The Sabbath Elevator

From the Baltimore Sun:

The vote from the Strathmore Tower condominium board was simple: Down with the Sabbath elevator.

But what some thought was a straightforward vote has erupted into a religious and racially tinged controversy to others in this majority senior citizen-occupied condominium complex in Upper Park Heights.

The supporters – most of whom are Jewish – say the option for a Sabbath elevator wouldn’t have cost extra money and would have aided Orthodox Jewish and disabled residents while helping resale prices. Foes say such an elevator is inconvenient and could cost more.

Sabbath elevators are normal elevators that can be set to automatically stop at every floor. That helps observant Orthodox Jews who aren’t permitted to operate electrical switches during the Sabbath period, or Shabbat, which runs from sunset Friday to nightfall Saturday.

Some Jewish residents say the vote in February by the nine-member board – 5-3, with one absent – to strike a Sabbath elevator out of a contract to renovate the building’s two elevators smacks of religious discrimination.

“I hate to say it, but reverse discrimination is what it is,” said Haron Goodman, 74, a Jewish board member and 10-year Strathmore resident, heads nodding around him as he sits with other residents in his apartment on a recent morning. “It’s absolutely anti-Semitism.”


  1. At the risk of being called anti-semitic (which I don’t believe I am), I also don’t understand the need for a Sabbath elevator. Nobody is “forced” to live on the fifth of an apartment building. Frankly, if your beliefs prohibit you from interacting with technology on Saturday, you should either climb the stairs, live in an apartment on the first floor, always ride the elevator with someone else who can push the buttons for you, or decide that pushing the elevator buttons one more day isn’t going to kill you. I see it as a horrible waste of money to build another elevator that actually is less efficient than a regular elevator.

  2. Antisemitism, like all forms of xenophobia, is despicable. But to accuse someone of it, over an issue that only pertains to a tiny fraction of observant Jews — let alone non-observant Jews — is pretty damn bad too.

    This isn’t antisemitic; it’s anti-irrational.

  3. “Reverse discrimination”? Why, who does Haron believe deserves to be discriminated against? Who is he discriminating against? “Reverse discrimination” is a stupid term. Discrimination is discrimination…

  4. “anti-irrational”?
    Is that the same as rational?

    Not necessarily. The antidisestablishment weren’t necessarily for the establishment, they just against the disestablishment.

    If there’s an argument about whether to paint a house red or blue, I can disagree with the redists without being a blueist. I might be a yellowist, or I might not have a preference, just a valid concern about red and indifference to blue.

  5. “Reverse discrimination” is a stupid term. Discrimination is discrimination…

    i think the term does indeed have some merit when discrimination against the group in question is hundreds of times less prevalent and severe than it is against all other groups. this puts it in a totally different context vital to the interpretation of the situation. for one example, it’s extremely unlikely that instances of “reverse discrimination” will result in straight white affluent judeo-christian males developing internalized self-hatred.

    it’s probably human nature preferentially to perceive unfairness directed against oneself. but the long-term health of our society depends on our recognizing the objective reality of the situation.

  6. You may be right Schmoo, its just that I thought that rationality vs irrationality was a black and white sort of thing.

    ie. Something can be one or the other, not in between or neither.

  7. How is what you’re saying different than telling gay folk to move to another country if they don’t like the laws in the States?

    No one is “forced” to live on the fifth floor but some people do.
    Also, telling Gramps (“senior citizen-occupied condominium complex”) to use the stairs is just tacky. Really bad taste.

    And how is that elevator less efficient?
    It’s a normal elevator that can also be programmed to run automatically.
    Inconvinient and damn annoying is what it is – but just as efficient.

    So it really boils down to how many orthodox jewish families actually live in that building and how many regular elevators are available to the rest.

  8. bah
    that was directed at vegastar at the top.

    was trying to quote him. instead my reply is in the block quote. oh well…

  9. Call it reverse, call it positive — it’s still just discrimination.

    Let me tell you something… In his autobiography “Hunger of Memory,” the Mexican American author Richard Rodriguez came out against affirmative action. He felt that he did not deserve, nor need that help — his parents did, but not he. Of course, there were no affirmative action programs around when his parents came to the US, but what he noticed was that those who take advantage of these programs still aren’t the ones who truly need it. The ones who truly need it simply don’t know about it, or have the resources to take advantage of it. The ones who benefit from it are mostly resourceful and intelligent who could have made it without those programs — but like any smart individual, they take advantage of it.

    Rodriguez was overwhelmed with invitations to the best schools in the country, since they were eager to fill their quotas of ethnic minorities… He considered his roommate to be a better student than himself, and was dumbfounded when he was accepted to a college that had turned his roommate down.

    Why? Because his roommate was not an ethnic minority. Technically speaking, he really was — he Jewish, but that doesn’t count.

    His roommate was pretty bitter about it, and pointed out that in years gone by, this college used to have a quota on Jews. Not the kinda affirmative action quotas that requires you to take in x number of minorities, or else you’ll be labeled a reactionary racist. But the kinda quota that prevented too many Jews from getting in.

    Today’s affirmative action isn’t intentionally antisemitic, but the end result is the same.

    I know a couple of college professors, and although they are both very firmly on the far left, politically speaking, they say the same thing… If you want a good position, you need a masters — provided you’re black or Latino. If you’re white, forget it — you need a Ph. D.

    Two wrongs don’t make a right.

  10. I’ve always said the same about our police. They have a quota of ethnic minorities to fill or they get some kind of (unremembered) wrist-slap. I’ve always said that was racist. It doesn’t matter if it’s for a good intention, misguided or otherwise – If you take race into account before merit, it’s racist.

  11. It does strike me as trying to have your cake and eat it – no, we can’t push buttons, but yes we can use the lift…

  12. I don’t know how to quote, but I’m replying to abuyoyo. I’m not the one telling senior citizens to use the stairs, their religion is. The “rule” really seems like hair splitting if you say: no we can’t use any electrical appliances, but if they happen to be on… What did they do before the advent of computer programming? Did they use the stairs or just reason that the rule was not convenient to live by in a city?
    And I consider elevators inefficient when they stop on floors where no one is getting off or on (not to mention it will only be used one day of the week).

  13. yeah. the rest of the week it functions like a normal push-button elevator. no automation involved. all manual. Just like all the other elevators. Do you really not get that? or are you being obtuse on purpose.

    There’s a world of difference between someone saying “my religion is stupid” or someone else telling you you can’t practice your beliefs cause they’re stupid.

    Religion may be stupid but it doesn’t mean not letting people practice it because of that.

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