The swarms of tourists who have been descending on Manhattan in increasing numbers are testament to Manhattan’s lately being one of the safest places in the United States.
But even with the low crime statistics and virtually Disney-fied Times Square, some in the Big Apple still see danger lurking everywhere: and those people include some Haredi Jews.
A group of ultra-Orthodox Jews are behind a bright red billboard sign that was recently erected alongside the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. On it is written in Hebrew: “Dear Jew: You are entering a dangerous place. Shield your eyes.” For added emphasis, “Shield your eyes” also appears in English.
The dear Jews being addressed by the sign are likely the ones who commute to Manhattan from Brooklyn for work.
Josh Nathan-Kazis postulates in the Forward that the sign, sponsored by an organization called the Congregation of Yad Moshe (which appears to have ties to State Assemblyman Dov Hikind), is part of an offensive by Haredi Brooklyn against secular Jewish Manhattan. “While Brooklyn’s Jewish community is exploding, Manhattan’s is shrinking. And judging in part by the highway billboard, the ascendant Brooklynites have little regard for the declining Manhattanites,” Nathan-Kazis wrote.
“Hoping to preserve its massive growth, the ultra-Orthodox community has been on a war footing in recent months, striking back against web access in its homes and yeshivas by holding a massive anti-Internet rally and promulgating new bans against web use,” he further commented.
An item about the billboard was also posted on a local Chabad community news site, where comments revealed that readers were divided in their views of the sign. While some joked about it, others took its intention rather seriously—expressing opinions either in favor or in opposition to its message.
“What a waste of money. Bunch of self centered egotistical extremist narrow-minded people who did this. The money would be far better used for real tzedakah, for people who really could use it and need it. Not for this garbage,” wrote one person.
“Whats wrong with reminding thousands of Yiddin about shmiras eiynayim [averting one’s eyes]?” asked another.
Yet another wrote, “Way to go! Someone realized that you’ve got to combat fire with fire. If you have spiritually dangerous billboards, you’ve got to have one that warns you of the danger ahead!”
We can only hope that anybody taking the advice to heart and averting their gaze are not also at the wheel.
As the non-Jewish Gothamist website reminded those who might be tempted to heed the big red sign’s exhortation: “It’s probably not the best idea to instruct drivers to shield their eyes.”