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ACLU to Hasidic Community of Kiryas Joel: Sex-Segregation in Park Not Allowed

“Public parks cannot segregate based on sex any more than they can on race or national origin.” Donna Lieberman, NYCLU Read More

By / March 31, 2014

A park in Kiryas Joel which came under scrutiny last year for sex segregation “will now be subject to strict NYCLU and ACLU oversight,” reports Gothamist. The park serves the 22,000-strong Satmar community and is divided into two sections: blue for boys, and pinky-red for girls (natch).

When the park opened in 2013, municipal treasurer Rabbi Gedalia Segdin told Hasidic site Behadrey Haredim that the sections were “separated by hills, which actually form a modesty buffer and allow the place to remain completely pure.” Signage in Yiddish at the entrance further enforced the separation of the sexes.

If the funding for the park came from public coffers, the sex-segregation is patently illegal. The Times-Herald Record reports that the state awarded Kiryas Joel $195,000 to build a park back in 2001, but community leaders turned down the grant. In July 2013, the NYCLU and ACLU requested documents pertaining to the financing and construction of the park. That request was denied, and in December they filed a lawsuit against the Village of Kiryas Joel.

The parties reached a settlement last week, with the community agreeing to allow the NYCLU and ACLU to inspect the park twice each summer for the next three years to ensure that segregation was not being enforced. In addition, signs explicitly stating that the park is segregated must be removed.

“Public parks cannot segregate based on sex any more than they can on race or national origin,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman today. “This agreement ensures that all park visitors have equal access to the entire park.”

Will the ruling actually effect change? The blogger Failed Messiah is skeptical: “This settlement is likely meaningless… Kiryas Joel leaders will just instruct followers in the synagogue or through robo calls to ‘voluntarily’ gender segregate. The followers will do it, the park will be gender segregated, and the NYCLU will have lost, despite its claim of victory today.”

(Image: aerial view of Kiryas Joel park, via NYCLU)