NYC threatens to shut down Orthodox Jewish bus line that practices segregation
posted at 12:50 pm on October 20, 2011 by Howard Portnoy
I have lived in New York for virtually all of my adult life but had no idea until this week that some of the city’s bus lines were franchised out to privately owned carriers. I also had no idea until this week that at least one of those lines—the B110 bus, which runs through heavily Orthodox Jewish sections of Brooklyn—demands that women sit in the back.
The city is now threatening to shut down the route if the carrier, Private Transportation Corporation, doesn’t stop its practice of segregating passengers based on sex.
The New York World, which broke the story on Tuesday, recounts the experience of passenger Melissa Franchy, who boarded the bus on October 12 and took a vacant seat near the front. Franchy claims she was immediately warmed by curious glances from the men on the bus, all wearing full beards and long black coats.
When the vehicle began to fill, one of the men rose and told her she would need to move to the back, adding that the B110 is a “Jewish bus.” When she inquired why she had to move, the man responded sternly, “If God makes a rule, you don’t ask ‘Why make the rule?’”
After the World story ran, the New York Post got in on the action. The paper dispatched one of its photographers to Williamsbug, one of the two Hasidic communities serviced by the line, and instructed her to refuse to change seats. She did. Like clockwork, the driver told her the bus would not budge until she moved to the “non-reserved” section at the back. At the time, the vehicle was half-empty.
Yesterday, Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan (a woman yet!) fired off a letter to Jacob Marmurstein, reminding him that his comapny’s franchise agreement with the city prohibits discrimination “based on race, creed, color, national origin, sex, age, handicap, marital status, or real or perceived sexual orientation.”
The letter further warned that if the company continued its discriminatory practice, the city would terminate the agreement.
The view of women as inferior under Orthodox Jewish law last made news in May, when a Hasidic Jewish newspaper photoshopped two females out of the iconic White Situation Room photo taken during the raid on Osama bin Laden’s lair. One of the two was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
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