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Brooklyn Bus Blues

Woman told to sit at back of Orthodox-friendly bus

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It looks like Brooklyn’s B110 bus has some explaining to do. Last week, Melissa Franchy rode the bus at the request of Columbia Journalism publication the New York World, and was quickly told she had to move to the back as more passengers boarded. This bus, which is mainly used by Orthodox travelers, enforces gender segregation by requiring women to sit at the back. The New York World reports:

They were Orthodox Jews with full beards, sidecurls and long black coats, who told her that she was riding a “private bus” and a “Jewish bus.” When she asked why she had to move, a man scolded her.

The driver, the article states, did not intervene. The World explains further:

The B110 bus travels between Williamsburg and Borough Park in Brooklyn. It is open to the public, and has a route number and tall blue bus stop signs like any other city bus. But the B110 operates according to its own distinct rules. The bus line is run by a private company and serves the Hasidic communities of the two neighborhoods. To avoid physical contact between members of opposite sexes that is prohibited by Hasidic tradition, men sit in the front of the bus and women sit in the back.

According to the New York Post, “Signs written in Hebrew and English direct women to use the back door during busy times.”

What remains to be determined, and likely will be—the Department of Transportation has launched an investigation—is whether a private bus company that provides a public service (and pays the city to do so) largely serving a religious community is exempt from anti-discrimination laws.

Women ride in back on sex-segregated Brooklyn bus line [New York World]
‘Back of bus’ furor [NYP]

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Here are some comments from the Chasidic community about this story – note it is erev yom tov so there will not be many:

http://www.vosizneias.com/93268/2011/10/19/brooklyn-ny-feds-investigate-borough-park-williamsburg-bus-for-forcing-woman-to-sit-in-back

It would be in California. (Civil Code § 51.) I’d be surprised if NY doesn’t have a similar law.

Patsy Pumpkinhead says:

I find the comments fascinating. The men say no one is being forced to, you will just be asked to go to the back. Whilst the women point out the men stare at them, there are no seats in the back of the bus, they are not helped when carrying children, prams, shopping, etc.. I am confident in my assumption that, should a woman rebel, she would be treated with distain, insulted, and bullied for not conforming. The rules are not enforced by violence, but by worst, more insiduous tactics. This is not freedom, and this is not equality and you should be ashamed.

Michael in Ohio says:

Um, why do I get the impression she was looking for trouble?

“Last week, Melissa Franchy rode the bus at the request of Columbia Journalism publication ‘the New York World’, and was quickly told she had to move to the back as more passengers boarded.”

I guess she found what she was looking for. Seems somewhat a provocateur, IMO.

LaloGarcia says:

I’m pretty sure this bus intended for the Jews but also serves the public is not a new thing. Probably it’s been in effect for years. Now, if it’s exempt or not is something that should of been decided before it was allowed to run! Second, rules are rules! People need to abide by the rules and be happy. Question; does sitting in back keep you from your destination? Maybe this Jewish bus shouldn’t serve the public if the public doesn’t understand the Jewish community!

The fact that the bus runs as part of a public service where you use the same metrocard as for all other public transportation in NYC means this is outrageously illegal. I am Jewish and I understand that the hasidic community has its own norms that are derived from Jewish law but in the United States, religion and state are separated and they have no right to do this. If they want to continue with this service as a private service, where you cannot use your Metrocard, then that’s fine — I still do not agree with it, but I do not need to participate in a service I disagree with (not that I would be welcome anyway).

Public observer says:

This is an egregious infringement of constitutional, not to mention human rights. This is no more appropriate than would be the application of sharia law. All religious laws have no place in the public sector. And, when they come into conflict,as does this case, public, civil law must prevail

So what!In 2011 the fact that men don’t want to be tempted by women, who in most places routinely dress with their cleavage and other body parts is full view, should be a reason to stand up a cheer. The chassidim want to protect their spritural purity at the deepest level. That means that during intimacy with their wives (because those are the only ones they are intimate with) they don’t want to even think of other women. Rather than making them the butt of our jokes these people deserve the greatest respect for resisting our society’s rampant sexualization.

Adam Herbst says:

Here is the upshot – the Department of Transportation will crack down and see that the rules are enforced. A new, independent bus line (that won’t run afoul of DoT rules) will be created and the Orthodox men who see a benefit not having to sit next to women will use that line. The MTA has dropped lots of bus lines in the past few years and with the drop in usage the B110 will be one of them. Finally, the losers here will be the women who used the B110 because they will no longer have a nearby bus to use and will have to walk further to catch another bus.

I’m just saying this is what I think will happen. Not whether it is good that a bus company disobeys the law to cater to a religious minority or that a Columbia grad student writes a column.

JCarpenter says:

Love your neighbor—unless she is a vile woman, of course.

Bible Belt Balabusta says:

Wouldn’t the sign be in English and Yiddish, not English and Hebrew?

george says:

regarding the b10 bus. i have riden this route many times when in boropark. i am thankfull for the seperation as it allows me as an orthodox jew to avoid any acidental contact with a woman im not married to. the bus was desined for the chasidic comunity. but has allways alowed any one to ride

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Brooklyn Bus Blues

Woman told to sit at back of Orthodox-friendly bus

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