Deadly Yom Kippur Crash Spurs Safety Push for Observant Jewish Pedestrians

How Can Orthodox Cross Without Pushing 'Walk' Button?

Dangerous Crossing: Orthodox Jews cross the intersection where Esther Ohayon was struck and killed on Yom Kippur. Pedestrians have only a few seconds to cross the wide street if they cannot push the ‘walk’ button on Shabbat or holidays.
bruce lipsky/florida times-union
Dangerous Crossing: Orthodox Jews cross the intersection where Esther Ohayon was struck and killed on Yom Kippur. Pedestrians have only a few seconds to cross the wide street if they cannot push the ‘walk’ button on Shabbat or holidays.

By Anne Cohen

Published September 30, 2013, issue of October 04, 2013.
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Despite the newfound impetus, any permanent solution will depend on a compromise between what the state can provide and what fits into Jewish religious law.

Rabbis said there are questions about whether observant pedestrians would be permitted to cross the intersection if they know that their presence triggers the electronic sensor system.

“This has been gut-wrencher,” said Mike Goldman, public information officer for the Jacksonville office of the state Department of Transportation, who is a Reform Jew himself. “We can tell [them] what we can do but we also need to know what is acceptable. For example, [would] solar power technology be acceptable to the rabbi?”

For Fisch, the issue runs beyond the Jewish community — and any solution should accommodate the needs of anyone who walks for religious, social or economic reasons.

“We feel that this is not a Jewish issue even though it happened to one of ours,” he said. “This is a public safety issue.”

Though change seems to be underway in Jacksonville, pedestrian advocates like Bricker note that whatever action is taken will simply mark the beginning of a larger struggle.

“A city like Jacksonville will continue to be very challenged with the safety of citizens trying to walk across the street until the community and its leaders get serious about this issue,” Bricker said. “How many deaths will it take?”

Contact Anne Cohen at cohen@forward.com


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