outside an ultra-Orthodox enclave. Scantily clad cyclists were making the community uncomfortable, Hasidic leaders told the Post last fall.
Rerouting the flow of civic life in order to satisfy the demands of an influential splinter group—sounds like the recipe for a jailhouse bar mitzvah.