Shoulders, knees and no’s: NYC sues Satmar businesses over modesty signs

Good news for Brooklynites who like to shop while scantily clad: New York City’s Commission on Human Rights is suing seven businesses run by the Satmar hasidic sect located on Lee Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The case, which has been brewing for months, will go to trial in January, city officials announced this week.

The occasion for the suit? Nearly identical signs  hung in the shop windows, which specify modesty requirements for entering the businesses: “No shorts, no barefoot, no sleeveless, no low cut neckline allowed in this store.”

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The Commission on Human Rights claims that this practice is discriminatory against women, whom the signs disproportionately target. Representatives of the businesses disagree, although presumably most of the male shoppers at Friedman’s Depot, the Tiv-Tov hardware store, Sander’s Bakery and other local businesses generally shop with their shoes on (and their collarbones covered).

Marc Stern, a counsel for the American Jewish Committee, contends that other businesses, such as upscale restaurants and private clubs, can enforce a dress code.

Of course, the comparison might invite the curious, sleeveless hordes to see just what’s so exclusive and exciting about the hardware stores and bakeries of Lee Avenue.

Talia Lavin Talia Lavin is an intern at JTA. A recent Harvard graduate and aspiring novelist, she recently returned from a Fulbright grant in Ukraine, where she studied early 20th-century Hebrew literature.