Women Against Capitalism

The case against the Egged Bus Company’s “Mehadrin Lines” is moving forward and in the news. I think it deserves its own comment thread, independent of the plagiarism complaints against one of the parties.

Sitting here in Baltimore, I cannot claim any special access to information. I read the news, articles and comments from Israeli authors and commenters here on C-C, and receive an occasional private email — for example, a copy of Mrs. Shear’s original complaint. If my facts are wrong, please correct them, because from what I have read and discerned between the lines, what is being portrayed in the press is far from the truth.

First and foremost, the plaintiffs have gone to the press with their fight against “Jewish fundamentalists” with their “Taliban-like rules.”

Small problem: They are not suing Rabbis. They are not suing the Edah HaCharedis, the Torah factions in the Knesset, or Chaim Mod’chl Brecher and his gang of goons that terrorize female passengers. [N.B. In case you didn’t click the link, the reference to CM Brecher is a joke – it’s a spoof call to an operator. I’m not aware of any real person named Chaim Mod’chl Brecher.] They are suing… Egged, the ubiquitous bus company that operates most of Israel’s public routes. This is Egged, the Israeli cooperative with over 2300 employee-owners. The same guys with the grotesque ads on the side of their buses (from what I’ve gathered, the cities own the bus shelters with their own ads, but I’m not certain either way). This is hardly a charedi crowd. And Egged is … fighting back?! Unless we imagine that all the bus drivers secretly voted for Shas, since when do they align themselves with “the Jewish Taliban?”

When it hits them in the wallet, that’s when. As Shira Schmidt put it two months ago,

A decade ago under the rubric of multiculturalism private bus lines catering to the religious sector sprung up as an answer to rampant public permissiveness. Egged put them out of business, took them over, and problems began. Now the haredim are taking the rap for Egged’s rapaciousness.

Many seem to have lost that fact. More than once we’ve seen a commenter say “hey, if the charedim want their mehadrin buses, let them make their own bus line!” Which, in fact, is exactly what they did, but Egged knew a good business opportunity when it saw one.

This is not a dispute about what the Halacha requires or whose Rebbe or which Rabbi’s opinion should be accepted. The mehadrin lines are 100% market-driven. Whatever you think of their religious strictures, people have the right to make their own choices in the pursuit of what they regard as a religious value, and entrepreneurs have the right to create accommodations for those potential clients. Egged isn’t even government-owned. [Egged’s marketing materials claim that it is an “Efficient Organization” providing “Service with a Smile.” Like I said, it’s not government-owned.]

According to Mrs. Schmidt, “Egged took over these private lines but doesn’t label the buses or explain the separate seating on their website or on the phone.” None of the 73 comments contradicted her… but is she wrong? I agree with her that proper labels would be a benefit. But I also think that Egged would have agreed to that, rather than drag it through the court system. It would appear that the plaintiffs are not seeking proper labels, but the elimination of Mehadrin seating despite public demand. Again, if I’m wrong, please correct me — but this is what we are seeing.

If so, what the plaintiffs are claiming is that Mehadrin seating cannot be done by a publicly-owned company, or any company that would bid for government tenders in the Jewish State. They are denying the Egged cooperative the opportunity to compete on the free market.

Their real fight is not against Rabbis, their rules, or the few hooligans who take it upon themselves to enforce mehadrin seating (even, and most offensively, on lines that are officially not mehadrin). It is a fight against free association, free-market capitalism, and free religious expression. Naomi Ragen has attempted to cast herself as a Jewish Rosa Parks… but she is, in reality, closer to an Israeli Karl Marx.

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33 comments to Women Against Capitalism

  • Bob Miller

    Rosa Luxemburg?

  • Noam

    Naomi Regan is a very easy mark. But who are you going to compare Mrs. Shear with? I have no idea if she is part of the suit or not.

  • JewishAtheist

    I don’t understand your argument. Race-segregated buses weren’t a religious issue, but I don’t see how Rosa Parks was any less “anti-capitalist” than Naomi Ragen is. Forcing women to sit in back is neither “free association” nor “religious expression.”

  • DMZ

    I hate to be the annoying one here, but:
    1. You’re talking about free markets, not capitalism.
    2. Halacha does not advocate a pure free market, regulation-free system.

    I wish the second were true, being as I lean more as a libertarian than anything else, but it’s just not. If anyone has questions about my second assertion, feel free to ask.

    I would also want to know what the halachic rationale for forcing women to sit in the back of the bus is, rather than, say, the column of seats behind the driver. Personally, I sympathize with the women here – being forced to sit in the back of the bus is considered degrading in most Western countries.

  • Shlomo

    Rabbi Menken,

    The dictates of the market are not followed absolutely. For example, besides the constitutional documents that often limit state power, most jurisdictions have human (or civil) rights codes that restrict the freedom of individuals and businesses.
    If, for example, a majority of K-Mart shoppers in Alabama demanded, and got, a separate entrance for colored folk, such action would never withstand the scrutiny of a civil rights’ action. The legal supremacy of certain basic freedoms protects vulnerable groups from the tyranny of the masses, regardless of whether the tyranny is fueled by free-market capitalism or the dictatorial whims of a repressive government.
    For better or for worse, tolerance, equality and religious freedom are fundamental characteristics of liberal democracies (which Israel, at least ostensibly, claims to be). These values are protected, often at the expense of majoritarian rule, public opinion or even government finance.
    It is easy to side with Egged when the subject of this debate (i.e. mehadrin buses) aligns well with your own theological views; however, things would look quite different if a majority of riders in secular Talpiot insisted that hareidim remove their kippot before boarding city buses. If that were the case, I suspect that you would find cries for tolerance, equality and personal freedom far more welcome.

  • Miriam Shear

    If Egged were TRULY a private enterprise – with all that a private enterprise implies and entails – there might be some merit to this article’s argument. But the fact is that, while Egged may not be OWNED by the State, it is FUNDED, at least partially, by the State. In other words, it receives GOVERNMENT MONEY – not as a loan but as a SUBSIDY. This money comes from the Israeli taxpayer – Chareidim and Heelonim alike. Private Mehadrin bus lines do not receive ANY government subsidies whatsoever. They must operate strictly on the funds they receive from fare paying passengers – period. Therefore, a totally private funded bus line has the right to make any kind of policy it chooses – including separate gender seating.

    But when Egged – or any kind of company – takes government money it has an obligation within the milieu of its rendered product or service, to provide equal service to all as R. Menken describes: free asssociation and free religious expression. But it is hypocritical for Egged or anyone to claim that it is immune from providing unfettered access to all because of its right to “free market capitalism”. One can’t have it both ways. If Egged wants to play by the rules of “free market capitalism, then it must do what the private Mehadrin bus lines do: Forgo all government subsidies. Until then, it does not have the right to deny free and open access of its services to female soldiers wearing pants, those who want to sit next to their spouse, a Neturei Karta member, or even Amira Hass. Furthermore, every business – whether govenrment subsidized or not – has the obligation to provide a safe venue for its customers. Failing to do so buys them a lawsuit at the least and criminal charges at worst (Versaille Banquet Hall).

    R. Menken, you are correct that “this is not a fight against Rabbis or their rules”. But it is definitely not a fight against capitalism either. If anything, it is a fight FOR human rights, human dignity, fair play, public safety, and unfettered access by everyone to ride on public transportation REGARDLESS OF THEIR CHUMRAS OR LACK OF CHUMRAS SUBSIDIZED BY THE GOVERNMENT in a safe manner without being harrassed or beaten up.

    Please read the petition: It simply asks that the whole process of designating certain buses as Mehadrin be reviewed; that if a bus is designated as Mehadrin that it be clearly marked as such; and that parallel lines of non-Mehadrin buses be available for those who choose not to ride Mehadrin buses. The petition does request a TEMPORARY suspension of all Mehadrin buses run by Egged while undergoing the review process and formulating a clear and workable policy and solution. The petition does not even ask that Mehadrin buses be banned permanently (something that many Chareidim, including some Rabbonim prefer). Quite frankly, IRAC has behaved in a more socially and civilly acceptable manner than some of our Orthodox brethren who have taken the law into their own hands. To start name calling those who have joined in this effort is ineffective and only deepens the rift amongst us. Let’s get our facts straight, stick to the issues, and find a way that we can all benefit from a GOVERNMENT SUBSIDIZED transportation system. This may well mean that if the High Court responds favorably to the petition, private Mehadrin bus lines will be quick to fill the vacuum left by Egged’s inability to discriminate against the public while taking government money. Until now, Egged has enjoyed a very unfair advantage against the free enterprise business owner: While taking government money – money the free market entrepreneur does not get – it has used those funds to drive them out of business. What the petitioners are saying is: FOUL! That is WOMEN FOR CAPITALISM!

  • Joe Fisher

    A fine article.

    Of course separate seating/women at the back offends certain kinds of people.

    But so far its the only way to fulfill the general Torah requirement of separation of the sexes when it comes to the specific case of public transportation.

    As Rabbi Menken writes, “Whatever you think of their religious strictures, people have the right to make their own choices in the pursuit of what they regard as a religious value, and entrepreneurs have the right to create accommodations for those potential clients.”

    Notice his limitation in these cases to what we consider a “religious value.”

    After all, why is it that all nations still allow us to exclude women from a minyan held in a public place? Isn’t that an outrageous discrimination against half the population, if not because of its “religious” value?

    Even the most secular nations still grant “religious” values a “patur” from the usual laws of discrimination. So let the market take over and decide.

    Unless…you think…that there is no “religious” value to separating the sexes on buses. Is my minyan–gulp–still safe from you? Why?

  • Miriam Shear

    Joe – a public bus is not the Beit HaKnesset. Perhaps that’s why Rav Moshe Feinstein z”tl paskened that separate seating on public transportation is not necessary.

  • Yaakov Menken

    R’ Moshe Feinstein zt”l’s ruling affects whether those who follow his opinion would personally find it necessary to ride a “mehadrin bus.” It does not affect the legitimacy of the free religious expression of those who prefer mehadrin buses.

    Mrs. Shear is being, frankly, disingenuous. Egged receives subsidies because it serves outlying areas and provides service too frequent to be profitable. The “mehadrin” lines are obviously profitable — otherwise private companies would not have started them, nor would Egged, which remains a private company, have wanted to purchase them.

    The reality is the very opposite of what Mrs. Shear describes. Egged does not receive subsidies to operate the mehadrin lines; the profitable mehadrin lines make the subsidies less necessary. It is the lawsuit that seeks an injunction precluding the addition of any new mehadrin lines as the suit progresses — regardless of market demand. And even were this not true — even were the subsidies per-passenger or per-route — Mrs. Shear would still have failed to explain why the government cannot fund a bus line for a clientèle that prefers separate seating. Israel is a Jewish State, and as such has no wall of separation between religion and government, but even in the United States it is offensive to force any group of men and women to forgo the same government funds to which all others are entitled.

    I am somewhat in agreement with DMZ that side by side might be preferable, but in Chasidic circles men and women try to avoid even eye contact. In Monsey you have communities where women don’t drive, and don’t even sit up front with their own husbands — they prefer to be chauffeured around.

    The private lines between Monsey, NY and Manhattan use a mechitzah (and note that these fully private lines were sued as well). But a mechitzah is inconvenient, especially when people of both genders are trying to get up and down the isles. The women are choosing to ride these lines — they, too, could choose non-mehadrin if they wanted. Apparently they would rather sit in the back than have men staring at them. Why not ask them why they choose to sit there? Why didn’t any of them join with Mrs. Shear in this suit? It is, after all, a free country…

    Then you have IRAC’s participation in this whole mess. IRAC is sponsored by the Reform movement in order to encourage pluralism, but spends its money fighting the growth of observance in the Jewish state. They already spent tens of thousands of dollars stopping an outreach center from building in Rechovot. I’ll ask it again. Why are the parties to this suit people like Ragen and IRAC? I don’t know the rest of the plaintiffs, but their names are Mor, Tali, Eliana and Efrat. [I just got a copy of the complaint, and will probably have more comments after I read more.] Not a Devora Malka, Faygi or Sorah Shprintzeh in the bunch. Could it really be that the women riding these buses (gasp) *want* gender separation on the buses?

    Obviously, the answer is yes. I was sent a link to an article by Alon Harel that appeared in the South African Human Rights Law Journal, entitled Benign Segregation: A Case Study of the Practice of Gender Separation in Buses in the Ultra-Orthodox Community. He writes: “This article suggests that the very characterization of a practice of gender separation as discriminatory is culture-sensitive and cannot be detached from the political and moral convictions of the community that sustains the practice.” He calls us “ultra-Orthodox,” so he’s not part of our community — but he points out that no one objects to separate-gender restrooms or dormitories, and few push seriously for integration in sports. The Western world is slowly acknowledging that separate-gender schools lead to better academic performance. [For the record, he, too, suggests side by side with a curtain rather than front and back. We all know that sitting in the back sounds bad. But the fundamental difference between Israeli women and blacks in the old US South is that the blacks had no alternative. Egged would gladly provide women-only buses if the market would support it.

    Egged is not denying service to anyone by operating a mehadrin line — there is no civil right to sit next to your spouse or significant other on a bus. Egged provides mehadrin lines for one reason, and one reason only: the people who ride the mehadrin lines, of both genders, want to have them.

  • […] But here’s an eye-catching passage. The article notes that the gym has “attracted a small clientèle of secular women tired of see-and-be-seen health clubs.” Would we say that health clubs in government buildings cannot provide separate hours? So if we are not going to let the market figure it out for itself, but insist upon government intervention, how will we emerge with what female (and male) clients want, rather than what nine (secular) justices think they should want? Spread the Word | Permalink | Trackback | Comment Feed […]

  • cvmay

    I feel that Y. Menken’s assertion that the only plaintiffs were Mor, Efrat, Tali etc. without hearing from Devorah, TZIPORAH, Sora or Zissy is ridiculous and shows a lack of understanding of the female persona. To act as a plaintiff takes an activist personality, courage to be an innovator and leisure time to pursue the option. Many of the Soras and Devorahs may not have the time available or the activism to go ahead and protest. This does not show AGREEMENT with the Mehadrin bus system, but rather complacency.
    Since the brutal aggresion against M. Shear on a public Egged bus, she has had to unnecessarily clear her name and prove her innocence. WHY? Since N. Ragen has joined the battle cry, now the battle is tainted rather than justified. Something is seriously wrong here, we should be standing tall and firm in advocating justice for any future women on a bus line. Tziporah M

  • Miriam Shear

    So now the legitimacy of a complaint rests on the first names of plaintiffs? This is the most ridiculous argument I’ve heard so far and has brought this whole discussion to a new low. THAT is an association I do not care to have and now will bow out of this stupidity rhetoric and just let the High Court decide.

  • Joe Fisher

    Mrs. Shear, your comment is a wonderful argument in my favor.

    Rabbi Feinstein’s “not necessary” means bide’eved, of course. So he is actually implying that le’chatchila separate seating indeed is better.

    When you have a city full of them, the Charedim indeed can live “le’chatchila.” Thanks for the support.

  • Yaakov Menken

    Now, now. Mrs. Shear knows full well that the first names of the plaintiffs is hardly the issue. As I said, “I don’t know the rest of the plaintiffs, but their names are” not ones that you would be likely to find an Israeli Chassidic family naming their daughter. Mrs. Shear’s retort merely confirms it, and the failure to address any of my substantive points strengthens their validity.

    It is undisputed that Mrs. Shear had a terrible experience. But it hardly makes sense to punish hundreds of thousands of riders for the misbehavior of three.

    I feel it necessary to emphasize here that I am not advocating for the lines’ existence. I don’t know if I share Joe’s opinion that Reb Moshe would have thought these lines worth the extra hassle and separation of man and wife — although as Prof. Harel mentions, Reb Moshe also said that if a man thinks he will have feelings of “attraction,” he should try to avoid riding the subway. One of my Rebbeim saw a Chassid obviously uncomfortable when a woman sat down next to him, so my Rebbe switched places with him and sat next to the woman. He respected the Chassid’s beliefs although he did not share them. My point was and remains that this is not a fight against a “Jewish Taliban” or “Jewish fundamentalists,” but a fight against a commercial company attempting to serve a niche market with strongly-held preferences. The riders like the lines this way.

    When Tziporah/cvmay says that the women may be merely complacent, she fails to acknowledge that the mehadrin buses are an innovation. There was no “complacency” when the buses started to run. Women happily climbed aboard when they could have shunned them. It’s a free market — at least, until the BaGaTz gets involved.

    Despite the fact that all the “time” necessary to join in the suit would be as long as it takes to sign her name on the pre-existing filing, no member of the community has done so. Tziporah declares herself ready to stand “tall and firm” on their behalf, but fails to demonstrate that they would like her representation. When Prof. Harel spoke to several, he was apparently unable to find a charedi woman who reacted negatively to the separation — “this is what ought to have been always” and “even if there was no separation, I would never sit near a man” were typical reactions.

    To ignore their own declarations, and assume that women are victims locked in a Stockholm syndrome without so much as speaking to them would fairly reek of patronism and condescension. So I am curious to know how many of the female regulars Tziporah interviewed before arriving at her obvious certainty that she is “advocating justice for any future women,” rather than denying them freedom of choice.

  • YM

    It would be interesting to see whether medinat Yisroel remains a democracy if the combination of charedim and dati leumi reaches over 50%.

  • Rafael Araujo

    Joe Fisher:

    You should be aware that a Jewish female professor at the University of Toronto has proposed to bring a challenge pursuant to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms against seperate seating and the failure of a synagogue/shul to count women as part of a minyan, on the basis that a synagogue receives certain tax exemptions as a religious organization from the Federal government and so the government is indirectly supporting gender discrimination and bias.

    So don’t worry, if this constitutional challenge goes ahead here in Canada, you might have something to worry about in your own jurisdiction. Isn’t that a calming thought.

  • Rafael Araujo

    Joe Fisher and other posters:

    Please see the following link to Professor Janice Gross-Stein’s article I referred to in my post above:

    http://www.magazine.utoronto.ca/07winter/stein.asp

  • Bob Miller

    The Canadian challenge would also adversely affect Muslims, so don’t expect it to go anywhere unless Jews are somehow singled out for that government’s love.

  • Rafael Araujo

    Bob – recent Canadian Charter and human right tribunal jurisprudence points to a trend – that religious rights and freedoms are, in many instances, taking a back seat when in conflict with other Charter-protected rights. For example, gay rights have trumped religious freedom in a variety of judicial and administrative fora. Given that Justice Aharon Barak modelled the current application of the Basic Rights on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, you see or you will see the same kind of trends in Israeli jurisprudence.

  • irhakodesh, Sima

    There appears to be many comments to the right and to the left on this issue of Mehadrin buses. I admit that I did not comprehend every comment that was posted to Y. Menken’s article. As a Charedei woman with a large family, living in Yerushayalim, there is strong support for maintaining Mehadrin bus lines for travel from city to city. Woman in the front, back or sideways, a section for young marrieds or senior marrieds is also OK by most. There is a concern for spiritual growth among the religious clientele that frequently travels the bus lines. Whether these buses are run privately or by Egged is an economical question that I am not addressing, if it is an Egged bus it must be LABELED as such, so that “never again” should any female suffer the physical and emotional humiliation that M. Shear has suffered. Man that ride Egged buses under the assumption that they are Mehadrin, need to be informed privately.
    I understood TZIPORA’s comment to “stand tall & firm” was directed to woman safety under all circunstances.

  • SM

    We don’t seem able to distinguish between the argument and the legal action. The post is “Why I think the legal action should lose”. I have no problem with that argument.

    But, the concommitant seems to be “Because I think the Legal Action should lose, I also think that named individuals should not bring the legal action”. That’s a different matter.

    People are allowed to test their arguments in court. And once we begin to try and restrict that (or express the wish that we were able to restrict that) we risk imposing our own view on everyone else – regardless of whether they are right or wrong.

    The comparison with being mechalel shabbat makes the point. We all agree that it is wrong to be mechalel shabbat (well, everyone here anyway). But it doesn’t follow either that we can compel people to be shomer shabbat, or that we should name people who are not shomer shabbat in public. Kal v’chomer, where the issue may (just may) not be quite as clear cut.

    Let’s hear it for the process – it keeps us all honest.

  • Noam

    If I understand correctly, the point of this post is that the campaign against Egged, in Rabbi Menken’s words, “is a fight against free association, free-market capitalism, and free religious expression.” Rabbi Menken has made a very logical and believable arguement. However, imagine that instead of a protest against Mehadrin buses, this was a protest against gay and lesbian buses, or some other cause that Rabbi Menken opposes. Would Rabbi Menken still be so vocal in support of free association and free religious expression? My guess is that the plaintive complaints of violation of free expression, and free-market capitalism would morph into condemnations and boycotts. This economic arguement, while clever, is only one of convenience, nothing more. It skirts the real issues and allows Rabbi Menkin to claim the moral high ground of championing freedom for all.
    (note: this post should not be construed as support for gay/lesbian buses or any other specific cause. this is only used as an example)

  • mark

    Great point Noam. R’ Menken’s “concern” for capitalism is what is disingenuous.

    “…The women are choosing to ride these lines—they, too, could choose non-mehadrin if they wanted. Apparently they would rather sit in the back than have men staring at them. Why not ask them why they choose to sit there? Why didn’t any of them join with Mrs. Shear in this suit? It is, after all, a free country…”

    You have got to be kidding. Do you really think if “Shprintze” wanted to side with those opposed to separate buses, she would even dare to so?

    When millions of colored folk sat silently in the back of buses during the first half or so of the twentieth century, is it because they wanted to? Puleeze! “Devora Malka” probably does not have the freedom to read your blog!

  • Yaakov Menken

    Although Mark thinks Noam has a great point, I am wondering what a “gay bus” is — other than a red herring. A better objection, from Noam’s perspective, would be the fact that buses don’t run on Shabbos. But that’s because Israel is a Jewish State, and *no* Jewish bus company runs. The economic playing field is level.

    Mark is mistaken. At risk of repeating myself, the mehadrin lines arose in response to market demand, and it would have been quite simple for women to choose other buses. The parallel to the US South simply doesn’t exist, since in the latter case, one could not have waited a few minutes for an integrated bus.

  • Noam

    Rabbi Menken wonders, but conveniently misses the rest of my statment “or some other cause that Rabbi Menken opposes.” The point I was making (which Rabbi Menken did not rebut, but merely tried to brush away with non-germaine asides), was that in this case, he wraps himeslf in the flag of free-expression and free religious expression. However, if the issue was not chareidi buses, but Reform demonstrations, the right to serve treif, or other causes which he opposed, I doubt Rabbi Menken would be so quick demand freedom of the marketplace and of expression. Therefore, his demands for free expression and trade does not stem from a deeply held conviction and devotion to these freedoms. If that were so, we have seen him supporting the Reform and the women in their quest for freedom of religion at the Wall, or the gays and lesbians in their quest for freedom of expression(in the form of their parade perhaps). Rather, it comes from a coincidental convergence of these issues with his own agenda. Let us be blunt. Rabbi Menken favors free-market and expression when it benefits the people he supports. We have not seen him favor it when it benefits the people he opposes. To now portray himself as the defender of free markets and expression is highly cynical and (hopefully) severely underestimates the memory and logical powers of the reading audience.

  • Yaakov Menken

    I think it’s Noam’s memory which needs to be jogged. The main Western Wall Plaza was constructed in the traditional Jewish fashion precisely because this is what the majority of people praying at the Wall prefer. But, as a matter of fact, I have supported in writing the right of those who desire mixed services to hold them at the Wall in an alternate location. People do not have a “right” to impose their style of prayer upon others, which is what Noam advocates in that example.

    Noam’s new examples attempt to distort the topic from that of a private company serving its clientèle to a purported “right” to hold a Gay Pride Parade in the middle of Jerusalem. If he recalls, what people found objectionable was not its existence, but its location — deliberately selected to impose upon the Holy City and its residents.

    All of us support some limitations to free trade and free expression. I would hope that none of us advocates for gun sales to convicts and the mentally unstable or shouting “fire” in a crowded theater. We even impose limitations and preferences upon which agencies governments should support. The United States gives preferences to minority-owned businesses, and, otherwise, we would be forced to advocate for Israeli government support of social services provided by Mormon missionaries.

    But we should not needlessly interfere in the right of a business to serve its clientèle, simply because that business also competes for government tenders. What is reasonable is to require that the mehadrin buses be labeled as such, so that no one be imposed upon by some volunteer “enforcing” mehadrin standards on a non-mehadrin line.

    If that was what the lawsuit demanded, I for one would not be objecting. But, frankly, if that was all they demanded, I very much doubt that Egged (and the competing Dan Bus Company) would be fighting the suit.

  • Bob Miller

    An Orthodox Jew cannot accept a completely capitalist or market-driven economy (or a completely socialist economy, either), in view of the need to apply the Torah’s social laws to public life wherever possible.

    In the situations where market-driven commerce is Jewishly desirable, its aims would be better realized through free enterprise and not government-owned companies, especially not government-owned monopolies.

  • Ori Pomerantz

    Rabbi Yaakov Menken: But we should not needlessly interfere in the right of a business to serve its clientèle,

    Ori: The definition of “needlessly interfere” is precisely the issue here. May I ask you to clarify with a few examples? In a few decades, it’s likely that Israel will have a dati/charedi majority. Which of the following businesses, which violate Halacha, would such a government outlaw? Assume there would still be enough Chilonim and Arabs to make these businesses profitable.

    1. Buses on Shabbat in and between predominately Chiloni areas.
    2. Shops that are open on Shabbat (in Chiloni areas).
    3. Book shops that sell heretical books (books that teach the Documentary Hypothesis, for example).
    4. Grocery stores with Treif food in Jewish Chiloni areas.
    5. Restaurants with Treif food in Jewish Chiloni areas.
    6. Grocery stores with Ever min HaChai in Arab areas (since Ever min HaChai is forbidden to Noahides).
    7. Mixed gyms where people are immodest accidentally to the activity.
    8. Pubs where people are immodest on purpose.
    9. Clubs where people come expressly to find partners for activities that are permitted only between spouses.
    10. Clubs where people come expressly to find partners for activities that are not permitted even between spouses.

  • Noam

    “People do not have a “right” to impose their style of prayer upon others, which is what Noam advocates in that example.”

    Rabbi Menken conflates my mentioning his lack of support with advocacy on my part. Nowhere did I mention here any support for imposing a style of prayer on others. One might assume from what I wrote that I support that, but in actuality I do not. This is not the first time we have differed on the accuracy of Rabbi Menken’s assumptions. This time his assumption is unassailably wrong.

  • Yehoshua Friedman

    Rafael (#17) gave us the link to the female professor opposing an orthodox minyan. The end-blurb about the author stated: “Janice Gross Stein is the Belzberg Professor of Conflict Management and director of the Munk Centre for International Studies.” Hmm, BELZBERG. A frum family. Pass the word around that they should get some bang for their bucks and raise a ruckus.

  • kar

    “The mehadrin lines are 100% market-driven. Whatever you think of their religious strictures, people have the right to make their own choices in the pursuit of what they regard as a religious value, and entrepreneurs have the right to create accommodations for those potential clients.”

    Not everything market-driven is legal, but I think you miss the point of many commenters. We, as religious Jews (some of us are haredim), have an interest in not seeing mehadrin buses except for isolated private buses. Haredim should be more sensitive to their image in society and not needlessly antagonize secular and other religious. In addition, the setup on these buses appears to be a recipe for problems. According to several articles I’ve read, women are sometimes forced to stand while there are still seats in the men’s section, and unquestionably, seats in the back are less comfortable. I think rabbonim should be leading their communities not to demand these buses, and to reconsider their priorities. It may or may not be true that once the buses are set up they are preferable when there is no halachic issue such as requiring women to stand including the elderly, pregnant, eshes chaver etc, but we needn’t set up everything to conform with a platonic ideal in one area, at the expense of other factors. There are other ideals, such as choosing one’s battles, and attempting to choose ones in which one can influence secular and traditional Israelis positively, rather than turning everything into a battle of turf and an occasion for isolationism.

    “There is a concern for spiritual growth among the religious clientele that frequently travels the bus lines.” – irhakodesh, Sima

    In the last CC piece on these buses, there were links to reports that in Beit Shemesh, there are requests for no non-haredim to be allowed to man the post offices and other public buildings. The requests included demands that men not show up without a kipa, and so these trends cannot be explained by reference to demands for tznius and kedusha. They appear to be about isolationism and “turf” and give every appearance of implying worrisomely negative attitudes and abdication of responsibility to other Jews. It is difficult to concieve of Americans requesting such separation on public buses even in a primarily haredi neighborhood, because Americans must reach accomodation with Non-Jews and are very concerned with chilul hashem and their image in society. Why do I get the feeling that haredim in Israel are not concerned with the impact of communal policies on the image of religious Jews?

    “When Prof. Harel spoke to several, he was apparently unable to find a charedi woman who reacted negatively to the separation—“this is what ought to have been always” and “even if there was no separation, I would never sit near a man” were typical reactions.”

    Please see this essay from a RW blogger who is a haredi defender, who both predicted a “Rosa Parks” scenario and clearly was not comfortable with the buses. If this is how those who defend haredim react, why does anyone think this won’t turn off people less friendly to haredim?

    http://bariveshema.blogspot.com/2006/05/mixed-seating-saved-my-life.html

  • kar

    “In Monsey you have communities where women don’t drive, and don’t even sit up front with their own husbands—they prefer to be chauffeured around….The private lines between Monsey, NY and Manhattan use a mechitzah (and note that these fully private lines were sued as well)….The women are choosing to ride these lines—they, too, could choose non-mehadrin if they wanted. Apparently they would rather sit in the back than have men staring at them. Why not ask them why they choose to sit there?”

    First, as a woman who has given many rides to chassidic women who don’t drive, some may be OK or say they are OK with not driving, others are ambivalent and some outright hate it. They don’t perceive themselves as having much choice in the matter (so long as they are part of the community).

    Second, you have mischaracterized the situation in Monsey. Yeshivishe women also ride those buses, and they have no interest in segregation and generally don’t care for these buses. There is limited clientele for these buses – they are private and they provide a service. The choice is segregated buses or no buses (unless someone can somehow set up their own bus). I take these buses sometimes, because those are the available buses, and since they are private, I have no right to make a fuss. The fact that I ride these buses is not a sign that I like them!

    “I don’t know the rest of the plaintiffs, but their names are Mor, Tali, Eliana and Efrat. [I just got a copy of the complaint, and will probably have more comments after I read more.] Not a Devora Malka, Faygi or Sorah Shprintzeh in the bunch. Could it really be that the women riding these buses (gasp) want gender separation on the buses?”

    There is nothing to make you conclude this for Monsey, and you then extrapolate from Monsey to Israel. Do women from meah shearim go to court or do their communities oppose making use of the secular court system!

    In any case, your analysis of the larger situation is misguided. Many women might dislike the buses, but the buses are a battle between secular and religious, and people identify with their religious group ahead of identifying with their gender. A woman who supported mixed buses is choosing the non-haredi side, and in a choice between siding with non-haredim and siding with “women,” haredi women who don’t choose women are not making a statement that they are happy with the buses.

    “When Prof. Harel spoke to several, he was apparently unable to find a charedi woman who reacted negatively to the separation—“this is what ought to have been always” and “even if there was no separation, I would never sit near a man” were typical reactions.”

    He doesn’t say that. He says that “some UO women” support the segregation, and gives these quotes. He doesn’t say that he was unable to find those who didn’t, and I see no mention that he did a comprehensive survey. Just skimming the article I see a fundamental misunderstanding of at least one halacha, and he takes a woman’s statement that “this is our role in Jewish law” at face value, whereas even supporters of mehadrin buses are fully aware that up until recently, buses were mixed, and that state of affairs didn’t prevent gedolei E”Y from riding buses – nor did they call for mehadrin buses. I have little doubt that a more comprehensive survey would have gotten mixed results, assuming of course that haredi women would answer freely to a researcher (a big assumption).

  • kar

    “The petition does not even ask that Mehadrin buses be banned permanently (something that many Chareidim, including some Rabbonim prefer).”

    Can you tell us which charedi rabbonim favor banning Mehadrin buses permanently? If possible, can you provide a link or documentation?