Friday, May 19, 2006 -- The Jewish Press
My Machberes Column by Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum,
Congregation Bnai Israel, Director of Igud Horabnim
SATMAR SAYS NO TO BICYCLES
As spring brings milder weather, the Hisachdus Horabbonim, the Chassidishe Rabbinical organization headquartered in Williamsburg, re-issued a kol koreh (proclamation) dated June 1987, prohibiting the use of bicycles by girls and strongly discouraging bicycle riding for boys. The Satmar Yeshiva, likewise, issued a kol koreh restating the spiritual danger of bike riding. The kol koreh recalls the decision of Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, zt"l (1888-1979), Satmar Rebbe, while in the midst of designing the insular Chassidishe community of Kiryas Yoel in Monroe, NY, in the early 1970's, to prohibit children commuting to yeshivas by bicycles, incurring instead large expenses in providing school bus services.
The Satmar Yeshiva kol koreh warns that having mobility by bicycle allows children to intermingle with children from other backgrounds and also making the children physically vulnerable to injury. The call is intended to prohibit bicycle use specifically for small children. As a child grows, he will mature without a need for a bicycle. Der Yid, the popular Williamsburg Satmar Yiddish weekly, reprinted its editorial of June 4th, 1997, titled "No to Bicycles." The editorial notes that calls by Hatzolah for bicycle riders to wear safety helmets for protection against head injury will not protect the rest of the body, nor do safety helmets protect pedestrians from being hit and injured by bicycles. Our fathers and grandfathers used bicycles in Europe because they did not have cars and because the danger of injury by cars was minimal. They could not afford to travel by train, nor did the trains stop in every shtetl. Why, asks the editorial, should we now allow our children to be vulnerable to physical harm?
In June 2005, the Tzeitung News Report, the Satmar Yiddish weekly based in Boro Park, carried an article titled "Bicycles for Girls" by Rabbi Y. M. Sofer. The article focused on the impropriety of girls using two-wheeled bicycles. Rabbi Sofer writes a column every week focusing on current issues confronting Chassidishe communities in America.
Rabbi Sofer noted that the bicycle was used in observant circles bywomen or girls. In his responsa (Beer Moshe), Rabbi. Moshe Stern, zt"Z (d. 1997), the Debreciner Rav, advises that girls older than seven years should refrain from using a two-wheeled bicycle. He feltthat modesty considerations precluded girls, and of course women, from riding in public places.
Der Yid, the noting that several yeshivas already forbade students to use bicycles, called on all Torah institutions to ban the use of bicycles by their students.