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Williamsburg’s Hasidic Pool Wars Heating Up Again Before Summer

It’s spring in Williamsburg and that means one thing: Hasidic groups and New York City are gearing up for another fight over single-sex swimming hours at public pools.

The city originally granted the single-sex swimming hours at two area pools as an accommodation to the area’s Hasidic women, whose code of modesty precludes them from swimming with men. But it slashed the women’s-only times from four hours to two a week last fall, after the city’s Human Rights Commission expressed concerns that the policy might violate gender anti-discrimination protections.

A group of elected officials is demanding a return to the original hours in a letter to city parks commissioner Mitchell Silver.

“We don’t want to take anything from anyone. The pool is empty on those days they took away from us,” Esther Weiss told DNAInfo this week. “It’s anti-Semitic, it’s anti-women.”

But Donna Lieberman, head of the New York Civil Liberties Union, whose organization opposes gender-specific swimming hours, struck a different chord when speaking on the issue last fall.

“People have every right to go swimming in a gender-segregated environment pursuant to their religious beliefs,” she said. “But not on the taxpayer dime.”

Contact Daniel J. Solomon at [email protected] or on Twitter @DanielJSolomon


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