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Dec 28, 2012 4:18 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Decision On Religious Boundary Lawsuits Could Come This Year

Jan 19, 2013 2:35 PM

“The motion that we have made has two basic arguments,” Mr. Sokoloff said. “If we win on either of them, there is no eruv.”

The Village of Quogue is being represented by Jeltje DeJong of Devitt Spellman Barrett LLP and Marci Hamilton, a professor at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

A Brief History

An eruv is a mostly invisible boundary that, according to Jewish law, allows observant Jews to perform certain activities—like pushing a stroller or wheelchair and carrying keys—that are otherwise forbidden on the Sabbath and certain Jewish holidays. The proposed eruv would be created by attaching wooden markers, known as lechis, to utility poles that, in this case, are owned by Verizon and LIPA, and would delineate the boundary’s borders. In some instances, the eruv could be marked with existing power lines and other landmarks.

In addition to the four dozen lechis in Quogue Village, the EEEA is seeking permission to install 28 markers on Quiogue and more in Westhampton Beach, where the actual number is unclear, since the organization has not yet filed a formal application with Westhampton Beach Village. The wooden markers would be no bigger than 1 inch thick, 4 inches wide and 40 inches long, according to the lawsuit filed by the EEEA.

The boundary was first pitched to the Village of Westhampton Beach on March 7, 2008, when Rabbi Marc Schneier, the founding rabbi of The Hampton Synagogue, submitted a petition to village trustees seeking its establishment. Before a vote could be taken, Mr. Schneier, who could not be reached for comment, submitted a letter to the village on May 23, 2008, withdrawing the application that sought to create a boundary only in Westhampton Beach, explaining that he would like to further educate residents about the proposed eruv before re-filing. The educational hearing was never held, and synagogue officials never re-filed the application. As a result, Westhampton Beach officials have never voted for or against the eruv.

Then in May 2010, the EEEA picked up the ball and entered into an agreement with Verizon that would allow the group to attach the lechis to the poles owned by the provider in Westhampton Beach, Quogue and Quiogue. Two months later, the EEEA entered a similar agreement with LIPA. Both utilities have stated that they do not need the permission of either village, or Southampton Town, to approve the lechis—a point disputed by all three municipalities.

It was that objection that prompted the filing of the first lawsuit in January 2011 charging that all three municipalities are violating the civil rights of observant Jews. That litigation, as it turns out, would lead to the filing of two additional lawsuits and one countersuit.

First Lawsuit

The EEEA made the first move in what has evolved into a legal chess match on January 13, 2011, when it sued Southampton Town, as well as the villages of Quogue and Westhampton Beach. The litigation alleges that the municipalities violated the constitutional rights of members of the EEEA by interfering with negotiations with the two utilities, Verizon and LIPA, regarding the lechis.

The lawsuit alleges that through letters mailed to both utilities, as well as comments made during public meetings and to the press, town and village officials successfully prevented the eruv’s establishment. The suit names the following people as defendants: Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, Town Board members Christopher Nuzzi, James Malone and Bridget Fleming, and former board member Nancy Graboski; Westhampton Beach Village Mayor Conrad Teller, Deputy Mayor Hank Tucker and former trustees Joan Levan, Toni-Jo Birk and Leola “Sue” Farrell; and Quogue Village Mayor Peter Sartorius and Trustees Randy Cardo, Jeannette Obser, Kimberley Payne and Ted Necarsulmer.

The plaintiff wants the court to throw out the argument that local town and village codes prohibit the establishment of the boundary, and confirm that private third parties, such as Verizon and LIPA, should be “free and clear to implement the contracts to permit construction of the eruv.” The lawsuit also calls for a permanent court order preventing the defendants from further interfering in any aspect of the creation of an eruv. Finally, the suit is seeking compensatory and punitive damages—the EEEA does not offer a specified amount in the suit—and also wants its attorney’s fees to be paid by the defendants.

While that lawsuit was making its way through the courts, the EEEA filed a separate motion requesting that a temporary eruv be established until a ruling on its initial suit could be rendered. But U.S. District Judge Leonard D. Wexler, who is the judge hearing all of the cases, denied that motion in November 2011 on grounds that the EEEA’s request was premature in that it had never filed a formal application for an eruv with either village or the town.

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"mostly invisible" is that like a little pregnant?
By circaWHB (9), Westhampton Beach on Jan 18, 13 12:47 PM
"mostly invisible" is that like a little pregnant?
By circaWHB (9), Westhampton Beach on Jan 18, 13 12:48 PM
mostly ignorant, is that like a little stupid?
By witch hazel (224), tatooine on Jan 18, 13 1:26 PM
2 members liked this comment
Seperation of church and state is the law of the land, for EVERYONE, there are none above the law.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Jan 18, 13 5:19 PM
Well, thats' nice in hypothesis.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jan 18, 13 8:52 PM
LIPA is a state entity, and owns a majority share of the utility poles.

Here's where I "turn poeple off" ": Isn't religion really just a cheap way to explain science?

Before the periodic table, there was Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and later Aether.

WE'VE GOT A NEW DEMI-GOD!! You're gonna' love 'im!!!
Jan 18, 13 8:49 PM appended by Mr. Z
My Agnosticism is not a lack of faith. It's a lack of faith in religion. I have chosen to have faith in knowledge, and emipirical data, as well as faith in humanity. Do you need faith to believe in proving theory? Absolutely. Faith is not about religion. It's about hope. Just for reference...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jan 18, 13 8:49 PM
I'd agree that Religion to fill holes in science is absurd. Read "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court". That in effect is the essence of the book.

Yet logic woks here. If you found a rock would you say it was divinely placed at that spot? No. Two rocks in a row? No. A string of rocks in a row..maybe but most likely not because our observation is that rocks are usually random and perhaps there was a hand that laid these in a line. What is that line went alway around the earth. ...more
By Hambone (514), New York on Jan 19, 13 9:16 AM
Well, there is this thing called a glacial moraine.

I've seen the wind roll snowballs.

Nature is full of "odd" behavior...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jan 21, 13 9:48 PM
Just for the record I am against any stupid religious "law". Asked once what I gave up for Lent, I responded "religions with dietary restrictions".

To have a rule that you go through all these machinations to basically subvert the rule is silly. This reeks of a bunch of 5 year olds in clubhouse who make rules to keep people out but make exceptions to justify what they do and with whom they do it.

Harsh...maybe so. But I can't wait to see the first stroller being pushed from ...more
By Hambone (514), New York on Jan 19, 13 9:21 AM
God created Man and Woman and all was well with the world.....Then they made religion. The theory of the Eruv is like the Second Amendment. Alot got lost in translation over the centuries.
By lazymedic (100), southampton on Jan 19, 13 10:53 AM
Actually, my understanding is that the eruv was created in rabbinical law, not in the Talmud so it probably does not date back "over the centuries". Can someone in the know tell us the circumstances involved in establishing the first eruv and how it has progressed to where we are today?
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jan 19, 13 11:53 AM
so it was created by a mere mortal, not God ? Read jewish history. This law stems from the building of one of the original temples, which, by the by, wasn't last year. There are volumes written about the Eruv. As a non-Jew, I find Jewish history fascinating and in many ways relevant to life today. That said, erecting Eruvs on telephone poles is a stretch. Consider if you will, distributing a map to the faithful with the boundries delineated. Gets the same job done without the controversy. Everybody ...more
By lazymedic (100), southampton on Jan 19, 13 3:32 PM
"Dad, why do adults fight over little symbols on telephone poles?"
"Because we are stupid, son."
"Oh, that's what I thought. Can we get ice cream now?"
"Sure."
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Jan 19, 13 12:39 PM
1 member liked this comment
Dad. What happens when the shoe is on the other foot? Oh thats another story!
By realistic (472), westhampton on Jan 19, 13 4:51 PM
1 member liked this comment
This made me giggle :)
By Terbear (77), Southampton on Jan 26, 13 5:47 PM
The attorneys' fees for this entire situation to be resolved could be staggering over the next decade [sic].

Do the various state and federal courts have the authority to require that the parties post a bond for all costs and fees if they lose?

Is there a motion in any court to combine all cases in one venue (normally this would be a federal court)?
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jan 19, 13 12:55 PM
"Jewish People for the Betterment of Westhampton Beach" has filed a federal lawsuit to prohibit the eruv on constitutional grounds. While I cannot read the article, I assume that it refers only to to state lawsuits filed by E3A against Quogue and Westhampton Beach. Being a superior court, the federal suit is the only meaningful one. Nothing will happen until IT is decided, probably on appeal.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jan 19, 13 7:50 PM
Push or pull something in defiance of The Almighty in front of MY house on the Sabbath? Better think twice, I've got water balloons.
By loading... (601), quiogue on Jan 23, 13 9:35 AM
better fill them on Friday
By Hambone (514), New York on Jan 25, 13 9:24 AM
um, no....Friday is holy to Pastafarians!
By loading... (601), quiogue on Jan 25, 13 7:25 PM
I thought Wednesday was Prince Spaghetti Day...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jan 25, 13 7:29 PM
Eruv is just an excuse to do stuff your religion says you shouldn't do. In my apartment building in NYC, one of the many home networks that came up was "eruv (followed by numbers)" I mean come on. You want to be super-duper-orthodox religious person but you need to be on the Internet on the sabbath? Please. If you want to observe sabbath rules, then observe sabbath rules. I have inlaws who are orthodox -- not ultra orthodox. They obey sabbath rules because that's part of their identity. They don't ...more
By btdt (449), water mill on Jan 27, 13 12:35 AM