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Segregation and unity

June 20, 2016

I’m always of two minds when I read about issues such as this one: whether a public pool in Brooklyn should have swimming segregated by sex, in respect of the religious restrictions practiced by some Hasidic Jews there. Part of me is irked that the rest of us ever have to make accommodation for religion. If your religion requires you to cover all of your face except your eyes, don’t blame employers who don’t want to hire masked women. If it forbids you, a man, from sitting next to a woman on a commercial airliner, don’t travel that way. Ox cart seems appropriate for someone who so rigidly practices an iron age superstition.

That said, we all have our foibles. Almost everyone religious learned it at their mother’s knee, and the vast majority are not going to set it aside. Those Pakistani women fighting the sexist teachings of fundamentalist Islam (see post previous) also are Muslim, just a bit more liberal in their outlook. So, if it doesn’t push aside too many other swimmers to have segregated hours for a public pool, why not give people what they want? More, it mostly is the young who swim. They labor under the religious restrictions imposed by their parents, whether they want to or not, whether they believe or not. Help them with a little freedom today, and — who knows? — maybe, as they get older, it will nudge them to a more liberal practice of their religion.

Judaism, like all religions, has a spectrum of practices. An Orthodox congregation in Washington, DC, visited a gay bar to mourn the Pulse killings. Two cheers for them.

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