Brooklyn, NY - Chasidic Scolds Put Williamsburg Merchants In Tough Spot
Brooklyn, NY - Under increasing pressure from local modesty squads to monitor the dress of their patrons, local Williamsburg merchants now find themselves unwitting participants in a clash between anti-discrimination laws and freedom of religion.
The NEW YORK DAILY NEWS (http://nydn.us/13srqNM) reported Thursday that merchant newcomers to Williamsburg’s Satmar Hasidic enclave are seeking legal advice on how best to deal with threats of boycotts and intimidation coming from a neighborhood group known as Va’ad Hatznius—-the ‘modesty patrol.’
According to the DAILY NEWS, Va’ad Hatznius was at it again yesterday, blanketing the area in and around a new women’s clothing store at 100 Lee Ave. with flyers calling for a boycott and a spontaneous afternoon protest.
The charges leveled by Va’ad Hatznius? The store’s big windows make the sight of women holding up dresses and picking through clothing easily accessible from the street.
Va’ad Hatznuis’ influence is felt throughout the neighborhood merchant community.
“It’s not right,” said Moshe Spira, manager of Grill on Lee, a sandwich shop a block down from the dress shop. “The man and the woman, trying to make a living for them and their family opened just days ago.”
“When we opened the store,” continued Spira, “they made a protest saying, ‘Don’t eat here.’ We were the first fast food restaurant in the neighborhood. They were saying men and women can sit together and are on the line together.”
Another merchant, Victor Klein, owner of Ice Cream House on Bedford Ave., said bearded men visited him one month after he opened demanding he put up signs telling customers how to dress.
Klein ultimately sought legal advice, asking how he could follow their orders without being sued discrimination.
These incidents have prompted a probe by New York City’s Commission on Human Rights.
“It’s a new kind of discrimination case,” said Cliff Mulqueen, the commission’s head council. “There’s a clash between anti-discrimination laws and freedom of religion.”
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