Westhampton Beach garnered national attention on Wednesday night as Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart show aired a comedy bit that pokes fun at a controversial issue involving a proposed Eruv.
The bit, called The Thin Jew Line, airs as a “news” report by “correspondent” Wyatt Cenac. The satirist interviews Jeff Weisenfeld, member of the Hampton Orthodox Synagogue; Charles Gottesman, member of the Jewish People Opposed to the Eruv; and residents at the Beach Bakery in Westhampton Beach.
The five-minute spoof already has people in Westhampton Beach talking.
Westhampton Beach Mayor Conrad Teller, who said he heard about the show on the On The Beach Blog, said he couldn’t say much since the issue is in the courts. However, he did say, “It’s a comedy show that poked fun at a very serious issue. We consider this a very serious issue.”
In Early January, , filed lawsuits against the Villages of Westhampton Beach and Quogue, as well as the Town of Southampton, saying that the governmental agencies violated their constitutional and civic rights when they failed to allow them to install lichis on Long Island Power Authority and Verizon utility poles that would mark the symbolic eruv boundary around the municipalities.
The governmental agencies have claimed that the poles sit on their right-of-way and that the East End Eruv Association must file petitions with the government to install the lichis that would allow Orthodox Jews to do things they are not normally permitted to on the Sabbath.
Several days later after the East End Eruv Association filed suit, the filed a joint suit asking the courts to clarify the right of way issue.
Both Verizon and the Long Island Power Authority granted the East End Eruv Association permission to install the lichis on their poles.
Hank Sheinkoph, who represents the East End Eruv Association, called the Daily Show’s bit, “a wonderful thing.”
“It makes the opposition look ridiculous and they are ridiculous,” said Sheinkoph. “John Stewart knows what the elected officials have not yet figured out — and maybe after they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on the lawsuit, the taxpayers will understand too.”
Arnold Sheiffer, who heads up the Jewish People Opposed to the Eruv, said he was approached by the Daily Show to appear but he refused. He says the spoof "missed the point of the situation entirely."
He said, "There is nothing funny about this. The vast majority of Jewish people oppose the eruv becuase it does not keep with the basic tenants of the Jewish tradition of honoring customs and tradition in the area of which you live."
Sheiffer also said that the show did not point out that "the eruv benefits very few and extends to their economic benefit."
Sheiffer said he was further disappointed to see that the show made a "mockery" of Gottesman.
"It's a shame. He is a very nice person and a credit to the community," he said.
Elise Richman, a Westhampton Beach Main Street Business owner, said she found the parody amusing, but even more so, she said it says something about the opposition to the eruv proposal: “It’s obvious from this video that it’s more than the eruv that they want to keep out of Westhampton Beach. I say put it up and save everyone a lot money fighting a losing battle.”
To see The Daily Show’s eruv skit, click here. Be sure to come back to Westhampton-HamptonBays.Patch.com and share your comments on it.