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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Lack of Accommodation

YMedad points us to this article:
Last spring, a local YMCA in Montreal installed four frosted windows in one of its exercise rooms to accommodate a neighbouring Hasidic synagogue and religious school. Its devout members complained that their teenaged boys were being distracted by the exposed flesh of women doing their Pilates, aerobics and other activities.

But now the windows have opened up a rift over whether the institution went too far to accommodate a minority. Some Y members have circulated a petition demanding the opaque windows be removed because they not only deprive the room of light, but allow a religious group to impose its ways on the majority.

“It's like getting us to wear a veil. Since we represent temptation, we're being asked to hide,” Renée Lavaillante, who started the petition, said yesterday. “We shouldn't have to hide in order to exercise in Quebec. We're a secular state, and shouldn't hide ourselves for religious reasons.”
Oh, please. I can understand resenting an accommodation if it any way deprives the ones doing the accommodating of something tangible. But what is this small, respectful accommodation depriving the irate exercisers of? The right to exercise in full view of passers-by? I can't take their claim of the diminished sunlight very seriously - anyone who has a frosted window knows that plenty of daylight gets through. The obvious objective here is the complaint that the Orthodox community is attempting to "allow a religious group to impose its ways on the majority". Which in this case, really means "why give anything to anyone else if I don't need it myself". And in my opinion, people who find accommodating the sensitivities of another segment of the community in such a negligible manner to be such an abhorrent notion have a lot to learn about living in a community.

This reminds me of a woman I once worked with. When we worked together on a project, we had the opportunity to deal with a visibly Chassidic man. When he came to a meeting and was introduced to everyone present, my coworker, a Jewish woman who was affiliated enough to know that the last thing this man wanted to do was shake her hand, stuck her hand out, making him and everyone else present (non-Jews who somehow all knew that this man was not comfortable touching a woman) extremely uncomfortable. When I said something to her later, she was extremely indignant. She knew he preferred not to touch women, but somehow felt that his attitude was an affront to her and all womankind, and said she would continue to stick her hand out to every Orthodox and Chassidic man she met in the future. (Yes, you can imagine how unpleasant it was to work with this woman when it came to other issues as well). I ended up in a heated argument with her over the fact that I felt she was refusing to make this small accommodation to respect this man's sensitivities because she had her own ideas about the way things should be done. Nevertheless, true to her word, the next time the man came to the office, she put him in the same uncomfortable position.

Which goes to show you, I guess. Some people just can't be argued with.

17 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i would think that most people would be happy for the privacy. Pilates isn't a pretty sight!

3:29 PM  
Blogger Yid With Lid said...

Let them buy new lamps so the light is better. Its not about a minority imposing its will on the majority, its about creating a situation where everyone can be accomodated.

Although it FRENCH Qubec

3:55 PM  
Blogger FrumWithQuestions said...

I can understand both sides of the story but how come the shul or Yeshiva doesn't do the same thing to their windows to prevent them from looking out? What are the air rights in Quebec? In NYC you get the air along with the property since people like to buildd up. If Quebec does not have a rule maybe this should be taken to their Parliament to debate the issue. Why don't the Jews get the Muslims to burn the Y down for immodestly dressed women. The Muslims there have no problem with burning schools and synagogues so why should a YMCA be any different?

4:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Moral certainty is a flaw which belies the self proclaimed "liberal and open minded" attitudes of some people. I am sure your coworker fancied herself an enlightened person who was offended at what she felt was "backwardness" shown by a Chasid who was uncomfortable shaking her hand, because after all, she was so "enlightened". Such people often become a lot less "liberal" and "open minded" and "enlightened when presented with a person who makes a choice that they disagree with (such as to live an observant or (socially) conservative lifestyle). Like certain "feminists" who shout that women should be able to do or be anything they want [no argument from me there] EXCEPT be a stay at home mom. I'm sure your coworker felt that she was a very open minded person.

5:04 PM  
Anonymous goyguy said...

The school should have put up blinds or frosted their own darned windows.

As far as your co-worker, she's just a rude b----.

11:33 PM  
Blogger YMedad said...

Thanks for the link.

4:08 AM  
Blogger MDmom said...

if it was the yeshiva boys who were bothered by what they saw, the yeshiva should have installed frosted glass. frosted glass is annoying. it can definitely give one a claustrophobic feeling, and it does diminish the quality of natural light. i agree with the woman quoted in the first paragraph.

7:53 AM  
Anonymous Subway Sally said...

Um, mdmom, would one-way-mirrored window panes be an improvement, in terms of light permeability (sp)?

The problem may not have been that the yeshiva students were distracted *while in school,* but rather, on the way to and from. Putting frosted glass in the yeshiva's windows wouldn't prevent the students from seeing the woman exercising when they were walking past the Y.

Personally, I think the frosted-glass windows were a reasonable accommodation.

11:03 AM  
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5:59 AM  
Blogger Conservative Apikoris said...

As people have noted, I don't see why the Yeshiva couldn't have put up its own frosted-glass windows.

As for your co-worker, while at first glance, this appears to be rude on her part, I think the problem lies with with the chassidic guy's religious principles. After all, there are perfectly frum rabbis who have ruled that shaking a woman's hand in a business setting is 100% permissible. In fact, only a sick mind could equate such a perfunctory business greeting with any kind of sexual intent. Thus, I believe that the halachot of tz'iniyus and shomer negi'ah are minhagei shtuss and no accomodations should be made to Jews foolish enough to insist on them.

1:26 PM  
Anonymous goyguy said...

Subway Sally said...

"The problem may not have been that the yeshiva students were distracted *while in school,* but rather, on the way to and from. Putting frosted glass in the yeshiva's windows wouldn't prevent the students from seeing the woman exercising when they were walking past the Y."

That's a good one. So if they were in the park the city should put up a fence? How about if I find the yeshiva kids distracting on my way to work? They would frost their windows?

How about if they walk past the italian deli on the way to school? All those treif salamis hanging in the window, luring the little yeshiva boys in for a ham and swiss hero. Maybe they need frosted glass, too?

11:24 PM  
Anonymous Subway Sally said...

Hmm, okay, goyguy, you may have a point.

11:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

to conservative apikores: everyone is entitled to their beliefs and chassidim are entitled to follow the psak their poskim tell them regardless of whether you agree with the psak. beside there are many poskim, not just chassidish, who say you should not shake a womens hand. additionaly, are you an expert in hilchos ne'egiah or are you just stating an opinion on an issue you have not investigatged and have no expertise in.

3:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

how about a frosted window on the yesgiva?

8:52 AM  
Anonymous shooky said...

1. Apparantly the kids play in the alley between the yeshiva and shul.

2. The shul payed for the frosted windows.

3. The owner of the Y did a survey of his clients and found that a majority wanted frosted windows for privacy.

So both sides were in agreement. The trouble only started when a woman caused a big fuss, not as she admits because of light, but because of the "principal"

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