KIRYAS JOEL, N.Y. (CBS 2) — You may never see a more unusual “Welcome” sign in Orange County.
A sign in Kiryas Joel, the Hasidic Jewish enclave, is evoking mixed reaction.
Monroe resident Jessica Pantalemon stopped to cash a check in Kiryas Joel wearing a bright pink tank top and white shorts. She said she noticed scowling faces.
“Just from the women, mostly,” she said. “The guys let me walk by, the women stop and stare, start whispering to each other…I just ignore them.”
The tradition in the village of Satmar Hasidic Jews is modesty. Even on the hottest of days, most residents cover up from head to toe. But visitors don’t necessarily follow that tradition, and now the main synagogue is asking them to comply.
Congregation Yetev Lev posted signs at the village’s entrance – in both English and Spanish – asking outsiders to cover their legs and arms, use appropriate language and maintain gender separation in public.
“It’s a way of respect,” said one resident.
In fact, most residents say it’s simply a polite reminder to respect the local culture, and many visitors take the signs in that spirit.
“It’s nice to request that people behave in a way respect to their beliefs,” said Barry Kaufmann of Wantagh.
But the sign struck a sour note with some.
“They’re telling us that we can’t come into their community unless we dress a certain way,” said Adia Parker, an Orange County resident.
“I feel like my constitutional rights are being violated,” said Tyrone Wheeler, a day laborer in the village seeking work.
A village trustee pointed out the signs said nothing about consequences for violating these guidelines – because there are no consequences.
“We’re not threatening anyone,” said Rabbi Jacob Freund. “Everybody is free to come in and be the same, like all other places in the United States.”
So dressing like Jessica Pantalemon may elicit a scowl, but it won’t earn you a summons.
The New York Civil Liberties Union said because the signs were paid for privately and are not on public land and they pass constitutional muster.