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Jewish Groups Clash Over Eruv Proposal

The East End Eruv Association pitched an Eruv to the Quogue Village Board on Monday morning.

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.

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Michael DeLesia March 19, 2012 at 08:16 PM
So These are people that want something to allow them to break a religious tradition so that they don't have to break their religious traditions. Huh?
Chaim Shulem March 20, 2012 at 09:10 AM
Why do people who have given up practicing the religion of their forefathers get so offended that there still are people who adhere to the practce of these traditions???
Carol Combes March 20, 2012 at 11:27 AM
Will other religions be able put up crosses,whatever on poles? Carol
Jim March 20, 2012 at 01:11 PM
I want to hang my dirty underwear from telephone poles, will i be allowed to do that now? God told me I should do this in memory of Him.
Joel Salomon March 20, 2012 at 01:57 PM
The religious tradition is (oversimplifying a bit) not to carry things in a public area that is not demarcated by the symbolic boundary called an eruv. What’s confusing you?
Joel Salomon March 20, 2012 at 01:58 PM
Will they be invisible?
Jonathan Ezor March 20, 2012 at 06:17 PM
Anyone who has ever seen such an eruv (and they're *not* easy to spot, believe me) knows that they are completely unremarkable and generally unnoticed by the Jewish and non-Jewish population alike. An eruv isn't a billboard, it's a thin wire high above the street level, and says no more about the religious (or nonreligious) views of a passerby than a overhead telephone wire 3 blocks from a home says about the homeowner's choice of Verizon vs. Cablevision for phone service. I am certain that most or all of Patch's readers have driven through numerous communities with eruvs without ever realizing it. An eruv makes far less of a negative impact on non-users' lives than, say, a town's allocating parking spaces in front of church or synagogue, since there is no reduction of available resources such as parking when an eruv is mounted. Whatever the motivation of those who oppose this eruv, it cannot be rationally grounded in actual impact on their lives, as there is *none*. {Jonathan}
Shaya Speter March 20, 2012 at 07:11 PM
Jon Stewart did a lovely piece on this story about a year ago. http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-march-23-2011/the-thin-jew-line .
T818 March 21, 2012 at 02:25 AM
Mr. Salomon, I do not think Mr. DeLesia is confused in the least. Perhaps the Huh? in his comment invoked your response. I can not speak for Mr. DeLesia. I, Tricia Murphy, want to know why many religions have thrived together in the Hamptons for decades with/without visible/invisible symbols and why has the installation of an ERUV all of the sudden become a topic of debate. Education without opinion is the best resource for understanding. Mr. Salomon, perhaps you can enlighten me. Sincerely, Tricia Murphy
T818 March 21, 2012 at 02:41 AM
Shaya, Thank you for sharing! Tricia Murphy
Groinem March 21, 2012 at 09:54 PM
The argument is that by seeing an eruv, they will be reminded that they are disregarding the laws G-d commanded them to keep, causing them anguish. By that logic, seeing an obviously religious person in the street should also cause them that anguish. If that suffering trumps first amendment rights, it will be forbidden for any obviously religious person to walk the streets.
john banker March 25, 2012 at 12:58 AM
I think this is a free country and if they want to put up an a thin string on polls so be. Its amazing how people fight over such stupod things. Will the thin string really bother you. If so I hope that should be your biggest problem in life
Rose March 25, 2012 at 05:49 AM
To those opposing the Eruv: Get a grip people!!!! The Eruv will in no way alter you non believing lifestyle. The wire is so thin, you may literally need binoculars to see it from street level. Let me take a stab at saying out loud what I think those opposing the Eruv are really concerned about. I believe they are concerned that if the town has an Eruv, more observant Jews will move in to their town. Towns with an established Eruv do attract more observant residents. Soon the non observant residents may feel like the minority, in the thinking of those that oppose the Eruv. Of course, those that oppose the Eruv would NEVER say that out loud, but I'd bet that is exactly what concerns them.
Charles Miller March 25, 2012 at 09:55 PM
It is appalling that certain non-observant Jews who have abandoned any pretense of practicing their face seek to deny observant Jews the ability to maintain those tenets through the reasonable accommodation of the eruv. I agree whole heartedly with other expressed sentiments that their opposition is more a statement of their own thinly disguised bigotry and self-hatred than a reasoned opposition to the eruv.
Craig Brenner March 27, 2012 at 01:04 AM
The eiruv basically becomes a "life wire" that essentially denotes the future of the Jewish people today as we try to keep our values safe and our communities in the Grace of our Creator. Too bad of course that there is no Torah law requiring any such device. In essence, its an industrial way to exist. With the wire.
turnip April 12, 2012 at 01:59 PM
I think it interesting that Mr. Sheiffer has asserted "Central Conference of American Rabbis, which is the umbrella body for all Reform Rabbis in the United States, has taken an official position rejecting eruvs as a kind of “legal fiction” which is inconsistent with the true spiritual observance of the Sabbath under Jewish law and tradition." And yet, the CCAR has actually filed amicus curiae IN FAVOR of eruvs. http://jlaw.com/Briefs/tenafly-ou.html
Joe Hamptons April 27, 2012 at 09:18 PM
First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." No where does it say that the government must make special accomadations on public property for a special interest group to practice their version of religion. Im no clarence darrow but seems relatively straight forward to me.
Eric Wootten May 22, 2012 at 02:03 AM
Nobody cares if there are people who want to practice a certain interpretation of a religious tradition. If you want to be an Orthodox Jew in greater Westhampton, then be our guest. Just don't ask us --the local governments-- to PUBLICLY authorize you to break those Orthodox traditions for the sake of modern convenience! To be Orthodox in ANY religion requires sacrifices which are incongruent to modern societal norms.
Eric Wootten May 22, 2012 at 02:20 AM
Amen!
Eric Wootten May 22, 2012 at 02:43 AM
"Non-observant" Jews, by your interpretation, are not the only people who oppose the Eruv. The vast majority of those of us who live here year-round are not in favor of this "special religious border" and we are members of a variety of religious denominations. Many of the local families here have lived here for countless generations. Never has the practice of a certain religion been banned here. Never, either, has a religious sect asked for local governmental authorization to break their own religious laws in certain areas of the town. If "observant Jews", as you call them, want to move into our town then it should be because of the natural beauty of the area, the quality of the school systems and the overall quality of life the East End has to offer. It should NOT be because certain "borders" allow them to break their own religious laws!
turnip May 22, 2012 at 02:51 AM
It is NOT "break[ing] of those Orthodox traditions". The how-tos of the construction of an eruv are detailed in the Talmud, tractate eruvin, which was written about 1800 years ago. And the only reason anything is "public" is because the private agreement of a the utility company with the Orthodox community was fought tooth and nail by other people. Despite the existence of an eruv in Baltimore for about thirty years, I would venture to guess the vast majority of people living within it aren't even aware of its existence.
T818 May 22, 2012 at 10:37 PM
Amen!

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