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Separation of Church and Elevators?

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An argument over whether or not to slow down elevators so Jewish tenants can abide by their religion has caused quite a stir. The controversy has created such a buzz that the lift in the middle of the situation has become known as the “Sabbath elevator”.

Touro College in New York rents about half of the units at its building at 10 West 65th Street to observant Jewish students. The school wants one of the two elevators in the building to be altered so the students could comply with Sabbath rules that are against operating machinery. The elevator would be changed so it could automatically stop on all floors of the building so the Jewish residents from having to push the buttons to operate it on the holy day. Many orthodox Jews consider the act of pushing an electronic button and operating machinery to go against the rules of the Sabbath.

Ultimately, by having the elevator stop at each of the six floors in the building will only create a delay of 83 seconds for those riding the elevator. This probably wouldn’t be much of a problem if most of the other tenants are elderly people, many of which cannot use the stairs. The state authority that regulates rents ruled in favor of the elderly residents. In response to the ruling, Touro College is suing the agency claiming the decision violates civil rights laws.


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