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Op-Ed: The NY Times Can’t Stand Jewesses Bathing in Public Pools

by Ira Stoll – Algemeiner

The latest salvo in the New York Times campaign against Orthodox Judaism is an editorial condemning the New York City Parks department for accommodating religious swimmers — and, for that matter any other women who prefer not to be gawked at by men while bathing — by providing women-only hours at a public swimming pool in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

The Times complains of what it calls a “strong odor of religious intrusion into a secular space.” The classically nasty antisemitic trope of accusing Jews of emitting a distinctive odor has been in the news recently as the result of a Harvard law student asking a visiting Israeli lawmaker why she was so “smelly,” drawing a condemnation from the dean of the law school. The Times didn’t see fit to cover that story; if it had, perhaps the editorial writers would have been more careful in their word choice.

But poor word choice is only the beginning of the trouble with this editorial.

It also displays alarming ignorance of the political geography of Brooklyn. The editorial refers to Dov Hikind as “the local assemblyman.” But Mr. Hikind represents Borough Park and Midwood, not Williamsburg, which is miles away. It’s almost as if those Times editorial writers can’t tell one smelly Jewish neighborhood, or politician, from another.

Additionally — and not least — the Times editorial is massively hypocritical. Iphigene Ochs Sulzberger, the grandmother of the publisher of the Times, was from 1937 to 1968 a board member of Barnard College, a women-only institution. We’re waiting for the Times editorials calling on the federal government to cut off research funding and Pell Grant availability to Barnard, on the grounds that its doors are closed to male students. The Times complains that allowing women-only swimming for a few hours a week at one of the city’s many public pools renders the pool “unmoored from the laws of New York City and the Constitution, and commonly held principles of fairness and equal access.” What about a man who wants to attend Barnard?

The Times, in a 1997 editorial, even acknowledged, albeit grudgingly, that “it is possible that offering quality single-sex education as part of a diverse menu of voluntary choices available to all public-school children could pass muster under Federal civil rights law and the Constitution.” So single-sex math and gym classes can be acceptable, at least in theory, but if a New York woman wants to swim some laps in her bathing suit without the male gaze, the Times declares that it is prima facie unconstitutional? It’s almost enough to make a person imagine that what the Times is against is not taxpayer-funded single-sex environments, but anything that Orthodox religious Jews — most of whom, by the way, are paying taxes for public schools that they do not use — might find useful or enjoyable.

There’s one final way in which the Times editorial is hypocritical, which is its rejection of what it calls “a theocratic view of government services” or the “odor of religious intrusion into a secular space,” and its preference, instead, for what it calls “public, secular rules.” There are at least two recent instances where theTimes itself pleaded for religion to influence public policy.

There was the June 2, 1962 editorial, headlined “Guilt,” in which the Times reacted to Israel’s execution of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann by concluding, “The statesmanship that might help us today is found in several of the great religions. It is known to many of us as the Sermon on the Mount.”

And, as Adam White astutely pointed out on Twitter, there was a September 2015 editorial, “Pope Francis’ Challenge to America,” in which the Times delighted in the Pope’s pressing Congress to abolish the death penalty, save the environment and fight income inequality.

In other words, when it’s liberal Christian ideas influencing public policy, the Times seems to be considerably less absolutist in its opposition to theocracy. It’s only when Orthodox Jews are around that the Times turns up its nose at the “strong odor of religious intrusion.”

If anything stinks around here, it’s not the Jewish swimmers, but the ignorance and double standards of theTimes editorialists.

More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

18 Comments

  • 1. Pedant wrote:

    The goyims don’t like the yidden. It’s an halacha.

    Go to University! Secular Studies! Park on Shabbos!

    Al tivtechu benidivim.

    Nusach Ari Community!

    Heim tuku leraglecha, yisa midabrosecha.

    Shfoich Chamoscha.

  • 3. what's that smell? wrote:

    The strong odor they are smelling at the NY Times is their own…

    • 4. Flatbush mom wrote:

      Off CORSE it’s their own… They’r the N Y T, ughh

  • 5. Actually... wrote:

    The Constitution does no such thing, which necessitated amendments known as the Bill of Rights. The First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

    As you can see, even the First Amendment does not guarantee the right to have an exclusive women’s swimming hour. While a community pool servicing a religious demographic would be wise to accommodate them, and while it’s true that the opposition to this segregated swimming time is likely due to antisemitism, please stop spewing garbage about the Constitution, which you obviously know nothing about.

    • 6. Pedant wrote:

      Wow, it’s good we we have scholars what can teach us about constitutions, perhaps you can lecture a bit about the meaning of an amendment, in particular you can speak about the object that is so amended by the amendment (spoiler: it’s the constitution, dummy) at it’s status post amendment (spoiler: it’s of the status of the constitution itself, dummy).

      But at least the point you got right because when congress shall pass no law indeed you are guaranteed freedom of religion, thank you for that enlightenment (oh wait..)

      What does remain, alas, unclear is whether your comment is more arrogant than it is ignorant.

    • 7. Jax wrote:

      The change in policy is not a law it is a policy. Moreover the policy favors all women, a gender, not a religion. Lastly, if there were also male as well mixed or unidentified gender fluid hours as well it might be ok.

  • 8. Friend! wrote:

    I don’t know if this still exists in Mass. but years ago, the municipality of Boston made separate swimming hours at the beach for men and women.
    But those were Catholic bathers, not Jews

  • 9. Mottel wrote:

    Tablet’s response was far sharper. This one is just rambling.

  • 10. Mom wrote:

    I would make the argument that plenty of non Jews and non religious Jews would like single gender swimming when they don’t have bikini bodies to show off.

  • 11. ridiculous wrote:

    It’s a public pool!!

    Go ask a private pool to accommodate you.

    Uch. I hate when Jews behave like this.

    • 12. Milhouse wrote:

      Yes, it’s a public pool. Are we not the public? Do we not pay the same taxes for it as our neighbors do? Why should it not accommodate us, for a few hours a week?

  • 13. Metropolitan Pool wrote:

    in Williamsburg (North something St.} had hours for
    women only back in the 50s (probably earlier and
    later as well). Was not only used by orthodox women.
    Probably had hours for men only as well.

  • 14. DeClasse' Intellectual wrote:

    So what, this is the NEW YORK TIMES. Just remember their cover up of the Nazi death camps because the paper was afraid it would upset the great anti-Semitic bigot FDR. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

  • 16. C.R. wrote:

    There should be an ammendment in the constitution about modesty. If the pool is a public area, then it should already be cause for concern: Why are boys and girls, men and women forced to swim together in a public area?

  • 18. Ezra wrote:

    Also noteworthy is this article:

    http://bit.ly/25Gmp6q

    Excerpt:

    This past February, when the city of Toronto allowed for women-only sessions at a public pool at specific hours at the behest of Muslim residents, the Times was delighted. Although it was a story from across the border, the editorial writers of the newspaper gushed at this beautiful demonstration of “community integration.” This was a “model of inclusion.” Here was Canada showing us how citizens with differing views of modesty and morality could be extended the courtesy of understanding and the consideration of a policy which would be willing to extend community benefits to all at the cost of minimal sacrifice. The pool might not be open to everybody at all times, but everybody could find some times to enjoy a publicly funded recreation.

    So religious accommodation, the Times effusively affirmed is a good thing even if, just like any accommodation, it requires a little compromise. But remarkably enough that is not the way they saw it at all when the ideal was now offered as justification for Orthodox Jews having a few hours during the week set aside at a municipal pool in Brooklyn for women whose religious scruples prevent them from swimming together with men.

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