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September 25, 2016 / 22 Elul, 5776
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NY Officials Claim Chasidic Dress Code Violates Human Rights

When is a dress code legal and when it is a violation of human rights? That seems to depend on whether you are a Chasidic Jewish shop owner in New York.
Williamsburg storefront sign bans immodest attire.

Williamsburg storefront sign bans immodest attire.
Photo Credit: CBS News screenshot

New York City’s Commission on Human Rights has served notice on owners of seven Chasidic stores in Williamsburg that posting a sign that does not allow service to women with “low-cut necklines” is a violation of their human rights.

But what about all the “no shorts, no shoes, no service” signs that are a favorite among the snob crowd?

That’s okay because it is a dress code, the commission general counsel Cliff Mulqueen explained to the Jewish Week.

And prohibiting low-cut necklines is not a dress code?

Of course not, he reasons. That is a religious decree, and telling someone they have “to abide by certain rules of the Jewish faith crosses the line into [establishing] a protected class,” according to his logic.

God says that the Jews are the Chosen People, but now New York rules we are the “protected class.” Maybe human rights officials also think that the designation of a Chosen People denies human rights to others.

Regardless, a restaurant presumably can post a sign telling patrons not to enter with immodest dress without worrying about a human rights violation, but if an orthodox Jew, especially a Chasidic Jew, puts out a sign like that, he is in trouble.

The New York Post pointed out that no one really is refused service in a Chasidic-owned store because of his religion or gender. A Christian, a Muslim a Buddhist and even an atheist could enter, so long as he or she obeys the sign stating, “No Shorts, No Barefoot, No Sleeveless, No Low Cut Necklines Allowed in the Store.”

The commission last summer told the newspaper that the signs are legal, but now seven stores have been cited for violating human rights. A top law firm, Kirkland & Ellis, is representing the shop owners on a voluntary basis.

What would the city say if a snotty WASP country club were to post a sign, “No shtreimels?

It probably would say nothing because, after all, that is only a dress code.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

About the Author: Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu is a graduate in journalism and economics from The George Washington University. He has worked as a cub reporter in rural Virginia and as senior copy editor for major Canadian metropolitan dailies. Tzvi wrote for Arutz Sheva for several years before joining the Jewish Press.


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