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Aug 23, 2011 11:17 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Group Wants A Say Regarding Proposed Religious Boundary

Aug 24, 2011 8:29 AM

Tensions ran high in Westhampton Beach on Sunday as more than 300 angry residents gathered inside a local restaurant to express their opposition to a proposed Jewish religious boundary that they say will forever alter the quality of life in the village.

And this time those vehemently opposed to the mostly invisible boundary, called an eruv, which would encompass most of Westhampton Beach and parts of Quogue Village and the hamlets of Quiogue and Westhampton, want to share their concerns with the judge who will eventually rule on a lawsuit that will decide the fate of the boundary.

Specifically, members of the executive board of the group Jewish People Opposed to the Eruv (JPOE), which hosted Sunday’s meeting at Starr Boggs in the village, said they directed their attorneys last month to file a brief for intervention in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Central Islip. If their request is approved, group members will be allowed to testify before Judge Leonard D. Wexler and offer their opinions about the need for an eruv and the lawsuit filed in January by the East End Eruv Association (EEEA)—the group that is now pushing for the religious boundary’s creation. The EEEA filed suit after both villages and the town blocked the eruv’s establishment.

In July, JPOE’s executive board hired Sinnreich, Kosakoff & Messina LLP of Central Islip to represent the interests of its membership in the ongoing litigation. On Sunday, JPOE Chairman Arnold Sheiffer, who has a home in Westhampton Beach, told attendees that the group has decided to enter the legal fray after hearing that those representing the EEEA allegedly told the court that there was no community opposition to the proposed boundary.

“The proposal for the eruv is now in the hands of the lawyers and the courts,” said Mr. Sheiffer, noting that his group was originally advised to stay out of the litigation.

A decision on the EEEA’s request for a preliminary injunction—a decision that could allow the group to establish a temporary boundary until the courts can rule on the lawsuit—still has not been handed down, though a ruling has been expected for the past several weeks.

On Sunday, group members expressed their frustration over the proposed boundary, the origins of which date back to 2008.

“The eruv has a life of its own,” said Westhampton Beach resident Myrna Tarnover, a member of JPOE’s executive board. “Don’t let this happen to our beloved Westhampton Beach.”

Ms. Tarnover explained that she grew up in Lawrence, a community that she said was changed forever when an eruv was established and scores of Orthodox Jews “came in droves” to the area. She noted that many refused to pay school taxes because their children attended religious educational institutions.

Sunday’s gathering was the fourth hosted by JPOE and aimed at educating the public about recent efforts to establish the boundary. If approved, wooden markers known as lechis would be installed on utility poles to mark the eruv’s boundaries; if created, Orthodox Jews will be allowed to perform certain activities, such as pushing strollers and wheelchairs, that would normally be prohibited outdoors on the Sabbath, their holy day that begins at sundown on Friday and ends at sundown on Saturday.

Attendees expressed a host of concerns during Sunday’s hour-long meeting, peppering members of the group’s executive board with questions. One asked if local shopkeepers who are opposed to the eruv have faced any pressure from proponents. Mr. Sheiffer said that while some store owners were being pressured to close on the Sabbath earlier during the debate, less has been heard about that recently.

Others reiterated their belief that Rabbi Marc Schneier, the founding rabbi of the Hampton Synagogue in Westhampton Beach, is behind the push for the boundary even though the EEEA is now seeking its creation. Audience members said they believe the rabbi wants the eruv in order to boost his synagogue’s membership. The synagogue applied to the Westhampton Beach Village Board in 2008, seeking its permission to create an eruv, but later withdrew the request following a large public outcry.

“We’re not anti-Semitic,” said Hal Kahn, a member of JPOE’s executive board. “We are against one man with a phony reason for trying to change the secular nature of our village for his own financial well-being.”

Rabbi Schneier did not return a call this week seeking comment and has not responded to repeated requests to be interviewed about the eruv.

When asked about Mr. Schneier’s role in the request, Robert Sugarman, an attorney with Weil, Gotshal and Manges LLP in Manhattan, the firm that is representing the EEEA, said: “I will not dignify that with a response.”

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This, to me, foreshadows the battles taking place over the Kiryas Joel community in upstate New York, which the New York Times has written about extensively. Kiryas Joel grew faster than any other community in New York State between 2000 and 2006 -- and was named "the poorest place in America" in 2011. The Times has lots of great reporting on this for anyone who's interested.
By Tay (35), Hampton Bays on Aug 23, 11 12:19 PM
i have no dog in this issue, but you cant push a stroller or wheeelchair without the eruv on sundays?

Can you carry your kids? can a person push their own wheelchair? im being serious.

i understand refraining from work, etc, but what religious purpose is served by prohibiting people from minding their kids, elders and infirm?
By tm (174), mtk on Aug 23, 11 12:41 PM
It's up to the courts. The law is the law. JPOE is irrelvant. Hopefully a ruling will take place shortly.
By Steven (113), Westhampton on Aug 23, 11 4:58 PM
can you please extend the eruv to the canal in hampton bays? we could use some help with property values and half the town doesn't pay for their kids to go to school anyway since they don't have u.s. citizenship.
By davidf (325), hampton bays on Aug 23, 11 5:27 PM
Anybody who lives in a house pays real estate taxes; anybody who buys anything pays sales tax. How does citizenship factor into paying for education?
By VOS (1230), WHB on Aug 23, 11 11:59 PM
We can't have a nativity scene on public property, kids can't pray in school, a minister or other religious person can't lead a benediction before graduation, why is this eruv even being considered? Seperation of church and state should be for all of us! As abhorant as the supreme court's decisions have been, the law applies to ALL ! No special of preferential treatment for a specific group.
By bigfresh (4595), north sea on Aug 23, 11 5:35 PM
I bet my bottom dollar if this were about praying in school you'd fight like he'll to make it happen. We have all read your hateful, bigoted, arrogant rants on every subject under the sun. You have about as much credibility on this issue as - I will not even go there. And now you and all of your bigoted, hypocrite friends can pile on and spin your perverse brand of reverse psychology, but your trail of comments reveal the truth about your deep hatred for any person not as incurious and dimwitted ...more
By fcmcmann (417), Hampton Bays on Aug 23, 11 6:00 PM
1 member liked this comment
Westhampton Beach *does* place a nativity scene on public property. It's right there on the Village Green.
By AvrahamB (1), Westhampton Beach on Aug 24, 11 11:09 AM
Thou shalt not use public property, for the private use of a religious sect.

I think that was on one of the tablets that shattered...
By Mr. Z (11696), North Sea on Aug 23, 11 8:16 PM
There should be an eruv around all of Long Island. That would solve this issue once and for all. Expand the boundries and make it insignifcant.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Aug 23, 11 9:30 PM
1 member liked this comment
to fcmcmann:

You speak of "ranting"? So far, in this thread, you have an exclusive.
By highhatsize (4185), East Quogue on Aug 23, 11 9:34 PM
Defending one of your own, eh, HH?
By fcmcmann (417), Hampton Bays on Aug 24, 11 8:30 AM
“We are against one man with a phony reason for trying to change the secular nature of our village for his own financial well-being.” ......

WOW, that is some statement..........
By BIGjimbo12 (201), East Quogue on Aug 23, 11 10:53 PM
I agree Big, and I believe it's against the law to try and exclude a group of people based on their religious practices. You can be against the Eruv (using public property for religious symbols, etc.), but working to keep Orthodox Jews out of Westhampton Beach is a much more serious matter. I wouldn't be surprised by additional law suits and the Justice Department's involvement..
By Steven (113), Westhampton on Aug 24, 11 8:59 AM
1 member liked this comment
On target, Steven. This is not about an Eruv (which is basically INVISIBLE) but it is about keeping an entire group of people out of town. Where are all the "big government" whiners now?
By razza5351 (551), East Hampton on Aug 24, 11 9:21 AM
to fcmcmann:

Oh, dear. Now you have gone and insulted bigfresh.
By highhatsize (4185), East Quogue on Aug 24, 11 10:45 AM
Let's document for a minute:
People who send their kids to private school can apply for an exemption - and that applies to everyone, Jewish or not, religious or not. And school taxes are only a small portion of property taxes and all other forms of tax that all Americans pay.
Rabbi Schneier has nothing to do with the eruv proposal. It's a group of residents, both year-round and summer, who own property, pay taxes, and have the right to fight for an eruv.
JPOE slipped up. They exposed ...more
By yaldani (1), Westhampton Beach on Aug 24, 11 11:58 AM
1 member liked this comment
I'll probably get hate mail for this, but I feel the belief in an omnipotent, omnipresent "God" is antiquated, primitive, and irrational.

Speaking from the point of view of an Agnostic, I feel than no organized religion "has it right", and to impose individual religious views or practices on the general public is not only unconstitutional, but unwarranted, and simply plain rude.

If you can't follow the rules of your religion, pass an amendment, or convert/abandon if for a belief ...more
By Mr. Z (11696), North Sea on Aug 26, 11 6:07 PM
Is everyone bored?
By Mr. Z (11696), North Sea on Aug 27, 11 2:56 AM
Although I understand hesitation on the part of anyone unfamiliar with Eruvin to embrace the idea that these structures by no means interfere with or infringe on other peoples beliefs or traditions. I cringe at the myriad of comments I see written across the web proclaiming the Eruv to be some kind of "loop hole." The comments are born from at best ignorance and at worst, some kind of fear or intolerance. In fact, the law governing carrying objects in public/private domains is one of the most complex ...more
By dnz (1), woodmere on Sep 9, 11 8:19 AM
1 member liked this comment
All religion, my friend, is simply evolved out of fraud, fear, greed, imagination, and poetry.

~Edgar Allan Poe.
By Mr. Z (11696), North Sea on Sep 23, 11 4:58 PM