Late last year, the NYCLU, our local ACLU chapter, happened to catch a glimpse of a new playground at Kiryas Joel, the orthodox enclave in upstate New York. As photos published by Haredi news site Behadrey Haredim reveal, the park boasted blue playground equipment for boys, red for girls, and vast expanses of space in between. The town's municipal treasurer, Rabbi Gedalia Segdin, told the news outlet that the park would be watched over by the town Modesty Committee, to make sure no mixed-gender playing was going on. So did Yiddish signs distributed throughout the park making sure everyone kept to their specified color.
Image via NYCLU.org An aerial view of the playground, with the red and blue areas clearly visible.
That, the NYCLU said, was decidedly not OK. Public parks cannot be segregated by sex. They were also concerned by Behadrey Haredim's report that non-Jews wouldn't be able to use the park: "Foreigners who do not belong to the Orthodox stream are not allowed to work out and the site is reserved for locals only."
Kiryas Joel initially responded by saying that the park didn't exist. That didn't prove to be a great strategy, and now the village has been forced to settle the suit, agreeing not to "endorse" sex-segregation in its public places.More »