Manhattan -- An Orthodox Jewish village in upstate New York agreed to abandon the practice of separating men and women in a public park, to settle a lawsuit that civil liberties groups filed last year.
The Village of Kiryas Joel is named after Joel Teitelbaum, founder of the ultraorthodox Satmar Hasidic sect of Judaism. Residents follow strict Jewish observance, speak primarily Yiddish, separate sexes in public and marry and raise large families at a young age.
In 2009, the U.S. Census reported that Kiryas Joel was the poorest place in the nation.
Three years later, Kiryas Joel opened Kinder Park to "great fanfare," the Village Voice reported.
A religious blog posted pictures of men and boys playing on blue playground equipment, women and girls gathering in the pink areas, and Hebrew signs listing the park's rules and regulations.
The American Civil Liberties Union and its New York branch filed a Freedom of Information Request last July to determine whether the sex-segregated park was supported by public funding. The groups sued after their requests were stonewalled.
A settlement was reached on March 25, and the NYCLU released it, with a statement, on Monday.
"Public parks cannot segregate on the basis of sex any more than they can for race or national origin," NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in the statement. "This agreement ensures that all park visitors have equal access to the entire park."
The NYCLU said the signs enforcing the gender rules have been taken down.
Kiryas Joel agreed to pay legal fees $3,000 and invite monitors to visit the park twice a year for the next three years.
"Thank you for your hard work in defending civil liberties, including support of the religious freedoms and beliefs of our residents," village administrator Gedalye Szegedin wrote in a letter announcing the deal.
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