Volume 15 Number 92
                       Produced: Fri Oct 21  2:01:12 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Bus Incident
         [Lon Eisenberg]
Monsey bus case
         [Linda Kuzmack]
Monsey Bus Reprise
         [Yaakov Menken]
Prohibitions based on the secular world
         [David Charlap]


From: Lon Eisenberg <eisenbrg@...>
Date: Sun, 16 Oct 94 12:28:54 -0400
Subject: Bus Incident

I'm not sure the Monsey bus is so public.  Yes, it gets public funding, but
is that sufficient?

Let's say the bus is completely public.  Perhaps the woman had a right
(according to American law) to refuse to move, but she had an obligation
according to halakha to move (to allow the men to pray).  She had no
obligation according to American law to stay in her place, so I think she
was just doing it to be obnoxious.

To take the whole thing one (absurd) step further, if American law really
does not allow the bus company to have separate seating (since it's public),
then I suppose a public building can not have separate restrooms and that
a public gym cannot have separate locker rooms.  What's the difference?

Lon Eisenberg


From: Linda Kuzmack <kuzmack@...>
Date: Fri, 14 Oct 1994 14:14:08 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Monsey bus case

The following was posted to Bridges, the Jewish Feminist list, and gives 
additional information on the factual background of the case.  I think MJ 
readers will find it of interest.  It is forwarded with permission of the 
author.  (Some header garbage deleted.)

Arnie Kuzmack

Message follows:
Date: Sun, 09 Oct 94 20:02:19 -0800
From: SARA%<CHSRA1.DecNet@...>
To: "BRIDGES: the Jewish Feminist journal" <bridges@...>
Subject: Sima Rabinowicz

I recently read a story in the paper about Sima Rabinowicz, "the Jewish
Rosa Parks".  The story described a situation in NY where a public
bus system is run by and ridden primarily by Orthodox Jews.  For this
reason, the bus includes a mechitza (curtain) down the aisle, with men
on one side and women on the other.  The men pray on the way to/from work.
Apparently, one day the men's side of the bus was overflowing, and so
they wanted a part of the women's side where Sima was sitting.  They asked
her to move, and she refused.  The story goes on to describe the men's
behavior as threatening, including threats to stone her if she did not move.
Ultimately, she refused, the bus stopped, and the men got out and prayed
in the street.

This is the story as I read it in the paper.  A recent posting to the
conservative judaism list presents another side to the story.  I am
forwarding that posting (below), so that people have all the information
I do.  Regardless of what story we believe is true in this case, I think
there are important issues here. 

First, I was very disturbed at terming Sima a "Jewish Rosa Parks".  It
does not seem to me that her refusal to move to allow a group of men to
pray as they wished is at all comparable to taking a position against
racist laws and practices.  One can make the case that it is comparable
only by labelling the men's practices sexist.  I may not agree with their
style of religious practice & belief, and may in fact find these
practices oppressive to women.  But they are not do not have the systemic
and institutional supports that I believe are necessary to label a behavior
sexist or racist.  I think that trying to make the case that the men's
behavior is the same as the racism that Rosa Parks and all blacks in this
country experience(d), is frankly anti-Semitic.  

What do other feminists believe?  Is it possible, as Jewish feminists,
to oppose orthodoxy while at the same time supporting their rights to
religious observance?  What does it mean to have a public bus line that
is supported by and supports the orthodox community?  Is this an oxymoron?
What do you think?

	Sara Karon

Forwarded message:
>From:    Karena Kates <karena@...>
Subject: Re: sima rabinovicz - the jewish rosa parks

> the associated press story in our local baton rouge paper told of a
> woman in nyc who rode a bus that is run by the hasidic community but
> publicly supported
> a mechitza runs down the aisle so men can be separated by women when praying.
> one day last december, ms rabinovicz was told to move to the front of the bus
> to make room for more men to pray (the men's side was overflowing); she did
> not like being ordered about and being threatened ("move it! or they would
> stone [her] till [she] bleed[s]".  incidentally, the bus stopped and the men
> got off to daven.  she is now suing with aclu help.  my question is - what
> halachally allows men to threaten a woman, a jewish woman yet, with stoning.
> don kraft

The problem was not that the men's side was overflowing, but rather that
"Sima"  was out to make trouble.  Sima has a reputation on this bus.  She
was not a passive person, sitting by and having her rights violated.  The
ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) dropped her case when they found out
all the details.  First Sima had spent months proir to this incident harassing
and violating the rights of the people on the bus.  She thought it was funny
to stand in the isle and not let the men pass her without physically moving
her, which of course the frum men would never do.  Many a man had to miss
their stop becuase she would not let them out!   She laughed at them in their
faces and made derogitory anit-semitic remarks.  (she herself is Jewish,
an immigrant to the United States)  Secondly they did not ask her to sit
in the front of the bus, they only asked to chose WHICH SIDE of the bus to sit
on.  The men can not pray with her in their midst... or any other woman for
that matter.  There was plenty of room on either side and they were willing to
go where ever she was not going to be.  Thirdly she was never asked to get
off the bus, but her actions made these men obligated to get off the bus and
find a minyan on their way to work, thus being late for work.

Sima called herself the modere day Rosa Parks....  Rosa Parks' lawyer did not
stand by and let her get away with it.  When the lawyer found out the details
of the case the remark was refuted and it was said that Rosa Parks would have
sat without making trouble, and allowed the men to pray. Sima's human rights
were in no way violated.


From: Yaakov Menken <ny000548@...>
Date: Thu, 13 Oct 94 08:10:59 -0400
Subject: Re: Monsey Bus Reprise

>>From: "Evelyn C Leeper" <ecl@...>
>Subject: Monsey Bus Reprise

Evelyn and a couple of others have really helped me to rethink this 
issue.  However, I eventually realized that she may have thought that
this was a bunch of Chassidim demanding a gov't service.  That's not
really the case: it's a bus company _run_ by Chassidim, that requests
the same mass-transit subsidy everyone else recieves.  Therefore:

>Consider a group opposed to the use of machines, or opposed to the use
>of machines on a particular day.  Should a community have to provide
>horse-drawn carriages for them because they are entitled to have public
>mass-transit services?

No, clearly not.  However, let us say that the Amish provide _for_
_themselves_ a large wagon with four horses that pulls 50 people into 
downtown Philadelphia.  Should they be _denied_ the Federal mass transit 
subsidies that their taxes pay for, just like everyone else? Even though 
this transit system is clearly less efficient, it _is_ mass transit...

I think Leah Gordon's response demonstrated the same misunderstanding.
"So a U.S. public bus should not adhere to any faith's religious beliefs,
even if the majority of the passengers would like it; freedom of religion
protects the minority."  I think this is turning freedom of religion on
its head.  This bus company would not exist, were it not providing 
special services to the religious community.  The fact that these people
_could_ daven elsewhere does not mean we can _force_ them to.  These 
buses, btw, only have Mechitzos because of davening.  Look at the 
religious bus company in Israel (Masei B'nai Yisroel goes from Jerusalem
to Bnei Braq) - no Mechitza!

So Monsey Trails receives federal mass-transit subsidies like any other 
bus company, and allows all people on the bus.  But just as any other 
company does not have to accomodate the "religious need" of these people to 
have a Mechitza, this company should be _allowed_ to operate for the 
benefit of those who want to travel and pray at the same time.  And since 
it is offering a valid alternative to any other company, it should have 
the same share of mass-transit subsidies.  The religious minority _also_
deserves constitutional protection!

>What about a group for whom a curtain down the center is not
>enough--they want separate buses?

Again, they're eligible for subsidies - unless you can show genuine
_discrimination_ against one gender.  Leah Gordon noted that gender-
segregation is unconstitutional.  True, but the Court has already decided
that what is otherwise offensive to the constitution is acceptable when
answering to a genuine religious need.  Religion is also a right.

>What about a white supremacist church whose reading of the Bible says
>that that blacks should not be allowed to share facilities with whites?
>Do they get a segregated public bus?

I don't think you can judge one issue from another - in the relatively
recent "yarmulke case," the U.S. Army argued that if they were permitting
kipot today, they would be permitting Saffron robes tomorrow.  As I recall,
we won that one... they had to show that _this_ case was a problem.
So too, _this_ case does not involve discrimination against either gender.
The men want it, the women want it.

I may be opening a can of worms here, but there is a Xtian university in 
the South that doesn't receive gov't funding, because their belief is that
the races were created separate and should remain separate.  This means
that they offer the same education to all, but discourage inter-racial
dating.  I have this strange feeling that were Louis Farrakhan in charge 
(who clearly believes the same thing) instead of a white Xtian, the place 
would be flooded with gov't funds.
Similarly, I think the best way to end this case would be for Mr. Kueger
to hand over control of the company to his wife.  I'm NOT kidding.

>Does a Muslim group get to demand that female bus drivers wear veils?

No, not on buses that other people offer.  But again, it's the same
issue:  if the Muslims themselves were to have a bus line, and require
veils as standard parts of female attire, would that render them _in_-
elegible for federal mass-transit subsidies?  Before saying yes: many 
(non-religious) bus companies and other institutions receiving federal 
funds already mandate different dress for women: skirts, not pants.  So
who are we to dictate the requirements for attire for bus drivers?

>I can't say with certainty where the line should be drawn.  But it's
>clear that the government must draw it somewhere.

True - but here men and women will be hurt _equally_ (except that men
have an obligation to daven in a minyan)...

Be in touch!

Yaakov Menken


From: <david@...> (David Charlap)
Date: Mon, 17 Oct 94 14:00:27 EDT
Subject: Prohibitions based on the secular world

Michael Broyde <RELMB@...> writes:
>A number of poskim (ealy and late) discuss whether halacha permits a
>Jew to do something that general (non-Jewish) religious society
>prohibits.  Thus Magen Avraham rules that halacha prohibits building
>a shul on Shabbat with Gentile labor since Christians would not build
>their churchs on their day of rest.  This is used by Rav Yakov
>Briesh, Chelkat Yakov 3:45-48 as gorunds to prohibit artifical
>insemination (since the Catholic church prohibits it, we should not
>do it).

One has to be very careful here.  The argument is based on what the
general population would do, and the examples are based on what
religious Catholics would do.

While there examples may have been relevant in the past, in Catholic
societies, they are not relevant in the USA today.  Why?  Because:

- Our society is not a Catholic one.  Most parts of the USA are
  various forms of Protestant Christianity, many of which do not agree
  with each other or with Catholics.
- The secular government permits these actions and expressly states
  that Jews (and any other group) has the right to differ from the
  majority religion.
- The majority of the population is not religious at all.  Most of
  them probably would build a church (or any other building) on
  Sunday, or any other day.  The ones who won't usually do so because
  of union rules and not because of their relions.
- Jews shouldn't begin to think they take orders from the Christian
  religion.  If the majority religion belives something, and that
  belief is not contrary to the Torah, we shouldn't automatically
  adopt that belief.  Especially when there will be little or no anti-
  semitism resulting from the rejection of that belief.  To do
  otherwise elevates foreign religion to the level of Torah, and that
  should never happen.

>While Rav Moshe Feinstein argues with this application (see Dibbrot
>Moshe Ketuvot 232-248), he accepts the basic premise that one should
>avoid if possible activity that secular society considers immoral.

Let me clarify a bit, since my points (stated above) seem to
contradict this.  I do not intend to argue against Rav Moshe
Feinstein.  He and I both agree that some concessions to secular
society should be made.  My point is that if some decision is made to
keep harmony with a non-Jewish culture, it should be noted that this
is the reason for the decision.  And when the non-Jewish culture
changes (eg: the increasing lack of religion among Christinas in the
USA), those decisions should be reviewed and re-thought out.

The perfect example is the example quoted regarding Rav Yakov and
artificial insemination.  Catholics prohibit this.  But secular
society in general (at least in the USA) doesn't.  Therefore, the
procedure should be permitted unless there is some other reason to
prohibit it.


End of Volume 15 Issue 92