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Aug 11, 2015 12:20 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Eruv Opponents Criticize Westhampton Beach Board For Lack Of Communication

Part-time Westhampton Beach resident Jack O'Dwyer speaks during the public comment section of last week's Village Board meeting. KYLE CAMPBELL
Aug 11, 2015 12:20 PM

Several residents verbally attacked the Westhampton Beach Village Board last week, peppering its members with questions and criticisms for not sharing the details of their ongoing fight against the establishment of a Jewish religious boundary in the village.

Disgruntled community members accused the board of hiding behind lawyers instead of answering questions about the village’s ongoing litigation with the East End Eruv Association, a group that claims it has already established an Orthodox safe haven in Westhampton Beach that is known as an eruv.

Arnold Sheiffer, chairman of the group Jewish People for the Betterment of Westhampton Beach—formerly known as Jewish People Opposed to the Eruv—called out the board’s newest members, Brian Tymann and Rob Rubio, specifically, at last Thursday night’s meeting.

Mr. Sheiffer credits his group with getting the two men elected after both denounced the eruv prior to the June election, citing an email he circulated to the group’s roughly 300 members telling them to support the challengers.

“It’s your responsibility to communicate better with us, and I will say this, it’s not enough to say to go to the website—you must get the community more involved and be more open,” Mr. Sheiffer said. “This business of hiding behind lawyers has to stop, that is something that you need not do and you need not be afraid.”

Mr. Tymann responded by saying that he had intended to share more about the ongoing lawsuits with the public, but after being briefed on the potential legal ramifications of doing so, he is respecting the advice of Village Attorney Steve Angel and keeping details light during public discourse.

“I don’t appreciate you saying I’m hiding behind anything,” Mr. Tymann said. “I’m going to tell you one more time, I am listening to the advice of our attorneys. That’s it. End of discussion.”

He later reaffirmed his opposition to the eruv.

“It’s been obvious in my statements running for this board, but I will state it again for the record: I am still opposed to an eruv in this village,” he said. “I want it to be known that I will do anything I can to fight back within our power. Unfortunately, we’ve had some things not go our way in the courts, but that’s where I stand.”

Mr. Sheiffer admitted that his reason for bringing the topic up was a restlessness among his members for answers. He said he realizes that the board is doing what it can, but he pleaded for more frequent updates.

Mayor Maria Moore explained that the village’s hands are tied because the litigation is ongoing. She shared that one part of the village’s lawsuit with the East End Eruv Association, or EEEA, in U.S. District Court has been decided while another portion has not. Because the one case remains open, the village cannot challenge the other decision that favored the EEEA.

In June 2014, Judge Kathleen Tomlinson ruled that the village was powerless to prevent LIPA and Verizon from licensing out the use of their utility poles to the EEEA. That ruling enabled the group to attach lechis—PVC strips that are a little more than a half-inch wide, between 10 and 15 feet long and designate the eruv’s boundaries—to the poles, thus forming the eruv. Judge Tomlinson must still decide whether the creation of such a boundary violates the First Amendment’s establishment clause, which prohibits the state from formally endorsing any individual religion.

Once the First Amendment issue is decided, Ms. Moore said, the village can appeal the first ruling. In the meantime, all the board can do is wait.

“Of course we understand everyone’s frustration, but the lawsuit is ongoing, so I’m not sure what it is you want us to do that we’re not doing,” Ms. Moore said.

Part-time village resident Jack O’Dwyer, publisher of an eponymous newsletter about the public relations industry and a staunch eruv opponent, lambasted the board, accusing it of not fighting the establishment of the religious boundary.

Oscillating between animated exclamations and dramatic whispers, Mr. O’Dwyer bashed members for refusing to speak with him about the eruv—which he has been covering on his company’s blog—and condemned the federal court system for ruining the country. He then attempted to question all five members of the board individually to nail down their individual opinions on the matter.

“I’m going to interrupt here,” Mr. Angel interjected. “I don’t think that this is a proper place for a cross examination on this issue and I will instruct the board … ”

“They don’t talk to me!” Mr. O’Dwyer blurted out, interrupting Mr. Angel. “This is America!”

Mr. Angel replied: “I am instructing the board not to answer your question. If you have a public comment, if you want to state something about your dislike of a group, you have a First Amendment right to do it, but you don’t have a First Amendment right to interrogate my board in a public meeting.”

“Yes I do,” Mr. O’Dwyer said.

“You don’t,” Mr. Angel countered tersely.

“This is America,” Mr. O’Dwyer said.

Charles Casano of Westhampton Beach then urged the board to look at Five Towns, a collection of communities in southwest Nassau County that has become an Orthodox Jewish enclave since an eruv was created there years ago, as a cautionary tale.

Mr. Casano said he frequently conducted business in Five Towns, but now he wouldn’t “dare drive through there on a Saturday.” Mr. Casano then accused, as others have in the past, the Orthodox Jewish community of stacking the school board with Orthodox Jews who prefer to send their children to private school and, therefore, have voted to close several public schools in recent years.

Mr. Tymann and Mr. Rubio both said they have been to Five Towns, but they declined to comment on the situation there because they don’t have an intimate knowledge of the area.

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Go to a Library meeting where Mayor Moore is also on the Board. Ask them a question and try to get it answered. Wont happen. Moore and her cronies think they own the Library and Village. Time to hold their feet to the fire.
By realistic (472), westhampton on Aug 11, 15 6:20 PM
I agree with realistic 285 that the WHB library appears to be under the thumb of the Moore Administration. Moore herself should not be on the library board since it compromises its independence and its commitment to learning and education. Mayor Moore on Aug. 6 said, "Perhaps it would be more helpful to the community t hear it at a meeting to have an update to the extent possible."

That is devoutly to be desired. There is a need for paid speakers such as Prof. Marci Hamilton of Yeshiva ...more
By JackO'Dwyer (16), New York on Aug 15, 15 9:53 AM
Great idea Jack as long as papers in favor of the eruv are presented also
By westhamptonboy (227), Westhampton on Aug 15, 15 10:43 AM
Westhamptonboy: WHB should invite Robert Sugarman of Weil, Gotshal & Manges, law firm for the East End Eruv Assn., and Rabbi Schneier of the Hampton Synagogue and anyone else they want to send.
By JackO'Dwyer (16), New York on Aug 15, 15 10:49 AM
Mayor Moore has resigned from the library board according a report by Kyle Campbell Wednesday, Aug. 19. She said she only stayed on the board to provide guidance for new member Marth-Ann Betjemann.
By JackO'Dwyer (16), New York on Aug 19, 15 5:56 PM
ITS only a religious symbol that cannot be seen or its location known. But it hurts no one in its placement. Such a foolish debate that impacts only a few in their religious beliefs. Its only a mental opposition that deems this as a non issue. Rights are rights , Go forward .
By 1percent (52), Quogue on Mar 22, 16 8:44 AM