From yesterday's New York Times, page B5:
On a Saturday morning in September 1987, Eric Stern stood before the congregation of a Queens synagogue, chanting the Torah part for his bar mitzvah. His passage spanned several chapters of Deuteronomy and was notable for containing 74 of the 613 commandments that govern observant Jewish life.
One verse stipulated that a woman should never wear male clothing, or vice versa, or else be “abhorrent” in the eyes of God. The rule forms one strand in the fabric of biblical statements and Talmudic commentaries that espouse and indeed hallow a concept of modesty, known by the Hebrew word “tznius.”
About the same time that Mr. Stern was intoning the religious dress code, a teenage girl, Tahita Jenkins, was learning the same concept from the same passage a few neighborhoods away in Far Rockaway. Ms. Jenkins, though, happened to be an African-American Christian, and her Pentecostal church imbued her with the belief that, among other things, a woman should never wear pants.
While Ms. Jenkins gave over to that particular temptation a few times in high school, she stuck with long skirts all through her studies in technical college and jobs with a bank, hospital, grocery store and three bus companies. Only when she was hired as a New York City bus driver two months ago did her attire become an object of controversy, leading to her dismissal.
The dismissal, in turn, brought her to Mr. Stern, who is now her lawyer, and to a seemingly unlikely partnership that is, on closer inspection, altogether logical. The common bond of Orthodox Jew and Pentecostal Christian is a belief in the right of a devout person to dress according to religious belief, without the risk of being fired.
Read it all.
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