Religious Controversy Grips the Hamptons

A major fight is brewing in the tranquil environs of the Hamptons. Rabbi Marc Schneier and Orthodox Jews want Westhampton Beach officials to approve the placement of an eruv, a religious boundary that allows observant Jews to perform minor tasks on their Sabbath or on religious holidays. Citizens have objected, including some more secular Jewish citizens and there is talk of a lawsuit.

An eruv can be quite small and attached to a simple telephone pole. There is such a boundary around the White House and one in Manhattan that stretches from the East River to the Hudson.

An estimated 85 percent of the 2,000 full-time residents of Westhampton Beach oppose the move.

One group called Jewish People Opposed to the Eruv has formed. The group’s chairman Arnold Sheiffer insist that citizens “object to is creating a division in the village where none ever existed.”

Previously, a group of Orthodox Jews in Tenafly, N.J., won a six-year battle in 2006 to create such a boundary despite losing in the lower court. The appellate court ruled that the denial of the placement of the Eruv was selective and that other placements were not strictly barred.

A meeting on the issue in the Hamptons is even posted on YouTube.

For the full story, click here and here.

25 thoughts on “Religious Controversy Grips the Hamptons

  1. In fact, the reason some Jews consider Manhattan an Eruv is because its surrounding by water, creating a natural barrier, hence a wall. This is a loose interpretation to be sure, as indeed a continent at that point could be considered Eruvian, but nonetheless some Rabbis see it that way and thus the concept of Eruv being akin to putting up a Christmas tree or Cross in a public place, is just not an accurate comparison.

    Eruv is much different.

  2. Gyges
    1, October 3, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    I’m sure you’d admit that if somebody puts up a piece of string on a utility pole to mark the boundary of the Eruv, two things can be said

    One, the string is a physical object that represents something (in this case a border).
    Three, The String was put up a for religious purposes.

    First, they don’t always put strings on the utilty poles. Strings and wires are used usually within orthodox communities to surround the commuity creating a virtual Eruv Chatzerot or “Chatzayrot”, throughout the community.

    The concept is to take public properties and create a commonly held causeway throughout the community, either by fences, walls, virtual walls, etc. And this can be accomplished many ways.

    A common example is the utility pole, or telephone pole, which represents a doorpost, a specific and integral component in Hebrew construction. The concept is to take common The utility pole is already there. The pole represents a doorpost IF connected by a cross wire that is lower than the other wires, so if there is an existing wire that crosses the street, such as at a stoplight, AND that wire is lower than the other wires, that could constitute a Lentil, thus effectively creating a doorway without putting anything up. They’re not attaching a Mezuzah to it because it does not have ceiling, and therefore no “religious symbols” have been “put up”. Its already there.

    Now commonly they do place a specific wire connecting two poles where none exists, to create the Lentil, but this wire to the casual motorist or passerby would just appear to be a utility wire of some kind. So even in that case the concept of placing a “religious symbol” there is plainly a stretch. Its just a wire.

    Many components of the Eruv will be made up of existing fences, structures, etc, if the fences are higher than the ground they enclose, effectively creating a causeway, and there are other variances and allowances that make it nothing like “putting up a religious symbol”.

    When integrating an Eruv into a non Jewish community, they tend to use as much indigenous infrastructure as possible and have as little impact on the community as possible.

    When religious groups erect religious symbols in public places they are intended to be seen by all who passby.

    When Orthodox Jews place an Eruv Chatzayrot into a non Orthodox community they are intended to not be seen by most people who pass by.

    Your mistake that I am trying to address is you are confusing an Eruv with a thing, and its not. Its a concept. A sort of “virtual place” if you will.

  3. Gyges
    1, October 3, 2008 at 5:05 pm
    CroMM,

    We’re just talking in circles, so after this I’m done. I don’t know how I can be wrong when I ask a question, unless the basic premise for the question is wrong. So then what was the basic premise?

    Your premise that I am calling wrong was outlined in your earlier comment;

    how is this case different than somebody asking permission to put up any other religious symbol on public property?

    Its different because its not about a religious symbol. Its about a virtual corridor through a community, not a religious symbol.

    Your premise that its like putting up a religious symbol in a building or on a street, is not comparable. This is quite different.

  4. CroMM,

    We’re just talking in circles, so after this I’m done. I don’t know how I can be wrong when I ask a question, unless the basic premise for the question is wrong. So then what was the basic premise?

    I’m sure you’d admit that if somebody puts up a piece of string on a utility pole to mark the boundary of the Eruv, two things can be said:

    One, the string is a physical object that represents something (in this case a border).
    Three, The String was put up a for religious purposes.

    I’m also sure you can say two things about a Crucifix mounted on a wall by a devote Catholic.

    One, The Crucifix is a physical object that represents something (in this case it’s an important event in the history of the religion).
    Two, The Crucifix was put up for a religious purpose.

    So there are similarities between the string and the Crucifix. That’s not to say they are the exact same thing, just that they have traits in common.

    That’s my premise, just that the two objects physically exist, represent something, and are religious in nature (in this application).

    Since they have those traits in common I think it’s fair to ask what differences there are between the two, and if those differences are large enough that the laws that apply to the Crucifix in public places shouldn’t also apply to the piece of string. You’ve given your opinion about the answer to that question, which is well thought out.

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