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Bus Company to Remove Curtain Separating Jewish Men and Women

March 14, 1995

MONSEY, N.Y. (AP) _ A commuter bus catering to religious Jews agreed to remove a curtain separating passengers by gender after a woman refused to give up her seat so men could pray.

The Monsey Trails bus company had hung the curtain in the bus aisle so the men would not be in sight of the women during prayer. Sima Rabinovicz, who is Jewish but not Orthodox, chafed at the centuries-old religious dictate.

After months of meetings between her lawyers and the bus company, a settlement was reached Monday. The curtain will be removed and there will no longer be segregated seating.

Rabinovicz complained after an incident in December 1993 when a group of men praying was so large they wanted to use part of the women’s side. They asked her to move and she refused.

Then the men got out to pray on the street, and the bus driver took her home. But, Rabinovicz said, he ``told me I shouldn’t take the bus any more.″

She said one man told her if she didn’t move ``they’d stone me till I bleed. There were like 20 of them, and I’m by myself. I was scared - upset and scared.″

The settlement allows passengers to fashion their own personal curtains, as long as they don’t interfere with other passengers or pose a safety problem.

``We’ll accommodate all our passengers and we hope that all our passengers will have harmony one to the other,″ said bus company executive Jacob Lunger. ``We ask the passengers not to harass one another.″

Monsey Trails is government-subsidized, and anyone can ride the bus. But the passengers are almost exclusively Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jews who live in the suburbs.

Arthur Eisenberg, a lawyer for the New York Civil Liberties Union, argued on behalf of Rabinovicz that the bus is a public conveyance, not a synagogue.

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