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Brooklyn NY - Hikind: SUNY Downstate Medical Center Failing To Accommodate Religious Modesty Laws

Published on: June 30, 2011 02:54 PM
By: VIN News Staff
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Brooklyn, NY - Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) is blasting SUNY Downstate Medical Center and its physical therapy program for revoking an accommodation which had previously allowed observant Jewish women enrolled in the program to practice therapy on other women instead of on men, in keeping with the Jewish laws of modesty. Hikind notes that this accommodation will not hinder instruction in any way because there are enough students in the class of the same gender on whom to practice.

The six religious women currently affected have also been told that they must dress in tank tops and shorts during course instruction in view of the entire class. The students were not notified until after they had already registered for classes that the prior accommodations for both their dress code and their instructional practice were no longer in effect.

“What kind of chutzpah is this?” an outraged Hikind asked. “I cannot believe that we are still fighting these kinds of battles in 2011. Getting an education should not come at the expense of one’s religious tenets. It is deplorable that SUNY Downstate is trying to force these bright young women to choose between modesty and their career. We are demanding that these students immediately be granted religious accommodations.”

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Hikind is also accusing SUNY Downstate of religious discrimination in violation of New York Executive Law Sec. 296(4) which states, “It shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice for an education corporation. . . to deny the use of its facilities to any person otherwise qualified. . .by reason of his race, color, religion, disability, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, sex, age or marital status. . .”

According to an e-mail obtained by Hikind from Dr. Joanne Katz, Chair of the SUNY Downstate Physical Therapy Program, this issue has been referred to SUNY’s legal counsel.

“Shame on SUNY Downstate Medical Center and on Dr. Katz,” Hikind said. “Their lack of respect is appalling.”



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Read Comments (26)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Jun 30, 2011 at 04:01 PM cholent Says:

Just wondering.
Did these girls enter this profession thinking that they would only touch women and not men? All frum M.D.'s and paramedics touch people of the other gender. It's part of the game.
Maybe they can still become speech therapists.

2

 Jun 30, 2011 at 04:13 PM Anonymous Says:

Do these women really think they will be able to practice their profession without ever touching a man?

3

 Jun 30, 2011 at 04:37 PM Anonymous Says:

I agree with Hikind about the clothing issue but I disagree about the practice on the same gender. I personally know of a frum girl who failed the final test because she never dealt with a male patient and was too uncomfortable. While the program should generally accomodate training with same gender if possible, treating a man is different than traeting a woman given issuesof weight and flexibity etc. So women cannot be limited to training with women. Otherwise they should choose a new career.

4

 Jun 30, 2011 at 04:38 PM A Says:

Having made use of physical therapists in the past I must say that not one wore tanktops and shorts. This is a most unusual requirement and there is no reason for it.

5

 Jun 30, 2011 at 04:46 PM Anonymous Says:

As a frum nurse - I agree with number one and two's response to the aspect of this article related to touching the opposite gender. Do not get into any "medical" profession thinking you can be accommodated for this matter. One should not be allowed a degree in this field if they can not learn the differences that come in treating the build of a man vs. the build of a woman. However, I do not understand why anyone heading a PT department would want their students wearing just a tank top and shorts. It is not a professional look. I have never seen Doctors or nurses walking down a hospital corridor in a tank top and shorts. I do think they can attempt to be accommodated regarding the issue of dress.

6

 Jun 30, 2011 at 04:47 PM Hatzala Member Says:

treating is one thing which is allowed and learning is another thing if you can avoid it and stay with in your religen why not....

7

 Jun 30, 2011 at 05:04 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #6  
Hatzala Member Says:

treating is one thing which is allowed and learning is another thing if you can avoid it and stay with in your religen why not....

You are wrong. No woman becoming a Doctor, and I doubt any nurse would even consider making this request. PT, OT and Medical Assistants, Podiatrists, Eye Doctors - they are all Medical professions that require us to learn the differences that come with treating men over women. If you do not practice that way you should not be allowed a degree. I find it interesting that this comes from a Hatzalah member. In general Hatzalah requires its members in the field (as opposed to dispatch) to be male. But you have to treat both men and women and when you train you train on both men and women.

8

 Jun 30, 2011 at 05:13 PM Anoynomous457 Says:

Reply to #1  
cholent Says:

Just wondering.
Did these girls enter this profession thinking that they would only touch women and not men? All frum M.D.'s and paramedics touch people of the other gender. It's part of the game.
Maybe they can still become speech therapists.

What does one thing have to do with the other???????

9

 Jun 30, 2011 at 06:58 PM Secular Says:

Reply to #5  
Anonymous Says:

As a frum nurse - I agree with number one and two's response to the aspect of this article related to touching the opposite gender. Do not get into any "medical" profession thinking you can be accommodated for this matter. One should not be allowed a degree in this field if they can not learn the differences that come in treating the build of a man vs. the build of a woman. However, I do not understand why anyone heading a PT department would want their students wearing just a tank top and shorts. It is not a professional look. I have never seen Doctors or nurses walking down a hospital corridor in a tank top and shorts. I do think they can attempt to be accommodated regarding the issue of dress.

The tank top and shorts are to better feel and visualise and identify and treat specific muscle groups.

This is only done as part of training, not after they graduate.

10

 Jun 30, 2011 at 06:07 PM Anonymous Says:

I was a physical therapy student at Downstate Medical Center back in the 80s. At that time, I and other frum girls requested that we be accommodated about this issue and they graciously complied to our request. From what I remember, no one gave us a problem or demanded that we work with men.

11

 Jun 30, 2011 at 06:03 PM ImAJewishDoctor1 Says:

I think people are misunderstanding the article. The request for the girls to wear shorts and tank tops is during CLASS TIME. INstructors are trying to show students muscle movement which can not be seen through clothes. Obviously when performing therapy in "the real world" they WOULD NOT wear such clothes. I am a Downstate grad of the MD program. They were always accomodating for the religious Jews.

12

 Jun 30, 2011 at 07:12 PM ShmuelG Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

Do these women really think they will be able to practice their profession without ever touching a man?

Yes, apparently they do, and they are not wrong. I know ladies therapists who only serve female patients, and they have no problems to be busy as many hours a week as they wish. Needless to say, the reverse is also true; frum men and women would only go to the therapists of their own sex for PT, OT, etc. I have my dentist do hygienics for me because he doesn't employ any male hygienists (come to think of it, there are none anywhere, not a male profession, I suppose.).)

13

 Jun 30, 2011 at 07:21 PM Secular Says:

There is NO prohibition of touching the opposite gender. The prohibition is on the intent and behavior that accompanies that contact.

Mr Hikind best tread carefully. SUNY has accommodated countless doctors,nurses, and therapists for many years with regards to Sabbath and Jewish Holidays. On occasion, more accommodating than Maimonides....

14

 Jun 30, 2011 at 07:35 PM missyid Says:

Reply to #9  
Secular Says:

The tank top and shorts are to better feel and visualise and identify and treat specific muscle groups.

This is only done as part of training, not after they graduate.

The article does not specify that they are practicing on each other

15

 Jun 30, 2011 at 08:43 PM Babishka Says:

What they should do is recruit some Muslim students. Then there will be no modesty issues! BTW my daughter graduated from SUNY Downstate nursing college #1 in her class.

16

 Jun 30, 2011 at 09:08 PM tootired Says:

Most commentators misunderstood. The issue is not that these women can't touch men (as they would be required to do in the real world) but for the practice purposes they need to dress in a tank top DURING CLASS so as to emphasize the body parts affected. It's an instructional tool, not a mode of dress for therapists. The complaint is proper and accommodating this request will not infringe on their ability to become competent therapists.

18

 Jun 30, 2011 at 11:43 PM njmom Says:

i graduated from this program a few years ago, and they were super accommodating. the issue was mainly wearing tanks/shorts during class. this is necessary to see muscle groups and movements, as well as learning how to isolate and treat specific injuries that you could not see through clothing. sometimes working with each other behind a curtain was a detriment to us, because we would be isolated from the rest of the class and miss things. also our male classmates would at times be limited because if there was something interesting to show on one of us, it wasn't so simple for them to come and observe.
any PT who thinks they will only work with their own gender is insane. however, working with your male classmates feels very different than working with a patient. your classmates become your friends after spending endless hours working together. it is completely different trying to do gait training with a 250 lb man than a 110 lb girl. we all necessarily worked with the guys at times.

19

 Jul 01, 2011 at 12:13 AM Ponderful Says:

I don't understand why these girls chose this profession. In order to be the best health care provider for your patients you need to be proficient in your field. That includes the male body too. More so, it is illegal to deny care to a patient based on their gender.
When I was in school I wore a hospital gown which provided cover when the technique was not performed and was very modest.
I am quite surprised that Mr. Hikind is involved in this and so vocal too.
He is wrong, the girls are wrong.

20

 Jul 01, 2011 at 01:45 AM kishkafresser Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

Do these women really think they will be able to practice their profession without ever touching a man?

treating and practicing are 2 different things

21

 Jul 01, 2011 at 05:33 AM MBYIsrael Says:

Reply to #5  
Anonymous Says:

As a frum nurse - I agree with number one and two's response to the aspect of this article related to touching the opposite gender. Do not get into any "medical" profession thinking you can be accommodated for this matter. One should not be allowed a degree in this field if they can not learn the differences that come in treating the build of a man vs. the build of a woman. However, I do not understand why anyone heading a PT department would want their students wearing just a tank top and shorts. It is not a professional look. I have never seen Doctors or nurses walking down a hospital corridor in a tank top and shorts. I do think they can attempt to be accommodated regarding the issue of dress.

I agree. I didn't know Hooters was in the PT business. The solution can be found in the case of the basketball star and her uniform. a skin colored shirt under te tank top and longer baggy shorts with knee socks. I mean, we decided that's appropriate frum dress, didn't we. I've never had a therapist in the US or here in Israel wearing anything but scrubs or at least a lab coat over normal attire. .

22

 Jul 01, 2011 at 11:55 AM 111111 Says:

This is a clinical doctorate program. I have a family member that just graduated this program last year. The school was very accommodating to both the frum and moslem women as well as to the frum men. In fact the women were allowed to practice on other women behind a curtain. None of the graduates feel they were short-changed because of this accommodation. and while I do not know thousands of people, I personaly have never heard from anybody that because their therapist was frum they did not receive proper care. To assume they are worse than any other therapist because they are frum is ridiculous. By the way these girls usually practice at home on a male family member.

23

 Jul 01, 2011 at 01:40 PM Moser Says:

Based on the quote of the law in the article, downstate in NOT in violation. Nobody is restricting their presence in the class based on the fact that they are Jewish. In the real world, PTs treat men and women. If tank tops and shorts help the other people in the class learn what they are supposed to by showing muscle groups or whatever the case may be then so be it. Why should other people in the class minimize their learning experience. Accommodation works both ways.

24

 Jul 02, 2011 at 09:57 PM the klerer Says:

Reply to #23  
Moser Says:

Based on the quote of the law in the article, downstate in NOT in violation. Nobody is restricting their presence in the class based on the fact that they are Jewish. In the real world, PTs treat men and women. If tank tops and shorts help the other people in the class learn what they are supposed to by showing muscle groups or whatever the case may be then so be it. Why should other people in the class minimize their learning experience. Accommodation works both ways.

I would love you as my rov. With your logic you can matir anyhing.

25

 Jul 03, 2011 at 03:53 PM amoratzim Says:

Seriously? students who CHOOSE to go into physical training therapy are claiming tznius and negiah issues? I mean, seriously?

Would someone who applies for and is hired as a non-kosher restaurant chef be allowed to claim that he cannot taste the food he cooks and sends out because he keeps kosher? And that he can't send out food to anyone whom he suspects might be Jewish, as he cannot serve treif to a Jew?

How ridiculous are we getting here? How do frum Jews ever become doctors? They can't look a live bodies, and can't touch dead ones, right?

26

 Jul 10, 2011 at 02:07 AM ainodmilvado Says:

Just to clarify. I know a girl in the program and here are the facts. The girls were not told that they would have this issue. Downstate has always been acccomodating in the past and they were excited to enter this field AND go to Downstate so that they should not have to deal with issues of negiah and tznius. The school changed their policy. The girls spoke to their Rabbanim and are following the hadracha they are getting. Noone is making up halachos here and these girls are not trying to make a rucus. They are being told that they will have to do things that was not part of the package they accepted when going into the program. What do you expect them to do? Sit idly by and say "ok, since the policy changed were gonna be over on halachos???" seriosuly- where is your emunas chachamim? instead of support on a Jewish website those of u who are writing "what did they think they could not touch thier male peers" - hello?Tznius for a woman is like Limud HaTorah for a man. It is not proper for them to b undressed in an untznius manner in front of their male peers. According to their Rabbanim they should not be palpated by their male peers. They can practice on their male relatives

27

 Jul 10, 2011 at 02:07 AM Anonymous Says:

and certainly there is no issue of touching men during their clincal rotations. we should be proud of these girls who are standing up for tznius and for our mesorah.

28

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