Friday, June 3, 2016
It’s hard to imagine the horror that must have come over the editorial board of The New York Times when it discovered that a public swimming pool in Brooklyn has been accommodating Orthodox Jewish women.
This is happening, the Times complains in a hysterical editorial Wednesday, at the pool on Bedford Avenue. For several hours a week, the pool is “unmoored from the laws of New York City and the Constitution.”
Skip the misplaced metaphor of a swimming pool being “unmoored” (it’s a hole in the ground). The pool, the Times warns, is also unmoored from “commonly held principles of fairness and equal access.”
Instead, it says, the pool is answering “to the religious convictions of one neighborhood group.” So during certain hours, “women (and girls, too, on Sundays) will have the pool to themselves.”
Why? “Orthodox Jewish beliefs demand modesty in dress, and a strict separation of the sexes,” the Times’ investigation showed, “and those are the beliefs to which the taxpayer-owned-and-operated Metropolitan Recreation Center will yield.”
As recently as February, the Times rhapsodized in a news story about how Toronto had transformed a “neighborhood of despair” into a “model of inclusion.” It had created women-only sessions at a public pool in Regent Park.
The Times called it “a rare bit of ‘me’ time treasured by many of the neighborhood’s Muslim residents.” How the Gray Lady’s editorial writers missed that scandal is a mystery.
It gets worse, though. Sex-segregated sessions have been held at the Brooklyn pool for a generation — since sometime in the 1990s, according to a Parks Department aide quoted by the Times.
The policy was put in place at “the request of Orthodox women,” the Times reports. And the worst part of it to the Times seems to be that this was met “apparently without any serious community objections.”
This generation of community comity was finally exposed by the city’s Human Rights Commission. Acting on an anonymous complaint, the commission notified the Parks Department “that the policy violated the law.”
Women’s hours were removed, only to be restored after the women contacted what the Times calls “the local” assemblyman, Dov Hikind (the pool’s in Williamsburg; Hikind represents Borough Park).
Women-only hours will, while a solution is sought, remain in place. “Which,” the Times grouses, “is unfortunate.” It contends the city’s human-rights law prohibits excluding people from public accommodations based on sex.
The Gray Lady does note that the law allows for exemptions “based on bona fide considerations of public policy,” but doesn’t think this one’s “bona fide at all,” owing to its “strong odor of religious intrusion into a secular space.”
What’s this “odor” that has penetrated the proboscis of the Times? Maybe it’s from all the chicken fat and onions we Jews use in our cooking. Or my own favorite perfume — eau de lox.
Well, as the Times launches its campaign to deny Orthodox women a few hours’ swim, I say, good luck. They’ll need it, given the city’s record in fighting against religious accommodation.
Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s Health Department tried to regulate the way certain Orthodox Jews perform the ritual of circumcision. It was overruled by federal appeals judges and, under Mayor de Blasio, finally backed off.
It was under de Blasio, too, that the city stopped trying to prevent the Satmar shopkeepers in Williamsburg from asking modest dress of their customers. (The Times seems oddly loath to credit — or blame — de Blasio in the swimming pool case.) This is one of the ironies of the de Blasio years: The most left-wing mayor in the city’s history turns out to be the one who has found the wisdom to accommodate the most religious of minorities.
That’s no small thing in this modern world, where millions are fleeing religious persecution overseas. They’re taking to rickety boats and rafts to escape mass murder, crucifixions and beheadings.
To those women of all religions who make it — or have long since made it — to the haven of liberty known as Brooklyn, how refreshing it’ll be to be able to take a swim while maintaining their modesty.
And to be able to say, each in her own way, “Thank God for America.”