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NYC Battles Ultra-Orthodox on Modesty Signs

Meanwhile an Etsy vendor in Israel puts similar messages to fashionable use

Rachel Silberstein
October 02, 2013

New York City will face off in court with seven Williamsburg store owners in January over signs barring entrance to those who are immodestly dressed, Gothamist reports.

The NYC Commission on Human Rights seeks to fine Ultra-Orthodox shopkeepers for posting signs with messages such as “Entrance here only for those with modest attire. No Shorts, No Barefoot, No Sleeveless, NO Low Cut Neckline ALLOWED IN THIS STORE,” charging that the signs are discriminatory towards women and the secular population.

In response, store owners argue that the signs do not single out women, a legally protected class in New York City, but apply to men as well. Jay Lefkowitz, the lawyer representing the shops, told the New York Post, “Frankly, it’s very troubling that the commission thinks it’s OK for the Four Seasons restaurant to impose a dress code, but not a bakery owned by a Hasidic businessman.’’

Meanwhile, one “Daughter of Israel” has found a creative new way to appropriate the modesty messages she’s seen plastered on the walls of Jerusalem’s Haredi neighborhoods, turning it into a fashion statement—and a feminist one to boot. Etsy vendor Joane Ginzberg, who describes herself as a Jerusalem-residing mother of seven and graduate of Bezalel Academy of Art, mostly peddles cutesy tees-for-tots with nostalgic Hebrew sayings on them. But it is Ginzberg’s latest, adult creation that has gone viral: a black, v-neck tee emblazoned with a message in Hebrew that says “The Daughters of Israel do not dress provocatively.”

Ginzberg explains:

The Ultra-Orthodox have posters of this all over their neighborhoods in Jerusalem. They do not want Jewish girls and women to dress provocatively. This shirt was created after I was harassed in Jerusalem by some women about the way I was dressed. I forgot to wear socks. Oy Vey. I simply wasn’t covered up enough. This is kind of like a “burn your bra” statement put on the breasts of Jewish women. We should be free to choose our own clothing and dress modestly in our own personal style.

You tell ‘em, sister.

Rachel Silberstein is a writer living in New York.