A Woman’s Guide to Hasidic Street Harassment

Living in New York City means getting used to street harassment. In the past few years, my name has been Baby, Sexy, Bitch, and Hey You, Why Don’t You Smile? I’ve learned when to give the finger and when to hide. My friend Jen Dziura, a life coaching columnist, advises women that the best way to counter street harassment is to walk calmly up to the whistler or catcaller in question and politely let him know that he needs to learn how to speak to women in a respectful way.

It’s because of her that I finally said something to the hasidic men who harass me in my neighborhood.

I live in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn. More specifically, I live on Broadway, which divides a mostly Dominican and Puerto Rican community from a Satmar Hasidic one. My Spanish is better than my Yiddish. When I want a bagel, I choose a Dominican bodega over a Satmar shop, since the men will accept money straight from my hand and the women don’t cluck at my sleeveless shirts. In the past,when I got a catcall or leer from a hasidic man, I rolled my eyes and kept walking. But after a series of incidents where members of the Satmar community threatened women who rode their bikes through the neighborhood and even repainted bike lanes without permission, I decided that living-and-letting-live was overrated.

The first time I said something, he was a young guy, possibly in his late teens, standing about a block away from me. He looked past my Star of David pendant straight down to my breasts. “They’re nice,” he
said loudly.

“Excuse me?” I walked right up to him.

“THEY’RE NICE,” he shouted, pointing at my chest, as if the problem had merely been a failure to hear.

“Are you married?” I asked him. His face went bloodless. He scurried away like an animal who had been caught making a mess.

The next time I got bolder. When a middle-aged man whistled at me from the front door of a yeshiva, I marched up to him and said, “How many daughters do you have?” He didn’t answer, but he didn’t whistle again.

Since then, I’ve tried to find specifically Jewish ways to address street harassment. “The Torah says a virtuous woman’s price is above rubies!” I once yelled back, although he probably didn’t consider
me virtuous what with my ankles sticking out all sluttily. “Would you do that to Devora? To Sarah? To Rachel?” I asked, not realizing that these men probably would have thought Rachel was a hottie. There is one move I still haven’t been bold enough to try yet, though: walking up to a dude, calmly touching his shoulder, and then announcing that I am menstruating.

I’m not sure if my one-woman campaign against Satmar street harassment has made any impact on their community or on the way that they think about women. Most of the men simply run away from me or act like they suddenly have an important text message to look at, but a few have told me that I should be flattered by any attention from a man. I informed one of them that my Jewish boyfriend spoke to me in a much more respectful manner and treats me like a person instead of walking cleavage, but that didn’t seem to go anywhere.

Street harassment is, sadly, a fact of life in many urban areas. There are entire websites and smartphone apps (like the excellent Hollaback NYC) devoted to helping women take down harassers. But why was
it specifically Satmar street harassment that finally inspired me to stop grinning and bearing it? It was something about the fact that it was coming from inside my own community. Being able to use Judaism
and Jewish language against these men and force them to examine their behaviors was something I couldn’t do with other kinds of harassers. The phone call, you see, was coming from inside the house.

Summer will be over soon, and I’ll be trading in short skirts and dresses for long pants and thick stockings. As it gets colder, fewer men will be huddled in front of buildings or strolling up and down
the block. It’s possible that these men will remember me and know to avoid the uppity girl who yells at them when they’re just trying to pay her a compliment. It’s also possible that I haven’t affected them
at all, and that attempts to shut them down using Torah bounced off of them like light particles. Either way, I think it’s been a little quieter on my block lately.

What do you think?

About The Author

Lilit Marcus

Lilit Marcus was a Heeb magazine intern in 2004. Since then her work has appeared in Glamour, Cosmopolitan, The Daily, Newsweek, and The New York Post. Her first book, "Save the Assistants," was published by Hyperion. You may follow Lilit @saveassistants.

75 Responses

  1. Rachel

    I have also taken a stance against street harassment and have asked men to repeat themselves when they say something when we pass each other. Each and every one of them get a bewildered look and tell me they didn’t say anything.

    Good for you for standing up for yourself and for all the people who unfortunately encounter this too often.

  2. Michael Makovi

    WTF???!!! Apparently, they don’t let women teach their sons manners round those parts.

  3. Lawrence

    Satmars? Just tell then that every time they insult you, you give money to the Zionist Organization of America.

  4. Valerie Reiss

    Nice job, Lilit! As a post-35-er I get harassed considerably less than I once did (a definite perk of aging), but this is still satisfying to read. I love the idea of taking their verbal bullets and turning them into a conversation, an acknowledgement of each others’ humanity. Plus, some religion/context-specific humor is always a bonus.

  5. Kt Obermanns

    I think your responses are clever and heartening! Much more creative than my usual yell of “That is not appropriate!” Thank you for confronting this- every little bit will hopefully help. Best, Kt in Boston

  6. Solomon

    Great way to respond. For added fun – ask their name; use your smartphone and take some pics; tell them you just recorded their comments and the Rebbe is going to get a copy.

  7. Jayne

    I moved in to the zazza building on South 8 and Bedford a few months ago. we are SURROUNDED by hasids and we even have a Satmar temple right across our building. I NEVER had a problem with them harassing me or anything like that. do they sometimes look or stare at me? heck, of course, they are humans. But nothing close to what you write here about.

  8. Hershel G.

    Maybe try shouting “Chillul Hashem!” at them when they harass you. It should be sufficient to shut them up, not only because desecrating G-d’s name is a scary thought for any religious Jew, but they’ll likely be shocked you knew the expression in the first place.

    Anyway, keep up the good fight!

  9. Jeff

    “There is one move I still haven’t been bold enough to try yet, though: walking up to a dude, calmly touching his shoulder, and then announcing that I am menstruating.”

    Actually, I think it’s only their own wives’ menstrual cycles that are problematic. Of course, any physical contact with other women is forbidden to them (they think) under any circumstances.

  10. Jeff

    “Just tell then that every time they insult you, you give money to the Zionist Organization of America.”

    That’s the best suggestion yet.

  11. T

    I get the treatment from Spanish men in my area. I want to tell them off, but that would mean that they get my attention. After all, negative attention is still negative attention. Talking back is still payoff, the best response? No acknowledgement at all.

  12. marjorie

    Great piece! And I admit I’ve had fantasies about responding to haredi leering and harassment in exactly this way: “walking up to a dude, calmly touching his shoulder, and then announcing that I am menstruating.”

  13. aron

    emm, menstruating women are only unholy to their man, it doesnt make a difference if you are menstruating or not if you are not his women its the same no no.

  14. Gus

    Hate to sound like, “it was your fault you were raped, its the way you dressed”, but I think when you walk in their neighborhood strutting your stuff on a hot summer day, your stuff will attract their attention. They aren’t used to having DDs exposed in any way and the less tactful will stare, gape and possibly catcall and comment.
    I also, think Lillit has an overactive imagination. As Jayne who lives in the ‘hood said, she hasn’t experienced all the attention you’ve received.
    Perhaps just a good premise for a hateful article.

  15. oy vey

    i would lead them on get their personal information and then tell their spouse…..or cozy on up to them when their friends are around them…i am sure to their friends they play the holier than thou sh**

  16. Max

    First of all, how do you know that they are “Satmar”? You think Williamsburg has only satmar Chasidim? So why are you pointing out Satmar?
    Second, you chose to live in this neighborhood because it’s one of the safest neighborhood you can find with a 24 hour civilian Patrol, and here you come bashing that a Chasid liked the way you look, what’s wrong if a guy says your rack is nice? He didn’t say something nasty like the ones of the other side of Broadway are talking to you, or maybe you are just mad that you don’t get enough attention because you are ugly.
    Third, the reason you go to the Dominican bodega because it’s cheaper, and you can’t afford the kosher food.
    So if you need to vent, don’t go bashing nice people, lets say that these few guys who made the comments where nasty which I am sure they where not, why do you make it sound like the entire neighborhood is bad and nasty?

  17. Bernard Mendelbaum
    Bernard Mendelbaum

    “Max,” they are Satmar because they blame the victim justify odious behavior, and aren’t fluent in English.

    Clearly Satmar traits. Don’t you agree? Also, may I call you Yolie?

  18. Scott

    Don’t you worry. Give it a short couple of years, nature will take care of this problem. I have a feeling that you’ll be missing the attention

  19. Jess

    “Max,” I’m sure the next time someone shouts “nice rack” at your wife or sister or mother you’ll be happy to laugh and smile, pat the guy on the back, congratulate him for being Satmar and thus “not nasty”, and refuse to protect your family member in any way. That’s seems like just the kind of guy you are.

    And just in case — as your terrible English suggests — you don’t understand the sarcasm above, I’ll put it plain and simple: there is no excuse for saying suggestive things to strangers about their bodies. Especially if you’re supposed to be (and obviously aren’t) a “man of G-d” who respects women as children of G-d.

    What those men are doing is hurtful and blasphemous and disgusting. To justify them is also hurtful and blasphemous and disgusting.

    Yes. That means you, genius. Now go take some writing lessons.

  20. Mark

    Great read. I think it’s high time women assert themselves and take action when they’re being objectified. Not sure however, why you felt it necessary to single out a particular religious sect when the issue at hand is really one that affects women in general who are victims of ANY man of ANY race, creed or religion that would seek to demean a woman in such a fashion. I find it hard to believe that only Hasidic Jews are the culprits in your personal experience. Could it be that you decided to single them out because naming any other denomination that perpetrates these acts would cause you to run the risk of being labelled a racist or a bigot? You call yourself one of them but you couldn’t be anything further from them. Personally, I think you deliberately chose to specify the hassidim because it helps sensationalize your story at their expense, rather than focus on the larger problem. You personify what’s wrong with journalism today. Shame on you.

  21. Another Yoeli

    Bernard, Max is right. Williamsburg has lots of different Hasidic groups. Ignorant outsiders like to call them all “Satmar.” It’s pretty stupid.

    Lilit’s account is comical and narrow-minded. Men are men and people are people. Doesn’t matter their religion or ethnicity. Some men harass women and some treat them with respect. For Lilit to make their religion an issue is not only bigoted but also idiotic. The Hasidic man who harasses women is a moron who doesn’t care for religion. Her tapping him on the shoulder or yelling verses of Torah or mentioning Rachel (yup, that’ll do it) are like berating a dog for improper manners. The douchebag is simply ill-bred. His religion has nothing to do with it.

  22. Melody

    Thank you for doing this and for writing this, it was a great piece. Good on you for starting up a conversation with these men and challenging their beliefs as to what is an acceptable way to treat women. I admire and respect you for that. Keep fighting the good fight!

  23. Groynem Ox

    You’re looking at them through your 21st century eyes while they’re stuck somewhere in the 19th century. They intend no malice nor harm, they’re decent human beings like everyone else. Your clever comebacks only make non Hasidim seem even less approachable to them. You’d accomplish a lot more if you’d take the time and have some human contact with them, maybe even befriend them and get to know their culture and maybe share your 21st century culture with them. Imagine them to be lost time travelers who simply don’t know the ways of this strange world they find themselves in. A little understanding can go a long way.

  24. Dovid

    Umm. first of all, Menstruating women, ARE in fact prohibited even if they’re not a spouse. Second of all, I second Jayne, this is very surprising.

  25. jeanette friedman

    I think that there are a few commentors on this article who are precisely exactly the kinds of men she is writing about–filthy male chauvinist pigs who need their mouths washed out with soap, who need the smudged glasses now available from their even more extreme cousins and asshats, the Neturei Karta. The stinking rebbes who encourage them to “shtup shikses” and talk to women as if they are dirt under their feet should be given the beatings they gave us when we were kids. These men think that goyishe men behave like that. They think raping a woman is a compliment too. These are not men, they are vilde chayes and they should be arrested.
    I would whip out my cell phone and take their pictures, print them out like wanted posters and post them on the lamposts to show everyone how a chillul hashem is pepetrated by these animals–and which stupid jerks are responsible for it. No one teaches them how to behave properly toward women because the women are too cowed to raise their own sons who are raised “hefker”–like abandoned dogs.

  26. Jeff

    @Mark: “Personally, I think you deliberately chose to specify the hassidim because it helps sensationalize your story at their expense, rather than focus on the larger problem. You personify what’s wrong with journalism today. Shame on you.”

    The comments being posted here are even more telling than the problems Lilit has been experiencing. You guys are either blanket Haredi-defenders or completely clueless about Hasidic culture.

    Unfortunately, the Jewish community as a whole has bought into the romantic notions about Haredim that have been peddled over the past half-century.

  27. Bungalow Babe

    Hi Lilit! Stumbled upon your piece as I’m working on a blog post about hilariously hypocritical manifestations of frumminess — i.e. — sheitel-wearing women who strut in skin-tight outfits.

    Because I’ve got a decade or two on you, my fave response to sexual harassment from young guys involves asking the offender how old he is in my best school principal tone, informing him I have several kids, including a son around his age and asking him how he’d feel if someone spoke to his mother that way.

    I have been gratified to get a few stunned “sorry”s from these sorry-ass fellas.

    Bottom line: unless he looks like he might drag you into an abandoned lot and murder you, shame the harasser.

  28. FactsRule

    The ostensibly observant Jews mentioned may observe their religion in quite a number of ways, but then don’t extend God or recognize God when it comes to dealing with His world & the people in it the way it currently looks. They’re supposed to avert their eyes from women, particularly scantily clad women. Not doing so is creating a separation between them & the God to whom they’re supposed to be devoted. Creating a separation is called a sin. If they must speak, then they certainly have to speak to them respectfully as Judaism requires. Not to do so is an additional sin. One sin leads to another. But, the biggest sin of all is desecrating God’s Name. This is exactly what a chossid is doing when he engages in such outrageous disrespectful behavior.
    Perhaps the author remembers what it was like for her when she first noticed boys. Maybe she can understand that for young men who are around women who are always fully clothed, wrists to ankles, up to their collar bones, and never in pants to see scantily clad women is exciting and distracting to their goal of trying to be holy, as odd as that goal may sound to you. If they have a private store, they can ask people to come in dressed modestly if they damn well feel like it. As warped as this country has become, it still has some freedom, including the right of a private shopkeeper to require shoppers in their neighborhood stores to wear enough clothing for their likes. People living in adjacent communities should also have respect for them, just as they’re asking for respect. It’s hypocritical for intolerant people expect tolerance.
    I hope this came out o.k. I’m writing at 4:20am & am falling asleep.

  29. Jack of Brooklyn

    @JEANETTE I’m a business owner right next to williamsburg and deal a lot with these so called animals I have to tell you couldn’t be more wrong! The only people not hitting on my women employees are those animals, and thy are also the most respectful people I have ever met.
    I feel very sorry for you but it sure sounds like you are a self hating Jewish women.

  30. Bernard Mendelbaum
    Bernard Mendelbaum

    ANOTHER YOELI wrote,

    “His religion has nothing to do with it.”

    His fanatical upbringing has everything to do with it. Stop with your nonsense apologetics. You people need to stop raising your sons to be disrespectful welfare frauds, okay?

  31. Jeff

    @Jack of Brooklyn: “I feel very sorry for you but it sure sounds like you are a self hating Jewish women.”

    Or perhaps you’re just seeing what you want to see.

    As soon as someone uses the phrase “self-hating Jew”, he identifies himself as a frum apologist or wannabe. In any case, s/he loses all credibility.

  32. Danny Steinmetz

    Good for you. If you really want to get them ask them their names, snap a pic and tell them you will be posting it with an Israeli flag as a background. In that community Zionism is the ultimate sin and they publicly burn Israeli flags.

    For good measure (since a lot of them don’t access the internet, but plenty do as well) print up the photoshopped pics with the Israeli flag and the words chillul hashem and hand out one of the previous offender and tell your current guy, the next fellow who does this will get your pic. That will terrorize these guys.

    However you choose to handle it, keep up the good fight.

  33. Eli

    Dear Pulitzer prize wanabe,

    Woman dressing suggestively with the purpose of attracting men is nothing new.Drawing a reaction from a male (or in our day another woman)is offensive to some and flattering to others. Every group in our society has their rotten apples who are an embarrassment to their group in particular and to a decent society in general. It is wrong to address any one group in particular. Living in an area which is heavily populated by any one group in particular will most likely draw attention from that group.
    In reply to your article it is true that a highly religious person who acts inappropriately will and should be judged on a higher standard. This is the way it should be.
    On the other hand a decent woman such as yourself should be asking herself if the clothing she wears is not only for comfort but also to draw a “make me feel good” attention.

  34. Bernard Mendelbaum
    Bernard Mendelbaum

    “It is wrong to address any one group in particular. ”

    No, ELI, you need to accept that hasidim act worse than other Jewish groups.

  35. Jeff

    “On the other hand a decent woman such as yourself should be asking herself if the clothing she wears is not only for comfort but also to draw a “make me feel good” attention.”

    These articles really bring out the trolls with a “blame the victim” mentality.

  36. Deek

    Hey guys, can we at least all agree that determining wether or not summer dress is “appropriate” or “suggestive” must not be determined by members of a fanatical sect that forces its women to shave their heads and wear hats on top of their wigs?

  37. Marcos

    Whats the big deal? You dont like, take your business elsewhere.

    Live and let live! Or does that only apply to people that you agree with?


  38. Teri

    @Marcos –

    The author is trying to “live and let live”. These creeps aren’t letting her. Everyone has a right to live free of sexual harassment, including women. It is ridiculous that you should even suggest that she should move elsewhere in order to escape harassment. THEY are encroaching on her freedom to go about her business, not the other way around. Or would you like your mother, wife, sister, daughter to be called a whore by a total stranger?

    Stop blaming the victim.

  39. Bed-StuyC

    @ ELI: “Woman dressing suggestively with the purpose of attracting men is nothing new.Drawing a reaction from a male (or in our day another woman)is offensive to some and flattering to others. Every group in our society has their rotten apples who are an embarrassment to their group in particular and to a decent society in general. It is wrong to address any one group in particular. Living in an area which is heavily populated by any one group in particular will most likely draw attention from that group.”

    I’m with Teri–The fact is that women do NOT have to be dressing “suggestively” (however YOU define it) to attract attention from men who feel it is their right to comment on and objectify their bodies. It is degrading and it makes lots of women feel very unsafe. And women have the right to be free of physical commentary, regardless of what neighborhood they live in. Period.

  40. joe

    Yes. I am A chasidic boy and I must say, although you don’t understand what A religious Jew means,I do not agree with what my fellows are doing. But what I see here in Manhattan every day(i’m there every day of the week)is exact the same but from secular people. I am being ignored by almost everyone I see people pointing on me and laughing from me for no reason even though I am trying to be the nicest possible. We are all the same. and you just happen to be in the rung place (i’m not saying you are not aloud to live there)but this is the nature of all people, they don’t like anybody who looks different.

  41. Lizzie

    I have been harassed just as often when I was walking to work, in baggy sweatpants and hoodie, no makeup, than when I am wearing a t-shirt and shorts. (That made it feel even worse – like I was just a piece of meat, no matter how I presented myself.) I never even look harassers in the eyes or encourage them in any way.

    It really doesn’t have to do with women “enticing” men all the time, and this has happened to me in neighborhoods of every ethnicity.

  42. Laura

    Why do I believe Jayne the commenter more than the author of this post? I, too, live in Williamsburg. I shop at a kosher supermarket on Division Avenue. I get catcalls and whistles all the time, but not once have I gotten one from a Hasid. And certainly, no one–male or female–has ever clucked at my sleeveless shirts. Everything is possible, of course, by my guess is that Lilit is lying. Hasidim make a wonderful target for bashers. People who are different are easy to hate.

  43. Jess

    This whole conversation is kind of outrageous. Should non-hasidic men in those neighborhoods refrain from wearing shorts. If the hasidic women in those neighborhoods catcalled the men, wouldn’t EVERYONE be shocked?

    What’s wrong with you people? The author neither seems like a self-hating Jew nor a sex-crazed harlot. She’s simply stating that a group of people who are so attached to being holy that they their whole lifestyle is dedicated to it should not ogle women, and certainly should not shout dirty things at them. Yes, they are human. Yes, they may be attracted to these women. I’m attracted to lots of men I see, but you don’t see me shouting dirty things at them. Because being human means both having urges and having the ability to control them in order to keep peace, civility and respect.

    She writes about the Hasidic men in her neighborhood because they are the perpetrators she deals with. I don’t believe that she is saying they are worse than other groups…just that she is more surprised by them. She also never says that all Hasidic men do this. Like any other group, there are dogs and there are men. She doesn’t imply otherwise. I’m assuming she’s writing about incidents with this particular group because this is HEEB magazine, a Jewish-minded publication. An article about a non-Jewish community doesn’t really fit here, anyway, so let’s take a minute and be rational.

    More importantly: How DARE anyone say that the author shouldn’t wear clothes that are legal and appropriate in the majority of our society?! HOW DARE THEY!? The neighborhood might be predominantly Hasidic, but they DO NOT own the public spaces….that’s why they are called “public.” The author doesn’t even seem to have a problem with being judged in shops, because she can exercise her rights not to enter them. When she is walking in public and is harassed, however….that is a different story. And it’s shameful that she should have to deal with feeling judged and sexualized and naked while just walking down the street minding her business.

    Blaming the author is ignorant and chauvinistic. Defending a group simply because they affiliate themselves with a specific religion is also ignorant, but even worse: dangerous. Because this sort of behavior–this catcalling and such–it isn’t about sex. It isn’t about hormones. It’s about power. It’s about making a woman feel vulnerable, even a stranger, even on the street. It’s not in good fun, and it certainly isn’t earnest….do they expect a woman, ever, to turn around and respond in a flirtatious way? Is the end game “getting some?” No. It’s making the woman feel objectified. That’s the point.

    And, friends, THIS is what happens when you don’t make people take responsibility for their actions because they’re part of a religious group. It’s not just happening at Penn State with Joe Paterno. It’s in the Orthodox community, and it’s scary as the hell we don’t believe in:


  44. Andrea

    Observation #1: Nearly without exception, every person on this comment thread who is trying to tell the author that she deserves this harassment or that it isn’t happening is a man.

    Observation #2: Almost every female commenter has applauded the author for her article, and has said that they, too, have experienced street harassment.

    Obeservation #3: A few women have noted that they live in the author’s neighborhood and they have never been victims of street harassment.

    MY CONCLUSION: Dudes, how about you listen to what these women, the author included, are saying? You don’t experience street harassment in the way that women do, and you probably never will. Step outside of your own experience for a moment and listen to other peoples’ truths without slinging insults in their direction.

    Ladies who have not experienced street harassment from Hasidic men, I am sincerely glad that you haven’t experienced this. The fact that personally have not experienced this does not mean that the author and other women haven’t experienced it. Your experience doesn’t delegitamize their experiences.

  45. FactsRule

    @ Deek We don’t live in China (though Liberals are workin’ hard to take us there). Groups all over America have different understandings of what’s acceptable attire for women. Whenever someone uses the phrase “we can all agree,” I know I’m dealing with a person with a weak position who has to hide behind “we.” This story is about inappropriate behavior by some Chassidic men. It’s not about a large group living in an insular community who are offended by their private businesses being patronized by scantily clad women. Plenty of restaurants still have signs saying “No Shirt, no shoes, no entry, or things of that nature. Groups, large & small, all over America, decide what’s appropriate, not just Hollyweird. There is no “we” when it comes to a one-size-fits-all way to dress. And, regardless of how low this country has become regarding modesty & respect for women & the effect their scantily clad bodies have on men & what their dressing this way has done to the country, there are still many tens of millions of Americans left who are trying to reverse this trend & who never took part in it. Until the ’50’s, all women & girls wore skirts & dresses in public, always. It wasn’t until the ’60’s that the country’s women started to breech the walls of modesty that held societies together for 5,700 years of history, wearing hot pants & such; although, sleeveless shirts & dresses were around much earlier.
    You may look at chassidim as fanatics, this may be somewhat true, they’re fanatical in their devotion to God & the spirit. The body is to be harnessed for the soul. It isn’t fanatical to those who believe that their body has a higher purpose, that it’s to be overcome by the soul, controlled & harnessed. This is a huge challenge because the body wants no part of it. It only wants to eat, sleep, have sex, drink, party, go online, watch the Olympics, or whatever. If that’s all you want out of life, that’s your choice. If you believe that their is no God-given purpose in life, that’s your choice. But, some people believe differently. It doesn’t make them fanatical. They can similarly think you’re fanatical for living a life based on whatever you personally believe, rather than on what was given to the world in the presence of 3.5 million people at the revelation of God on Mt. Sinai 3,324 years ago, as people have done for that long.
    What I will agree to is that there is that the reason America’s founders severely limited what the federal government was supposed to be involved in (which has been fully corrupted by 110 years of Liberal expansion) is that there are vast differences within states & within our neighborhoods. If you travel a few hours to Lancaster, PA & want to spend time with Amish people, doesn’t just make common sense that if they’re opening up their neighborhoods to us in friendship that we reciprocate & have our females dress at least somewhat modestly while among them? I know that America has been getting lower & lower regarding how women dress for 50 years, but it isn’t limitless. We still haven’t reached full nudity everywhere or being scantily clad at most places of employment. There is some level of consideration at some times & places. Why only regarding Chassidim is their desire for decorum ridiculed? Americans today have weaknesses in many areas. There is a general breakdown in society on many, many levels. People are shooting from the hip blaming anyone & everyone, particularly groups who seem backward & old-fashioned. IT’S NOT THEIR FAULT! Americans decided 170 years ago to have a tax-funded government monopoly school system for k-12. They didn’t want Catholics running most schools. By 1900, half the country was in public schools. As time has gone by, teaching how to behave civilly has all but disappeared. As all government run entities, schools are rife with fraud & hopelessly inefficient. Education has steadily declined & has arrived at a point in which there is virtually no right or wrong (perfect preparation for our universities that teach evil relativism, that terrorists are freedom fighters, if that’s how you want to view them), God was removed completely & He faces a fight even if kids want to mention Him on their own time (when 50 years ago He was fully a part of school), many of the most popular t.v. shows & movies are filled with innuendos & outright filth unthinkable 50 years ago (even 20 years ago), & parents don’t have time or the skills necessary to parent. Millions of homes have no father at all. Btw, government, the ruling class, is behind everything bad that has happened to this country.
    @ Bernard Your anger, hatred, & need to publicly condemn an entire part (perhaps 100,000, or so) of a 250-yr-old branch of Judaism, albeit an insular one that struggles with the naked world they find themselves living in, is evil. Stop your vile disgraceful hate-filled sweeping generalizations. Why don’t you tell us, Bernard, are you an “observant jew?” If so, you’re comments make you seem far worse in some ways than those you accuse wildly of misbehavior. There may be some problems with quite a few Chassidim in how they’er not taught enough about how to relate in an appropriate way with the outside world, but you haven’t gone around to hundreds of thousands of them to find out what the percentage is. So, to make a sweeping generalization like you keep doing is unfortunately like Goebbels did as propaganda minister for the Nazis, & you should be sorely ashamed of yourself. Your self-righteous judgmental condescension is sickening & stupid.

  46. Jess

    It’s laughable that FactsRule is telling other people not to make “sweeping generalizations.” Umm, read the entire post, above. Then take some of your own advice.

  47. Bernard Mendelbaum
    Bernard Mendelbaum

    Factsrule wrote,

    “It wasn’t until the ’60′s that the country’s women started to breech the walls of modesty that held societies together for 5,700 years of history,”

    Human evolution developed over millions of years. Your fundamentalism suggests you are the type of person who thinks complaining about harassing women on the street is limited to “liberals.”

    “Plenty of restaurants still have signs saying “No Shirt, no shoes, no entry, or things of that nature.”

    Hasidim do not own the street. By large, they aren’t even tax payers.

    “There is a general breakdown in society on many, many levels.”

    Exactly. Like fundie groups that won’t learn English after four generations of living here. Glad we agree.

  48. Emma

    I have been verbally harassed in South Williamsburg by both Hasidic and hispanic men while wearing full-length overalls and a hoodie sweatshirt. This is not an issue of provocative dress, it is an issue of utter disrespect for women. (And I wish I’d had some of Lilit’s wit in answering back to them.)

    As for the apologists who say “he can’t help it, he’s used to seeing women all covered up”– really?! And do you extend him the same leniency when he walks past a McDonalds and “can’t help himself” from ordering and eating a cheeseburger?

  49. Jeff

    “our universities that teach evil relativism”

    They also teach the kids about paragraph breaks. You may want to look into that.

  50. FactsRule

    Let me be clear. I utterly condemn any ostensibly Chassidic Jew for outrageously, cowardly making inappropriate comments to women. It’s horrible enough that women are treated so callously by so many men today in so many ways, many of these ways far worse than these offenses. But, considering that they portend to be representatives of “a nation of priests & a holy people,” it’s a terrible crime on their level to commit. This is particularly true because such cruel behavior directed at women is so wrong for so many Jewish reasons, common sense reasons, & decency reasons.
    This is exactly why the author felt compelled to bring up the subject. It’s particularly ugly & inappropriate for chassidic Jews to behave this way. I totally agree and condemn completely without any prevarication what they’re doing.
    But, I will not paint many tens of thousands of chassidic men with a broad brush. And in general, the volume & intensity of such behavior in chassidic communities, from my experience in a number of them for decades, as well as my experience living in disparate parts of America for decades and years, as I am in Las Vegas now for 2.5, is far less in general than what is found in many places. But, to have even one person in any chassidic community acting this way toward another human being is intolerable & quite serious. Certainly, if leaders in these communities are told of such things, they would move to censor such activities in any way they can be of influence.
    The author prefers to get a bagel where the men won’t cluck at her sleeveless shirt. All are happy, the men who don’t have to be exposed to what they consider nudity, the chassidic women who don’t have to be threatened by such women drawing their men away from them, & the author who doesn’t have to be subjected to comments about what those people think about her attire, which, in a private shop they have a right to control. I’m certain that she NEVER gets comments from men in the Puerto Rican bagel shops (ha!). I didn’t know that Latinos had bagel shops, to be honest. Having kept kosher since I was 16, I didn’t notice such shops when I lived in NY for 32 years. And I spent some time in Washington Heights on Bergenline in Jersey, & in Haverstraw in Rockland, as well as in Williamsburg, all Latino communities.
    Ok, I just took a moment and reread the end and saw her name (I’m in a rush). I want to highly commend Lilit for her compassion in wanting to teach these men who are acting very badly because she recognizes that they are part of the same single spiritual entity as she is, the Jewish people. If a part of that body is hurt, you don’t cut it off, you heal it. If only they followed the Torah as well as she is! God bless you, Lilit. I’d like to suggest that you treat them the same as the others, and walk up and tell them that they should learn how to treat women with respect, even if they aren’t dressed as much as they think is right. That they’re doing a worse sin than she is by acting that way. Learn the different sins they’re committing so you can mention them. It’s amazing what one woman can do! Best of luck.

  51. Teri

    @Joe –

    I think it’s important to realize where the root of a behavior lies; that way, we can understand how to stop it. As Jess stated above, street harassment is about power. It’s a way that men show (and consolidate) power over women, and, in your case, it’s a way that people from the dominant culture show power over Chasidim.
    Looking different has nothing to do with it. If that were indeed the case, then how did escaped African slaves become leaders in Indigenous American nations everywhere from Greenland to Ecuador? Prejudice isn’t something you’re born with. It’s something you learn.

  52. Gabriel Desser

    Im a ex hasid and I could tell you that bashing an entire community is wrong.
    I know these people I grew up with them and I still drop by from time to time, they are very nice people
    Because they are different then you doesn’t mean they are wrong.
    And because you had a few Hasidim harassing you doesn’t mean everyone is like that.

    You sound like a Jewish guy who hates your fellow Jew and your nation!
    Don’t be so hatefull against Hasidim they are just trying to be closer to god and you hate them just for that reason.

  53. Michael N. Marcus

    Dear Cousin Lil…

    If an Orthodox man sexually harasses you, try one or two of these:

    (1) Sing to him, and he may cover his ears and run away in terror.
    (2) Ask for the name and phone number of his mother or wife so you can report him.
    (3) Ask if he’d like to go out with you, and he may run away in terror.
    (4) Say, “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours,” and he may run away in terror.
    (5) Tell him you’re a lesbian and want be fixed up with his sister.
    (6) Tell him you’d like to have a three-way with him and his wife.

  54. Chany

    I’m a Hasidic woman and I live in Williamsburg too. I walk to work every day fully clothed. I get harrassed plenty of times- by Hispanics. To suggest that the author brought this unto herself by the way she dresses is rediculous as well as untrue. And to suggest that the Hasidim harrass her because of their religion/ideaology is even more rediculous and untrue. My point is, men who harrass women should be ashamed of themselves, wether Hasidic or not. And kudos to you Lilit for standing up to them. Now if someone can teach me how to say “What’s your wife’s number” in Spanish I would be most grateful!

  55. Nathan Metz

    The idea that a woman is responsible for arousing desire in men by showing her arms or her hair is just ridiculous!!But the Hasidim are not alone. The natives in Bali thought nothing of bare-breasted women, but frowned upon showing their ankles!

    • FactsRule

      But, Chany, you’ve never been harassed by a chassidishe guy? It may be that if boys & men are observant Jews & do have an appreciation for women because of everything they’re taught about them and because they have a mom who dresses very modestly & sisters, too, that when they see women scantily clad, it makes them disrespect those women, & they say inappropriate things to them because they look down on them & think that they can get away with it. Or they figure that since they show so much, which they take to mean that they want to be noticed, that it can’t hurt to tell them it looks good. I think that their problem, which I don’t think is really very widespread, can be improved upon. On the other hand, I’ve watched many times how Hispanic men act; it’s far, far worse. And, I highly doubt that Lilit has seen a group of Chassidic guys act badly toward passing women like other ethnic groups of men behave.

  56. mark

    I know that community very weel so defaming a whole community for the action of a few is not right

  57. h

    I thought they’d be harassing you for being un-modest demanding you covered yourself. It’s shocking orthodox men would speak like that. You’re right to fight back and show you’re not a puppy and you know what they do is extremely “Chilul Hashem”.
    On the other hand, you could be a little more considerate and not show off your minimal clothing right in front of their nose. Despite their stupid reactions, they are still offended.

  58. Jess

    H — It doesn’t sound like they’re “offended” at all. It sounds like they’re aroused. I actually don’t think it’s either….again, I think this is a power issues. But to say they are offended when they are actually saying things of a sexual nature is naive.

    Also, can we please all agree that the author is not judging the entire community, but only those people who harass her? Why do people keep accusing her of being an anti-semite or anti-hasidic or even anti-satmar? She simply is making a statement that no community is safe from power-driven men or even sexual predators, no matter how that community might portray itself publicly.

  59. FactsRule

    Jess & H are talking apples and oranges, as is Lilit. There are the men doing the harassing and then there are the stores they won’t go into because the men won’t give them change in their hand as is their custom not to because they don’t want to touch women because it can be physically pleasing to do so, which they are taught to save completely for their wives. If she’s dressed scantily in their stores, she’s doing the harassing. Of course, I agree with your last paragraph, Jess. Never judge a book by its cover. In Yiddish they say, “Clothing means nothing.” Of course, there are many men & women in observant Jewish communities who do honor their clothing and act in congruence with them. I’m sure that there are somewhat fewer men that do so than women. Men, in general, today, could do with a male chastity belt; ha, ha. And one for their mouths, too. But, my God, in some communities, the women today make drunken sailors sound like Mr. Rogers.

  60. AlizaG

    When I was in my 20’s I was friendly with a frum couple. They were friendly with another couple who sold Shaklee products. The man of the 2nd couple came to my house, knowing my husband wouldn’t be home – but I figured it would be okay, him being hasidic and all.
    Nope, he made a play for me anyway, knowing I was Jewish, knowing I knew he was married – and knowing I would probably tell his friends as well. When I did tell my friends they said that wasn’t uncommon and that I shouldn’t assume that just because someone seemed super-religious that they were okay.
    I learned a lesson that day, for sure.

  61. FactsRule

    Alizag, It’s too bad you never had a chance to learn the Jewish laws regarding men & women being alone. God’s only trying to be helpful. At least you learned something and nothing major happened. I’m a man and will never understand how so many men have no clue about how women feel.

    • AlizaG

      @Factsrule – so it’s MY fault? HE knew the rules. I know them now too. As a reform Jew we don’t have such archaic rules, and that’s how *I* was brought up.

  62. Jeff

    “God’s only trying to be helpful.”

    Yeah, he’s real helpful. He’s just a regular Boy Scout, isn’t he?

  63. RH

    The satmers are not part of the Jewish community… They’d prefer the eradication of secular Jews and the state of israel as it was not the result of the messiah’s arrival. They show this actively by donating money to Arab/anti-israel terrorist organizations and themselves acting out in ways against the country and Jews who they don’t think are fit Jews (which is worse to them than a none-Jew)

  64. Joyce

    Check the archives of the New York Times for an article titled,”Lechery, Immodesty and the Talmud” by DOV LINZER which was published on January 19, 2012.
    “But it’s actually a complete perversion. The Talmud, the foundation of Jewish law, acknowledges that men can be sexually aroused by women and is indeed concerned with sexual thoughts and activity outside of marriage. But it does not tell women that men’s sexual urges are their responsibility. Rather, both the Talmud and the later codes of Jewish law make that demand of men.”

  65. FactsRule

    @ RH You’re confusing Satmar with the Neturei Karta, an extreme radical tiny fringe group that ostracized itself according to Jewish law because of their severe outrageous anti-Jewish actions & words regarding our mortal enemies. Satmar believes that even after the formation of Israel that it’s their duty to work toward Israel being handed back to UK. The Satmar Rebbe, Yoel Teitelbaum, obm, as far as I know NEVER supported Israel being given over to the Arab Muslims who have as their highest life goal the annihilation of 7 million Jews in Israel as a beginning toward the eventual turning of the entire world into one Islamic nation, the clear highest aspiration of the Koran as interpreted by all major Islamic “scholars” for 1,400 years, as clearly laid out in the Koran & Sunna (the Sira & Haddith).

  66. jewdar

    As the greatest halachic and moral authority at Heeb, allow me to clarify some points.

    1. Regarding touching. A man isn’t supposed to touch women other than his wife at all because of the sexual temptation. He is not supposed to touch his wife when she’s a niddah. He is certainly not supposed to touch other women when they are niddahs, and he has to presume they are, so touching the guy and saying “I’m a niddah” works, because they might think “Hey, I’m going to get lucky, she’s touching me,” but then find out he can’t.

    2. The people taking umbrage at the presumption that these gentlemen are Satmar have a point. I noticed that many of the respondents used generic terms like “latino” when referring to Latinos. Presuming that all chasidim in Williamsburg are Satmars is a bit like presuming that all Latinos in Washington Heights are Dominicans or all latinos on the LES are Puerto Ricans. Odds are you’re right, but don’t be surprised if the improperly tagged latino is offended, and it does suggest a certain cultural insensitivity–“Chinese, Japanese, what’s the difference?”
    3. Given the current level of fanaticism regarding women’s appearance in the haredi world, it’s absurd to blame women for dressing “immodestly.” Sure, walking around in string bikini is pretty immodest; walking around in shorts and t-shirt by the standards of the USA (which is where we live) is not. To argue that “society changed, the chasidim didn’t” is absurd and dishonest. The fact is that the blackhat community has changed, and become more fanatical, in recent years. Forget about halter tops; when you read a haredi publication, and they blank out the faces of women in sheitel ads, it’s clear the issue is the haredim, not the women. When they delete a perfectly respectably clothed Hilary Clinton from a photo, it’s clear the issue is the haredim, not the women. When they photoshop wives and daughters out of old photos of great rabbis, it’s clear the issue is the haredim, not the women. This isn’t tradition, this is new, and it is fanatical. The fact is that at a time when some haredim want perfectly modestly-dressed haredi women to walk on the opposite side of the street, you can hardly say that the problem is that women are dressing inappropriately.
    4. It’s perfectly reasonable to criticize the culture and education that produces these attitudes, just as its perfectly reasonable to criticize the culture and education that produces misogyny in the Latino and African American communities. If gender separation in the chasidic community helps produce young men who can’t understand why their vulgarities are not appropriate, then maybe there should be a little more exposure to these bochrim of the notion that women are actually humans.
    5. It’s doubly reasonable to criticize bad behavior in the haredi world because so many in the haredi world claim to hold themselves to a higher standard. If a group of people are going to go around talking about the moral superiority of their way of life, then they shouldn’t be too surprised that people are going to pay a lot more attention when their claims fall flat (especially when the argument can be made that the moral failing is not despite their way of life, but, as suggested above, because of it).
    6. Those who suggest that Ms. Marcus is lying because they didn’t experience the same harassment need to take a step back. Let’s assume that most hasidim don’t make such comments. So all it takes is to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, which is more or less the case for any act of malfeasance. I worked in Washington Heights for years, and was never a victim of crime; should we presume that during those eight years, there must therefore have been no crime?
    7. Max, your comments mocking Lilit for allegedly not having enough money to buy kosher food are about as unhasidish as you can get. Love all those hasidic mayses where the Baal Shem Tov mocked the poor. It’s elul, Max, do some heshbon nefesh, and some teshuva.
    8. Neturei Karta and Satmar are different groups, but the late Rebbe enjoyed good relations with them for many years. As for the state of things today, to argue that the Satmar call for the return of the land of Israel to the UK is absurd, since the UK isn’t going to take it. If you oppose Jewish control over the Land of Israel, the only real alternative at this point is to give it over to “Arab Muslims who have as their highest life goal the annihilation of 7 million Jews in Israel.” That’s the case not only now, but since the 1950’s. Anything else would have been delusional.

  67. Pinchos Woolstone

    I am chassidic but not SatmaR or similar.
    Modest dress is a precept of a Torah lifestyle.
    If I meet someone whose style of dress is different, I would never embarress them, I just go about my business.

  68. gf


    Do you like it when your boyfriend/husband looks at other women? If not, then why do you dress in such a way to attract the attention of other men?

  69. Mordecai

    This seems out of character from them as well as you to do this is really weird. And the book of Proverbs should not be being misquoted as a justification to dehumanize men by jailing them all because of something as stupid as what they say about her bosom,cleavage or rearend which is really trivial,inoffensive when you think about. Their overreaction to those compliments and whistles is what I find to be extremely offensive along with passing a law against is equally appalling as well and evil too.

  70. Beiren

    Tiny detour: I have lived in China. Chinese cities have crammed a century of change into a couple decades. There is mostly no morals police, but there is a huge gap in what is considered proper, from conservative to progressive, from old to young. China is not the best example to use.


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