Lines were drawn during Monday's Quogue Village Board meeting as thebefore a packed board room to erect an Eruv, a symbolic religious boundary, within the borders of Quogue under the village's sign ordnance.
The East End Eruv Association, which is with the villages of Quogue, Westhampton Beach and Town of Southampton, butted heads with a 300-strong organization, called Jewish People for the Betterment of Westhampton Beach. That group said they don't want an eruv and will fight to ensure that it is not installed.
During his presentation, attorney for the East End Eruv Association, Robert Sugarman, told officials that the association is looking to install lechis to 48 LIPA and Verizon poles in the village. The lechis, he said, will mark the eruv boundary, allowing five Orthodox Jewish families to carry items that they normally would not be permitted to on the Sabbath and on other religious holidays to temple and to the homes of friends and families, said Sugarman.
The lechies can, said Sugarman, be painted any color to blend in with the poles and will be maintained by the organization as per an agreement with LIPA and Verizon for use of their poles.
"The eruv will have no impact whatsoever on anyone else," he said.
However, the Jewish People for the Betterment of Westhampton Beach argue that the eruv will impact them.
Arnold Sheiffer, president of the organization, said, "We would view the erection and public display of an eruv on public utility poles located withing the village as a symbolic endorsement by the village of an interpretation of Jewish law with which we personally disagree with."
He continued, "Every time one of our members travel in or about the village's rights-of-way and observe the presence of the eruv, they would feel that their own interpretation of Jewish law had been belittled and demeaned by their own government, in favor of the East End Eruv Association's contrary religious views."
Members of the public also stood to voice opposition to the eruv, questioning why anyone would want to push a stroller or wheelchair along Montauk Highway or Dune Road — a portion of the eruv would be strung along those roadways.
Nancy Mullen said, "If they [East End Eruv Association members] care about family values why would they want to push a wheelchair or stroller on Montauk Highway? That is a terribly dangerous road."
Her comments were met with a thunderous applause.
Another resident asked why can't a Rabbi just create a map telling people which streets they can carry things on and which they can't, thus making it unnecessary for an eruv.
Sugarman stood to defend the beliefs of the East End Eruv Association saying, some people practice religion in different ways and that the East End Eruv Association would never and has never questioned the beliefs of any other group.
"What I am hearing this morning are demeaning statements from some reformed Jews who are challenging the views sincerely held by another segment of the Jewish community," he said.
Sugarman reiterated that the eruv carries with it no message other than that it allows Orthodox Jews to do things that they otherwise wouldn't be able to on the Sabbath, like carry medicine, water, keys and push strollers and wheelchairs.
He also stated that if the village were to deny the application, they would be preventing the association's members from their first amendment rights.
"The refusal to accommodate would be a violation of the free exercise rights of the first amendment and would create a violation of those rights by the action of the village board," he said.
Mayor Peter Sartorius responded saying, "The village has done nothing that inhibits, in any way, the ability of the observed Jews to practice their religion and in effect, if the permit was granted, what we would be doing is giving your client's relief not from a village law, but from a Jewish practice that prevents carrying items."
Sugarman acknowledged the mayor's statement, but said that by requiring that an application to install the lechies, be submitted the village triggered "the responsibility and liability."
The application for the eruv was submitted to the Village of Quogue in January after in December requested by the association. In his decision, the judge said that the association failed to go through the proper channels. He suggested the association formally apply to the villages of Quogue and Westhampton Beach and the Town of Southampton for permission to install the lechis.
Aside from petitioning the village of Quogue, Sugarman said the association sat down with the Town of Southampton last Friday and plan to submit a similar application under the town's sign ordinance for an eruv.
However, according to Sugarman, in Westhampton Beach where there is no applicable ordinance, the eruv association has, via a letter, asked Westhampton Beach for insight. Verizon also sent a letter to Westhampton Beach, said Surgarman, saying that they plan to grant the association permission to install the lechies, if they do not hear back from the village.
Officials from Southampton and Westhampton did not immediately return calls.
Mayor Sartorius said the village will take the association's application under consideration. There is no time line set.