N.Y. Jewish Groups Appeal for Exemptions from Sunday Closing Law

Four Jewish groups today urged the New York state legislature to pass laws granting Sabbath observers exemption from the state Sunday closing law.

Their pleas were presented at a public hearing of the Democratic State Platform Advisory Committee at the National Democratic Club here. The groups were the American Jewish Congress, the New York Board of Rabbis, the National Council of Young Israel and the Council for Sabbath observance.

Marvin Karpatkin, co-chairman of the Commission on Law and Social Action of the American Jewish Congress Metropolitan Council, told the advisory committee that the New York state closing law imposed “discriminatory economic hardship and burdens of the religious observance of persons keeping a Sabbath other than Sunday.” He noted that at least 12 states provide exemptions for persons like Seventh Day Adventists and Orthodox Jews “who, in good faith, close their businesses to observe a different day as the Sabbath.”

“The State of New York, which has the largest population of Sabbath observers in the United States, and where the burdensome impact of Sunday laws is greatest, can do no less, ” he pleaded.

Rabbi Ephraim Sturm, national director of Young Israel, also urged such legislation. He called in addition for defeat of humane slaughter bills which have been repeatedly brought before the New York legislature. He raised the question of whether there was “an ulterior motive which singles out ritual slaughtering and places undue burdens upon the Jewish people.”

He contended that the Sunday closing law in New York in practice “discriminates chiefly against the religious Sabbath observer who through conviction” must close his place of business on Saturday. He added that freedom of religion and conscience were violated when officials “call for periodic crackdowns on the little Jewish storekeepers who of necessity open their shops on Sunday.”

The committee also heard a statement from a Jewish merchant, Charles Pam, who said he was scheduled to appear next week before Magistrates Court in Brooklyn for the third time on charges of violating the Sunday closing law “in spite of the fact that I am a strict Sabbath observer, a member of the Jewish faith and that my place of business, a small grocery store in Brooklyn, is strictly closed from sundown Friday night until Sunday morning.”

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