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February 05, 2013

Westhampton Beach Eruv Still Tied Up With Lawsuits

Westhampton Beach, NY mapThree federal lawsuits have been filed over the proposed Westhampton Beach eruv. Yesterday, Judge Leonard D. Wexler of United States District Court in Islip, dismissed one – a lawsuit brought by the Jewish People for the Betterment of Westhampton Beach, an anti-eruv group. It reportedly plans to appeal the decision.

Westhampton Beach, NY map
Google map

How is Rabbi Marc Schneier's and his Hamptons Synagogue's fight for the right to put up an eruv – a symbolic fence usually made up of a thin strand of wire which is often strung between power poles or telephone poles to create a symbolic private space that allows Orthodox and haredi Jews to carry objects outside of their homes on the Sabbath – in the tony beach community of Westhampton Beach, New York going?

Not so good, as the New York Times reports:

…Three federal lawsuits have been filed over the matter, and on Monday, Judge Leonard D. Wexler, of United States District Court in Islip, dismissed one of them: a lawsuit brought by an anti-eruv group, the Jewish People for the Betterment of Westhampton Beach. That group said it would appeal to the Second Circuit in Manhattan. He also set a timeline for the other two suits, one brought by the East End Eruv Association to erect the eruv, and one between the three villages on whose land the eruv would exist, Westhampton Beach, Quogue, and Southampton, and the utility companies that own the poles.…

“This used to be an amiable little town,” said Ellen Indursky, a member of the Hampton Synagogue, who said Saturday that she now regrets her synagogue’s ever bringing up the idea. “It’s created an us and a them; you are either on one side or the other,” she said, adding, “There’s more feelings of anti-Semitism here now than there has ever been.”
Only a small percentage of Westhampton Beach residents are Orthodox, and the Hampton Synagogue is the only Orthodox congregation in the area. Only about 20 of the synagogue’s year-round congregants, and about 200 families in the summer, are so observant that they need the eruv, according to the rabbi, Marc Schneier.

But many in Westhampton Village…say they fear the prospect of more Orthodox Jews moving in if the eruv is constructed. The mayor, Conrad Teller, estimated that perhaps 90 to 95 percent of Westhampton Village is now against it. “It’s divisive,” he said. “I believe they think somebody’s trying to push something down their throats.”

Storekeepers on Main Street have voiced practical concerns, because Orthodox Jews traditionally don’t spend money on the Sabbath. “Retail is hard enough as it is,” said Anick Darbellay, sitting in her dress shop on Friday. “I don’t want to have to shut down on Saturdays. Have you been to the Five Towns?” she asked, referring to an Orthodox Jewish enclave in Nassau County. “That’s what happened there.”…

Schneier is upset with local reaction, telling the Times that he finds it "despicable" that in the 21st Century some of the eruv's opponents have publicly stated that the reason they oppose it is that they don't want more Orthodox Jews to move to Westhampton Beach.

Schneier doesn't comment on what happened to the Five Towns, their schools and the non-Jewish and non-Orthodox communities there once Orthodox Jews became the majority.

Public schools were choked by Orthodox opposition to increases in the taxes that fund them. Retail stores lost a day of business each week. And the character of the area markedly changed.

None of this is illegal and most of it isn't even unethical.

But for many non-Orthodox Jews and non-Jews, it is disconcerting.

Fortunately for the Hamptons Synagogue, being disconcerted by an eruv or by Orthodox Jews moving into your neighborhood is not enough for courts to stop either from happening.

[Hat Tip: Off the Derech.]


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sounds like they are saying if a black family moves in, well there goes the neighborhood, because stores will be robbed and all that bigoted shit

The Thin Jew Line

"...they don't want more Orthodox Jews to move to Westhampton Beach...."

That may be however there's nothing that can be done legally to keep anyone out who can afford to purchase a home there or to stay in a hotel. What the Orthodox don't buy on shabbat they buy on other days of the week. However haredim make themselves undesirable by their very pointed shunning of non-Haredim, of American societal norms and by their insularity, uninvolvement in non-Haredi community activity and general 'otherness'.

It sounds as if the lady from the Hampton Synagogue is MO and thus at the less-extreme end of the spectrum of observant Jews. What the community is reacting to is the possibility of a Haredi influx eventually reaching a tipping point which is a legitimate if not a politically correct concern. I wouldn't want that to happen in my town either.

Haredim draw such a bright line between themselves and everyone else that they are unassimilable (by intent) and in a municipality that they don't dominate are largely alien, like a transplant that didn't take but manages to wall itself off and survive.

That aside there is no reason why a utility company must accommodate an eruv on its poles unless state or local law compels it to. It just doesn't have to make that accommodation. An eruv is something one group wants. What if the local Wiccans decide they need to have a rubber chicken tacked to each phone pole surrounding their neighborhood? Or the Catholics demand crucifixes? Those would be no less legitimate requests. Should they necessarily be granted? There's another solution: the Orthodox can move close enough to their temple to be able to walk there comfortably. Or they can put up a wireless eruv, like an invisible fence. I wonder if that would do, though I suppose they'd balk at carrying the receivers that would warn when they're crossing the eruv.

What does an eruv have to do with stores being closed on Saturday?

“There’s more feelings of anti-Semitism here now than there has ever been.”

We wonder why they hate us.

An eruv hurts no one, and compromises nobody's rights. Not only Orthodox, but Orthoprax Conservative Jews rely on an eruv. I can understand the secular residents' misgivings about becoming an Orthodox ghetto, but in this case I say too bad. Denying an eruv for no compelling reason is de facto discrimination. In return, Orthodox Jews should strive to be good neighbors who are polite and do not undermine the public schools they choose not to use. Unfortunately, that hasn't always been the case.

If everybody acts a Mensch (both sides) this sort of controversy wouldn't happen.

I can't help thinking that all this came about because the frumma were too "in your face" about this.

In any case, why is it even necessary to exploit this bizarre loop hole?

And how ridiculous does this make us look to the Gentiles?

I have actually thought about what my position might be if Orthodox Jews were to request that an eruv be established in my town. I would be against it. I do not feel that this type or any type of religious accommodation should be granted on public property.

The "big eruv" concept has always struck me as cheating. As I understand it, the religious concept is that you're supposed to stay home and not do activities beyond your home's walls. Hacking that concept to allow running a wire around large areas to escape a religious obligation seems like cheating God out of something. I'd expect that anyone orthodox enough to care about an eruv would consider a symbolic eruv to be improper. Not so?

this has nothing to do with Goyim, antisemitism,or self hating Jews.

The people who oppose the erov are just a front for yeshivas guys who are only doing this to make sure that no one carries and is not mechalel shabbos. They do this, since they do not believe an eruv is kosher in many of these places. It is only lashem shemayim

Posted by: seymour | February 05, 2013 at 03:30 PM

;) - Nice!

The concept of an eruv lost all meaning for me when I learned I still couldn't carry an umbrella.

The frum Jew - the only sentient being too dumb to come in out of the rain.

Runner 1983, I agree with you. Using a public space - and public amenities - for religious purposes is a clear violation of the First Amendment.

And considering how many Jews go ballistic over a Nativity scene in the public square, they should not be surprised that what goes around, comes around.

Just keep them all in New York, please.

I wish someone would ask that Charles guy if he has any problem with Provincetown becoming overrun by gays, because that's one group that took over a town whether the locals liked it or not.

Eruvs are a stupid idea. Trying to fool G-d doesn't work. Do any of you really think that G-d thinks the entire town is your house? And if it IS your "house", then you are responsible for the treif contained within. If there is pork inside one of the homes contained within the Eruv, then you are responsible for that treif. It's ridiculous, all around.

They really did make the Five Towns an undesirable place to visit. The upscale character has been lost, and now the place is overrun with wig shops, frummie clothing joints, judaica stores and frummie families with 11 kids. Central Avenue delivers you via time warp to 19th century Poland.

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