A Brooklyn councilman’s idea for gender-segregated beach days has not been received warmly by the New York Civil Liberties Union. The NYCLU claims discrimination, while Chaim Deutsch simply wants to give a minority group the chance to enjoy what the majority takes for granted.
Deutsch, a councilman from Brooklyn, proposed the idea to give Jewish and Muslim New Yorkers an opportunity to enjoy the beach.
Donna Lieberman, NYCLU executive director, said the council has no right “to impose gender discrimination on a city beach simply because it’s mandated by their religion.”
“It is one thing for the city to provide reasonable accommodation for religious practice, and quite another to limit the public access of everybody else,” she said.
Deutsch proposed two days — one for men, another for women — to go to the beach at Kingsborough Community College. Both days are Fridays when the beach would normally not be open, so it wouldn’t be taking time away from people during normal beach hours.
“They’ve never been able to smell the beach, to walk in the sand. Everyone should be able to enjoy the beach,” Deutsch said of the Jewish and Muslim communities.
The Democratic councilman is making it his personal responsibility to raise the funds needed to rent out the beach for a few hours on each day. It would be $400 on each day to have the necessary staff, including lifeguards, on the beach.
Deutsch also noted that the beach would not only be open to people of Jewish and Muslim faiths — the only caveat is the gender of attendees, which would be more of a courtesy Deutsch hopes people will follow.
“We’re hoping that people will be respectful of their neighbors and not infringe on their fun day at the beach,” he told HuffPost.
“For many New Yorkers, including religious Jews and Muslims who follow modesty laws, there is no opportunity to have a real beach experience,” he also said in an email to the publication. “Nobody should be disenfranchised because of their religious observance.”
Deutsch hopes to reserve the beach for men and boys from on June 29 and women and girls on July 27, from 9 am to 3 pm on both days. Attendance will be free.