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New York removes Yiddish signs telling women to move for men

October 11, 2011 | 10:10 am

Yiddish signs advising women to step aside for men have now been removed by New York city workers New York city workers who recently removed colorful signs in Yiddish advising women in a Hasidic neighborhood to step aside for men were not part of some feminist protest.

The New York City Parks Department took down 16 signs because they were illegally bolted to city-owned trees on Bedford Avenue in the South Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.

As translated by the Jewish watchdog blog Failed Messiah, the signs read: "Precious Daughter: Please move to the other side when you see a man come across." Another translation ended with: "Move to the side when a man approaches."

The red, yellow and white plastic signs were posted just before the Jewish High Holy Days, when Hasidic neighborhoods typically bustle with worshipers going to prayer.

A local resident told the Brooklyn Paper that the signs were intended not as an insult to ultra-Orthodox Jewish women or to make them feel like second-class citizens, but rather "to be respectful."

Abraham Klein, 18, told the New York Daily News: "The signs don't bother anybody. Men and ladies don't go together. It's just our religion."

Faye Grwnfeld, 70, told the Daily News that the signs were "a private thing" -- even though they were posted on public property. "It's taking away freedom of speech," she said.

Apparently a group of hard-line rabbis may have been behind the signs as part of a campaign to demand "modesty" by women; last June, the group issued a decree against tank tops, according to the Brooklyn Paper.

Deborah Feldman, author of "Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of my Hasidic Roots," told the Daily News that the signs are “standard practice" in Hasidic communities as a way to rein in rebellious behavior by women.

"It's a way of the community reminding people to stay in line, so to speak," she said, noting that the signs have gotten more attention in Williamsburg than they would have in other communities. The area has become more integrated in recent years, she said, with an influx of hipsters and other upper-middle-class residents, and it's no longer "an isolated bubble."


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Photo: Yiddish signs advising women to step aside for men have now been removed by New York city workers. Credit: Aaron Short / Brooklyn Paper