Ultra-Orthodox Jewish business owners in Williamsburg, Brooklyn are trying to ban customers who do not adhere to a strict dress-code from entering their stores, sparking controversy in the community.
“No shorts, No Barefoot, No Sleeveless, No Low Cut Necklines Allowed in the Store,” declare signs that appear in English and Spanish throughout the neighborhood.
“Entry here is modest dress only,” the signs add in Hebrew.
“We have our way of life, and this is the way we want everyone to respect that,” Shalom Cooper, a manager at Glauber’s Cuisine on Division Avenue, told The New York Post.
Disgruntled customers, however, are claiming that the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community does not have the right to impose their beliefs on others and that customers should be entitled to enter stores as they see fit.
“Religious freedom is one thing, but we do not have the right to enforce our beliefs on someone else,” charged Bob Kim, a resident of Williamsburg.
Some are even alleging that the policy is un-American.
“It’s no longer sufficient that they have shared norms among themselves, they are increasingly trying to impose their norms on the rest of the culture,” said Marci Hamilton, a First Amendment scholar at Cardozo School of Law.
“It goes to the basic human value of empathizing with others that are not like you, and I think the Hasidim have no awareness of such a concept,” claimed Shulem Deen, a former Hasid who now lives in Bensonhurst.
The head of the City law Department’s Administrative Law Division said that the dress code is legal as long as it does not discriminate based on gender, religion, or sexual orientation.
Yet, other residents stressed that while businesses may have the legal right to impose their beliefs on others, such tactics will likely lead to a decrease in customers and in sales.
Currently, the ultra-Orthodox community operates a private ambulance service and police force, while on a privately operated public bus line, women are told to sit in back.
In 2009 Williamsburg residents successfully lobbied the city to remove bike lanes because they did not want to see young women in riding shorts.
The Post humorously states that it seems as though “Brooklyn has lost its right to bare arms.”