Hasidic Swimming Threatened by City's Refusal to 'Guarantee' Female Guard

By Meredith Hoffman on June 13, 2013 7:16am 

Slideshow
 Hasidic women frequent Metropolitan Pool three times a week all months except for the summer.
Hasidic Women Need Female Lifeguard
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WILLIAMSBURG — Hundreds of female Hasidic swimmers may be unable to take the plunge this summer because the city "can't guarantee" a kosher pool.

Parks Department officials have refused to promise a female lifeguard for women-only swim sessions at WIlliamsburg's Metropolitan Pool.

That means Hasidic swimmers, who claim it's against their tradition to swim with a man present, mayt have to stop attending thrice weekly swim sessions when their usual lifeguard takes her vacation from the pool in July and August.

"They can't guarantee it, but they'll try their best," Ed Janoff, the leader of North Brooklyn Parks and the director of the Open Space Alliance which works in partnership with the Parks Department, said of the city's appointment of a female guard.

"The chances are probably nine out of ten, but they can't guarantee it."

Even if the city does find a female guard for some of the sessions, Hasidic leaders said the women would have trouble finding out when she was on duty.

"Nobody's telling them who the lifeguard is when they call the pool," said Rabbi David Niederman, a Williamsburg and Greenpoint Community Board 1 member and the leader of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg.

Janoff said he would work to make the information more accessible for the women.

Swimmer Rose Herschkowitz, who spoke up at a Community Board 1 meeting, has said she requested a female lifeguard the past two years as well.

“There are hundreds of women who come to the sessions,” Herschkowitz said. “When there’s a male, we don’t come. It’s for modesty. ...A lot of women cut their membership to the pool because of the lost months of swimming.”

Herschkowitz, who brings her 86-year-old mother three times each week to the pool, said there was no other viable exercise option for many members of her community.

"A lot of handicapped women and seniors come to the sessions," she said. "We rely on the pool."

The Parks Department did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

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