Shadowy Squads Enforce Modesty in Hasidic Brooklyn

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The Brooklyn shopkeeper was already home for the night when her phone rang: a man who said he was from a neighborhood “modesty committee” was concerned that the mannequins in her store’s window, used to display women’s clothing, might inadvertently arouse passing men and boys.

“The man said, ‘Do the neighborhood a favor and take it out of the window,’ ” the store’s manager recalled. “ ‘We’re trying to safeguard our community.’ ”

In many neighborhoods, a store owner might shrug off such a call. But on Lee Avenue, the commercial spine of Hasidic Williamsburg, the warning carried an implied threat — comply with community standards or be shunned. It is a potent threat in a neighborhood where shadowy, sometimes self-appointed modesty squads use social and economic leverage to enforce conformity.

The owner wrestled with the request for a day or two, but decided to follow it. “We can sell it without mannequins, so we might as well do what the public wants,” the owner told the manager, who asked not to be identified because of fear of reprisals for talking.

In the close-knit world of ultra-Orthodox Judaism, community members know the modesty rules as well as Wall Street bankers who show up for work in a Brooks Brothers suit. Women wear long skirts and long-sleeved, high-necked blouses on the street; men do not wear Bermuda shorts in summer. Schools prescribe the color and thickness of girls’ stockings.

Written By: Joseph Berger
continue to source article at nytimes.com

17 COMMENTS

  1. The Taliban and the Mafia would be so proud of these so called Jewish ‘modesty squads’. The Taliban and other Muslims because the Jews are copying their tactics when it comes to theocracies and threatening believers into submission to their will, and the Mafia for the threats and stand over tactics they would use to make money. The Christians and other so called faiths also threaten members with destruction of their families and social worlds if someone goes against what they see is ‘God’s desire’.

    Welcome to the wonderful and peaceful world of religion where you have all the freedom in the world – to do what the leaders of the faith say….

  2. “They walk into a store and say it would be a shame if your window was broken or you lost your clientele,” he said.

    Well how ’bout that? 75 years later, Jews are now facing the possibility of another Kristallnacht, only this time, the perpetrators will be other Jews. I have no sympathy for any store owner who does not attempt to capture an incident like this on camera, call the police, and then have the thugs prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Here in America, we do not recognize Shariah Law, whether it is enforced by Radical Muslims or Satmar Chassidim. If I were the police chief in charge of this district, I guarantee you that within a week there would be nothing “shadowy” about these cowards at all. I’d have them all hauled down to the station, rough ‘em up a little, perhaps force them to eat a cheeseburger, and let them know in no uncertain terms that as long as they are living in this part of Brooklyn, I AM GOD! AND I’M JUST ITCHING TO GIVE A PUBLIC DEMONSTRATION OF THAT FACT, USING THEIR SORRY ASSES AS PROPS!

  3. Me thinks the gentlemen doth protest too much. Surely these pious vigilantes are simply showing up their own petty, small-minded and sex obsessed little minds. Hopefully the rest of their communities will start to see through their bluff and treat these proclamations with the scorn they deserve.

  4. I still remember those videos of little girls walking to school being shamed by a group of forty-year-old men because of the length of their skirts and showing their arms. One girl seemed so traumatized. Didn’t they throw rocks or feces at them?

    So the kid gets a little hard on looking at nude mannequins… I think women wearing short shorts and halter tops should walk down the streets braless, just because they are not Jewish.

  5. What they need is a few Plainly Visible Secular Squads to Demonstrate Freedom of Expression in Hasidic Brooklyn. When I lived in Montreal, the Hasidic elders tried to get the YMCA to cover the windows so their delicate people wouldn’t be tempted. Result?… a bikini party in front of the local whatever their churches are called.

  6. Ah sexual attraction! That normal healthy useful evolutionary development that the abrahamic religions can’t cope with because it distracts them from abnormal gibbering, rocking backwards and forwards and thumping their skulls on the ground. Are there any religious ordnances against having sex with the lights on?

  7. I hope so too, although the shopkeeper is obviously intimidated since he says, “…we might as well do what the public wants”. However, it is not the ‘public’ that is making the protest but ‘the pious vigilantes’ whose qualities you describe so well. :)

    In reply to #4 by jenog:*

    Me thinks the gentlemen doth protest too much. Surely these pious vigilantes are simply showing up their own petty, small-minded and sex obsessed little minds. Hopefully the rest of their communities will start to see through their bluff and treat these proclamations with the scorn they deserve.

  8. Will they be complaining to New York City Council that the phallic shape of fire hydrants, street lights and telegraph poles might arouse females? Or that subway trains going into tunnels conveys inappropriate images to both sexes? Or that playing the clarinet encourages homosexuality?

    Perhaps they should consider their own religious dogma: If thine eye offends thee, pluck it out. If thine penis offends thee, cut it off.

    DO THE HUMAN RACE A FAVOUR AND DON’T PASS YOUR HEREDITARY STUPIDITY ON TO THE NEXT GENERATION

  9. In reply to #11 by Ahmed Qerni:

    Amazing – no one here threw brickbats at the Jewish scripture or called all Jews primitive etc. — something that is reserved for Muslims. Enlightenment does have its benefits.

    I see you’re new to the site, Ahmed, so allow me to brief you on how things work here.

    The most important thing to understand is that there’s a pecking order. In an article about Christianity, atheism triumphs. When a story about Judaism appears, particularly if it involves the ones with the wide-brimmed hats and curly dreads, Western culture, predicated as it is on Christianity, has the upper hand. And when an article about Muslims is posted, all bets are off: Jewish culture is superior, Christianity certainly is; Hindus, Buddhists, Scientologists, you name it, they’re all more acceptable than Muslims (even if it’s the nice, non-explodey type of Muslim); and atheism trumps all.

    I hope this is helpful. It took me a while to catch on too.

  10. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and others claim that Islam today is the most evil of all religions. This is non-sense, all religions are equally guilty of inimaginable atrocities. Some of these shop owners were stoned to death and others will have their tongues, ears and arms cut at Yankee Stadium.

  11. In reply to #11 by Ahmed Qerni:

    Amazing – no one here threw brickbats at the Jewish scripture or called all Jews primitive etc. — something that is reserved for Muslims. Enlightenment does have its benefits.

    Are you implying the ‘modesty squad’ is exactly the same as throwing acid in the faces of girls, shooting girls for the crime of going to school, female genital mutilation, beheading “infidels”, suicide bombings and punishing the victims of rape?

    Did you miss comment #1 stating that the Taliban and the Mafia would be proud of the ‘modesty squad?’ Have you looked through the stories of this site and failed to notice that there are far more stories about Christian Fundamentalists and Catholics than about Muslims?

    The story is on this site because it is another example how much ALL religion fucks over the world. The fact that Jewish fundamentalist are wackaloons does not excuse Islamic fundamentalist’s deplorable actions. But don’t worry, we know that all religion is poison and that all the Abrahamic religions center on a violent, capricious, vengeful “God” not worthy of worship and if you actually read through this site you will see that nobody gets a “free pass.”

  12. And whilst the shadowy squads enforce modesty in Hasidic Brooklyn, what is Jehovah doing?

    As usual, the almighty is conspicuous by His absence!

    A god who is worse than useless, a god who is harmful.

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