Residents at a Hackney neighborhood in London were left baffled and shocked after noticing street signs banishing women to walk on both sides of the road. The route signs were put up by the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Stamford Hill and the local council was quick to remove them after strong backlash from the community.
Rabbi Susan Silverman, a Jewish activist who was arrested last year for wearing a prayer shawl at the Western Wall, said: ‘the posters were a sign of how “out of touch” Haredi groups are with the rest of the world. Whether it was meant for internal communication or not … it worries me when a fundamentalist sect feels like it has any kind of propriety over public venues”.
Typed in both Yiddish and English, the signs read, “Women should please walk along this side of the road only.” The council, commenting on the incident said that the posters were remnant of a Torah Procession during which hundreds of men and women accompany the Torah scroll through Stamford Hill’s streets under a chupah.
‘Parade participants usually celebrate the occasion with dancing, so the Haredi community wanted to ensure that the genders were separated. The area’s 20,000 Haredi Jews follow a conservative branch of Judaism that discourages unmarried men and women from touching members of the opposite sex, unless they are close relatives.
The signs were plastered on lampposts, garden walls and cable boxes around Stamford Hill, prompting confusion among locals.’
City Official Rosemary Sales told the London Evening Standard that: “It is of course quite unacceptable to try to restrict women’s movements in a public place and council officers removed these posters as soon as it was reported to them”.