A six-year legal battle over the Westhampton, New York eruv – a fiction in Jewish law which allows a thin wire strung around an area to be deemed a fence or wall that encloses that area, thereby allowing Orthodox Jews to carry items like keys, or to push baby strollers on public sidewalks, on Shabbat – may now be over.
Lawsuit Against Westhampton Eruv Fails Again
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
A six-year legal battle over the Westhampton Beach, New York eruv – a fiction in Jewish law which allows a thin wire strung around an area to be deemed a fence or wall that encloses that area, thereby allowing Orthodox Jews to carry items like keys, or to push baby strollers on public sidewalks, on Shabbat – may now be over.
Yesterday the US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit upheld a lower court’s ruling that the eruv, which is constructed with wire and attached to public utility poles, does not violate the First Amendment.
“No reasonable observer who notices the strips on LIPA utility poles would draw the conclusion that a state actor is thereby endorsing religion. Every court to have considered whether similar government actions violate the Establishment Clause has agreed that they do not,” the appeals court judges reportedly wrote, noting that the lechies, plastic strips, used to attach the eruv to the utility poles are “nearly invisible.”
The ruling will make it harder for eruv opponents to block their construction in other parts of the country.
“The assertion that attaching lechies [plastic strips used to hold the eruv wire] to poles to help make an eruv is a violation of the First Amendment is one of the main defenses that municipalities have against them, and I think this decision effectively eliminates those defenses,” he said. Yehudah Buchweitz, an attorney representing the East End Eruv Association on a pro bono basis, told the Jewish Week, noting that yesterday’s ruling follows a similar ruling by the US Third Circuit Court of Appeals in 2002 about the eruv in Tenafly, NJ. “I think if, at this point, you have the 3rd Circuit and the 2nd Circuit having come to the same conclusion — and they’re right — it would be hard for any other court to come to a different conclusion,” Buchweitz said.
Other related cases against the Westhampton eruv are reportedly still pending.
“We think there’s no merit to them, but we haven’t won them yet. There are a few steps to go,” Buchweitz said.
The suit against the eruv was brought by the group Jewish People for the Betterment of Westhampton Beach.