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Could the sale of fur shtreimels be banned in New York City?

Legislation was introduced last week by Council Speaker Corey Johnson, along with five other members of the city Council, that would amend the New York City administrative code to prohibit the sale of all unused fur apparel.


Penalties for violating the proposed legislation would be up to $500 for the first violation and up to $1,500 for subsequent violations. It is unclear when the bill will come up for a vote, if at all, or if the mayor would sign it into law.

The proposed legislation has no exemption for religious garb. What that means is that the legislation would essentially prohibit the sale of shtreimels, which are worn by tens of thousands of chassidim in New York City every Shabbos and Yom Tov. Dozens of stores throughout Boro Park and Williamsburg, selling primarily shtreimels, would presumably have to close shop as well.

According to Joseph Aron, an attorney specializing in religious rights litigation, the law will be deemed constitutional absent a specific religious exception written into the law, as per Supreme Court precedent.

City Councilman Chaim Deutsch told The Jewish Press that he has spoken with Speaker Corey Johnson, as well as Council members Mark Levine and Fernando Cabrera, and that they are “on board” in creating a religious exemption to the fur ban.

In February, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal introduced state legislation that would make it unlawful to manufacture, sell, trade, give, donate, or display for sale a fur product in the State of New York, effective January 2021. The state bill also lacks an exemption for religious garb.

Similar legislation has been introduced in California, known as Assembly Bill 44. The California legislation specifically exempts “a fur product used for religious purposes.”

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