From NPR by Barbara B Hagarity
It's been a few decades since Americans were engaged in a back-of-the-bus controversy. Now a popular bus route between two New York City neighborhoods is reviving the issue.
Last Wednesday, Melissa Franchy boarded the B110 from Williamsburg to Boro Park, two Hasidic Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn. She was accompanying her friend, Sasha Chavkin, a reporter for The New York World, a Columbia Journalism School publication. Their mission: Find out what would happen if Franchy sat at the front of the bus.
At first, nothing happened. Then she was approached by another passenger, a Hasidic Jewish man.
"And he said, 'OK, you should sit at the back because women sit at the back on this bus and men sit in the front.' And I looked at him and said, 'OK, why?' And he said, 'Well, that's the rule because this is a private Jewish bus.' "
Franchy asked the driver if this was permitted. He didn't speak enough English to respond. Then she noticed two Hasidic women at the back of the bus.
"One of them was rolling her eyes; the other one said, 'Just move, I mean, that's the way it is. You don't ask.' And then the man said, 'When the Lord gives a rule, you don't question it.' "
The rule, says Shulem Deen, who spent the first 29 years of his life as a Hasidic Jew, is steeped in ultra-Orthodox tradition.
"Essentially, it's based on the idea that men and women should generally be separate, should inhabit different spheres of life in public in particular," Deen says.
The B110 bus runs through the sections of the borough of Brooklyn that are heavily populated by Orthodox Jews.