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‘Anti-Semitic’ Elevator Causes Friction at New York City Apartment Building

June 27, 2013 11:03 am 20 comments

Shabbat candles. Photo: wiki commons.

A dispute over a “Shabbat-friendly” elevator has deteriorated into a civil rights battle at an Upper West Side apartment building, The New York Daily news reports.

Touro College had planned to make one of two elevators automatically stop at every floor in the six story building from sunset on Friday until sunset on Saturday, as a way to observe the Orthodox law barring observers from operating electric switches on Shabbat.

Touro is asking in papers filed Tuesday in Manhattan Supreme Court to overturn a decision by the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal that denied the request. The college said its Jewish students occupy more than half of the building’s apartments.

The building’s other tenants objected, however, saying that the longer wait would be an inconvenience on a day when many are busy coming and going from the apartment.

“New York City is a bastion of tolerance — except where the 10 W. 65th Street Tenants Association and Division of Housing and Community Renewal are concerned,” the Manhattan Supreme Court suit states.

In court papers, Touro said the delays would be minor — at most 1 minute, 23 seconds — and accused the tenants association of setting a “discriminatory and anti-Semitic tone.”

James Berry, tenant association president, rejected the claim, saying, “This is not about civil rights. The problem is that Touro has made this building into a dormitory in violation of the building’s certificate of occupancy.”


  • Had Steve Allen (‘DUMBTH: The Lost Art of Thinking’) not died from car accident injuries—written 1992, re-issued 2002—who knows what he would have called the sequel?

    When did teaching kids what (rather than how) to think begin? The ‘Dumbing of America’ began over 50 years ago. What else explains national average scores for the S.A.T. falling every year since 1963? Were secular Jews exempt? Not at all, judging from these comments.

  • My guess is that the same people (including those making comments) who feel that the wait of 1 minute and 23 minutes is excessive are those who complain when a wheelchair needs to board a bus. Watch out – you intolerance is showing!

    • It is not a matter of one minute or even one second, the point is that they don’t have to spare even one second for the Jewish residents it is their rights. You wonna be shomer Shabbat that’s fine and admirable but also you don’t do it in a way that provoke and instigate resentments that could later on become hatred.

  • I think this issue just highlights the problem with human nature.

  • Mikhael Izsak-Dicker

    I’m a Jew, but would actively resist any attempt of introducing “shabbat elevators” in the building I live in. I refuse being discriminated by religious fanatics. Since the large majority of Jews in Diaspora and Israel doesn’t care at all about iron-age shabbat rules, the religious minority is a terrorist force both in Jewish and gentile environments and communities.

    • Wow. You really don’t like being a Jew. You probably would object to a Jewish affair being catered kosher so everyone could eat because you so much enjoy putting butter on your muffin with that steak. Fie I’m embarrassed for you and about you. Incidentally I am not Orthodox

  • tessa auman

    Come home to Israel!

  • Jo-Ann Morris

    1 min, 23 seconds to wait for an elevator for just a 24 hr. period….get a life people and respect the students who have requested this for religious reasons. Sounds like the real problem is resentment of students living in the complex.

  • It is only 5 storeys. The Jews can walk. Or not live in a tall building. In any case, R’ Elyashiv has banned the use of Shabbat elevators anyway

  • There are already a million or two more Muslims than Jews in this country. Wait until there are ten million more, or twenty million more, and it’s coming. Soon.
    When that happens, worrying about pushing elevator buttons on Shabbos will be the least of our problems.

    • Howard @June 27, 6:44+++++++

      RE: your comment regarding when the Radical Muslims reach a certain total population, pushing elevator buttons on Shabbos will be the least of our problems., and I should add, to complete your thought, and Sharia law overtaking the USA, etc etc…
      Well said, and I couldn’t agree more. HOWEVER, you are projecting to an unknown future, likely or not. Chas v’shalom that everyone’s life should be guided by hypothetical worst case future events. The examples are endless of actions people might take living their lives expecting the worst. Jews who fled Europe before the Shoah were acting on a very high probability event.
      There is talk that the US govt’ might seize pension funds. Are you going to empty your account, pay the penalty, and do, well, heck, I do not know what to do with it. And I do believe that yes, that can and may happen here. Do you move to a Caribbean island to escape a possible huge increase in Radical Moslem Jihadists here? I DO NOT KNOW where paranoia ends and prudence begins. It is a dilemma to be sure.
      There are already some cities/states who have embraced Sharia law to a certain extent.,,,,,,, or are being pressured to. .

      I should have posted a more neutral website but I shall leave it to the interested reader to google one.
      which would be more credible to many, but, at the moment, I’ll let others google.
      How does one differentiate between paranoia and prudence???? I do not know.

    • It is so difficult to accommodate Jews but we go out of our way to accommodate Muslims like installing foot baths in the airports and allowing Muslim cab drivers to reject sightless passengers with their seeing eye dogs and in some supermarkets Muslim clerks are even allowed to not ring up a person with pork products.

  • To call this anti-semitism is pathetic. I’m Jewish and if I lived in that building I’d be pissed off, too.

    This is like Muslims demanding prayer rooms and footbaths in airports and universities and expecting the larger society to foot the bill. It is also like Muslim factory workers demanding prayer breaks that force the non-Muslim workers to shoulder more of the workload.

    Sandy Koufax opted not to pitch on the sabbath. I respect that. He did not demand that that Major League Baseball stop scheduling games on Saturdays. That would have been a prima donna move. These Touro students are acting like prima donnas.

    When you’ve got bags of groceries in your arms and you desperately have to use the bathroom, why should you have to stop at each floor because of some other guy’s religious rigidity? The convictions are his; let him make the sacrifice (as Koufax did). Let him use the stairs, for Pete’s sake, or let him bend a bit and push the buttons, or let him hire a sabbath goy.

    Instead of these Touro students wasting the time of their neighbors (and time is money), let them pool their cash and purchase the services of a shabbas goy to push the buttons for them. Or let Touro College pay for it.

    There’s enough real anti-semitism in the world that the last thing we should do is cheapen the currency of that word by throwing it around recklessly.

    Shoulder your own convictions. Don’t make other people carry your weight, and above all, don’t try to guilt them or shame them into doing it with inappropriate and unfair tags like anti-semite.

    • I don’t think Sandy Kaufax was ‘Shomer Shabbos’. I believe he decided against pitching in the World Series on Yom Kippur,

    • D LONDON: I totally agree with you. They should hire a shabbos goy. That takes care of the going up part. What about down, for young students, no problem, for the elderly, while it might sound extreme to some, 5 flights down could be difficult since often the rise on service stairs is shallow, and different leg muscles are used.
      I used to live in a 22 story upscale rental bldg. on UWS. So, there were doormen who knew which tenants required them to press the button. They just automatically went over and pressed it. The frum did not have to make an overt request. WHAT did they do going down?????? I do not know., cheat, I guess, believe me going down 21 stories is very taxing: when it’s not working and you need to move your car for alternate side regulations, even non ortho are occasionally subject to this chore.. OY, really not easy going down 21 stories with those shallow service stairs..,.
      And as for the electronic eye sliding glass door, the doormen were instructed to leave it open the entire Shabbos. Sometimes they forgot. The truly frum, seeing the oversite, with the glass door closed, coming home after services erev shabbat, would stop in their tracks. like a deer in headlights…..and wait for a non-Jew to come home? and let them enter.
      22 story building, problem solved. on the upside.
      why is any of this important?, It seems to me, that the concept of an ERUV is a fraud religiously, and I personally know some modern ortho (heavy,not lite) people who agree about the eruv being a religous fraud, davka.,. They fix what they want to fix,

      The RABBIS will not fix the problem of agunot, a halacha that is a blight on the Jewish religion. They worry about Shabbos elevators, but keep women chained for years in a marriage with a recalcitrant husband who refuses to give her a GET, whether for blackmail or other reasons and often also gets custody of the children. THIS is MAJOR SHONDA, and they worry abut elevators on Shabbos.

      . Judaism, the compassionate religion. ELOHIM MALEH RACHAMIM NEVER INTENDED TO TRAP WOMEN IN MARRIAGES. i THINK, but where is he? in tsimtsum? but the rabbis in their infinite wisdom do what they want., including endangering male babies through the use of MBP, metsitsah b’peh, which can and has, spread HERPES from the mouth of an infected mohel., this can be a very serious disease for a newborn. Yet the charedim continue the practice despite halachically acceptable alternatives.

      Let them get a shabbos goy, and walk down the stairs…..

      • I can’t believe that I read your ravings. You would actually expect a crippled person or a pregnant woman to walk the stairs or violate their religion by pressing the button. Shame on you.

  • Joy Bloumis

    How does one ever overturn this type of hostility. Maybe build a totally orthodox Jewish apartment building for students. In Victoria, Australia, they had to build a Jewish Golf Club in order for Jewish people to be able to become a member, when Jews were barred from all private golf clubs.

  • Jews come home. No use to stay outside Isarel.

  • Bernard Ross

    I do not agree with making gentiles suffer the shabbat sacrifices instead of Jews. the Jewish residents are inconveniencing others so that they may observe shabbat. why don’t they walk. it would seem strange that Shabbat observation is not a sacrifice for the jews but the sacrifice is transferred to the gentiles. I believe that shabbat observances are meant to be observed in spirit as well as “technically speaking’

  • Artie Abelowitz

    I do believe that the subway system in NY has both local and express trains. What is the difference?

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