There has long been tension between Hasids and non-Orthodox New Yorkers in Williamsburg over the topic of "modesty." Back in 2009, bicyclists organized a "naked" protest to counter concerns about scantily-clad female cyclists scandalizing the neighborhood. Last year, a sign at a Lee Avenue store forbade anyone with low-cut or sleeveless tops (or cargo shorts) to enter. But even within the Hasidic community, there's concern about the modesty police.

The NY Times reports:

In the close-knit world of ultra-Orthodox Judaism, community members know the modesty rules as well as Wall Street bankers who show up for work in a Brooks Brothers suit. Women wear long skirts and long-sleeved, high-necked blouses on the street; men do not wear Bermuda shorts in summer. Schools prescribe the color and thickness of girls’ stockings.

The rules are spoken and unspoken, enforced by social pressure but also, in ways that some find increasingly disturbing, by the modesty committees. Their power is evident in the fact that of the half dozen women’s clothing stores along Lee Avenue, only one features mannequins, and those are relatively shapeless, fully clothed torsos.

In Israel, ultra-Orthodox Jewish girls have been attacked for baring their legs not wearing stockings. An elderly woman was also beaten by the modesty police in Jerusalem.

During the Nechemya Weberman case, a young woman testified that "masked men from the religious modesty committee, based in Monroe, N.Y., had come into her bedroom at night when she was 15 or 16 years old to take away a cellphone that she was not permitted to have." And, last fall, Chabad schools in Crown Heights were upset about the decline in modesty in Chabad women and girls—besides clothing, there are restrictions on cellphone and Internet usage.

While some rabbinical organizations claim they are simply informing others about modesty, many feel pressured to conform. Rabbi Allan Nadler, director of the Jewish studies program at Drew University, told the Times, "They operate like the Mafia." Assemblyman Dov Hikind claimed he never met a modesty committee member but, "There are a lot of independent operators that believe they are protecting God and have to do this kind of stuff, and that’s sickening and gives us all a black eye."

Yosef Rapaport, a Hasidic journalist, explained, "There are quite a few men, especially in Williamsburg, who consider themselves Gut’s polizei [God's police]... It’s somebody who is a busybody, and they’re quite a few of them — zealots who take it upon themselves and they just enforce. They’re considered crazy, but people don’t want to confront them."