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Aug 18, 2008 1:50 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Tenafly eruv battle resonates in Westhampton Beach

Aug 18, 2008 1:50 PM

The community, though significantly larger than Westhampton Beach, has not been transformed into an Orthodox enclave since the eruv was established—the stores in the borough were open on Saturday, cars navigated within the eruv, and the streets were not congested with Orthodox Jews walking to and from synagogue.

This is the opposite of some fears held by some Westhampton Beach residents—some of whom believe that the eruv will act as the first step in transforming the village into an Orthodox enclave.

Some opponents of the eruv have charged that the synagogue unfairly labels anyone who opposes the religious boundary as “anti-Semitic.” A desire to avoid such branding has prompted a large number of village residents to publicly oppose the eruv. A smaller group has suggested that the village would become “too Jewish” with an eruv, while others have speculated that the synagogue would eventually demand that all of shops in the village close their doors on Saturdays. Rabbi Schneier has denied that allegation in previous interviews.

“Just because the eruv makes an area appealing to one group of people, it isn’t necessarily going to block out another group,” said Kenneth Wagner, a congregant of Kesher Synagogue and a member of the Tenafly Eruv Association. Originally from Great Neck, Mr. Wagner has helped establish eruvs in Bell Harbor and Atlantic Beach in New York, as well as in Stamford and New Haven, both in Connecticut.

“If you open an Italian supermarket, you’re not going to block out the Orthodox who won’t eat the cheese,” Mr. Wagner said.

Yael Polinsky, a young mother who is a congregant of Kesher: The Community Synagogue of Tenafly and Englewood, says that the religious boundary is an absolute necessity for everyday life.

“I would never live somewhere where there wasn’t an eruv,” said Ms. Polinsky, who must push a baby carriage if she wants to attend religious services on the Sabbath. “I couldn’t be kept in the house all day.

“It would be impossible without a synagogue,” Ms. Polinsky continued. “With young kids and a baby, you can’t leave the house. It’s overly restrictive.”

Ms. Polinsky explained that she is originally from Rochester, a city in upstate New York that has an eruv. “Rochester is not a mecca of Judaism, but everyone supports each other,” she said. “When I came here, to a town hall meeting, it seemed like most of the things seemed to concentrate on ... keeping the Orthodox out.”

Other residents of Tenafly have mixed opinions about the impact of the eruv. Sherry Kaplan, a resident of Cresskill, a borough neighboring Tenafly, explained that some people thought that the eruv violated the separation of church and state.

“It brought to mind the conflict of church and state to some,” said Ms. Kaplan, who works in Tenafly. “But it was more an issue of tolerance. After all, it’s just small strips of plastic that are practically invisible.”

Once the eruv was established, Ms. Kaplan said she and her husband went around trying to find the lechis, but could not locate them.

A woman on the street in the downtown business area in Tenafly, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said “there shouldn’t have been any argument” over the eruv. “Every other town does it—it was ridiculous,” she said.

The woman noted that the eruv did bring in more Orthodox families, though that did not “bother” her. “I think the borough wasted a lot of tax money,” she said.

Meanwhile, Mike Granoff, the current president of the Kesher synagogue, said that in his personal dealings with the Borough of Tenafly, he never “came across anyone who said they were opposed to [the eruv].” He added that he does not believe it “negatively influenced the community in any way.” In fact, he thinks that the opposite is true.

“It’s attracted young families to the town,” Mr. Granoff said. “It’s been a boon to the town.”

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I just wanted to point out that the "Smith v Community Board" case, is binding authority for Suffolk County.(Tenafly is certainly pursuasive, but Smith is binding)
In that case, the City's leasing ITS light poles, and permitting stringing lines on those City owned poles (amongst other things), did not improperly entangle government in religion under both the federal and state constituitions.
By Morris Tuchman (5), Westhampton Beach on Aug 29, 08 10:27 AM
ok there is one significant difference here 1. there has been no eruv erected 2. the eruv is proposed to be erected on utility poles 3 town guidelines prohibit ANY placement of any material by any party on these poles except by verizon or lipa TATS THE DIFFERENCE HERE we dont want the community to be divided or have a feel of division but regardless of any feeling it illegal to erect anything on these poles PERIOD Bring it to resident voter Vote and it will decide for all whats what ...more
By pgg6259 (5), westhampton bch on Oct 13, 08 10:05 AM