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May 13, 2008 8:36 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Much ado about an eruv

May 13, 2008 8:36 AM

It might have taken a few weeks, but whispers of anti-Semitism have grown louder and clearer with each passing day since the Hampton Synagogue unveiled plans to create a special religious boundary in Westhampton Beach Village.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that the Westhampton Beach Village Board can drown out even the loudest of whispers with a unanimous approval of the now controversial proposal during a special meeting scheduled for Wednesday, May 28, at 7 p.m.

The application is “controversial” only because a few partially informed and, yes, intolerant souls have been spreading rumors and inaccurate information about the proposed religious boundary ever since plans were unveiled in March.

For the record, the religious “boundary” is not really a boundary at all in the traditional sense—there won’t be any walls or fences installed marking the one-square-mile area. Also, if it is created, the religious boundary, called an eruv, will not allow Orthodox Jews to walk on or across private property on their way to the Sunset Avenue synagogue.

Rather, synagogue officials are looking to establish an invisible border—demarcated by black plastic piping that will be attached to preexisting utility poles and clear wire in other areas—that marks the sidewalks and streets where Orthodox Jews can participate in activities that are normally forbidden on the Sabbath. In fact, the markings, expected to be affixed to between 30 and 40 utility poles throughout the village that are owned by Verizon and the Long Island Power Authority, are needed only where the eruv changes direction.

Also overlooked by many who are objecting to the application is that there are at least three dozen activities that Orthodox Jews are prohibited from doing on the Sabbath. The most problematic, at least for mothers with young children, is the rule that forbids them from moving an object from one location to another. That rule fails to consider young mothers who cannot attend temple on the Sabbath because they cannot push baby carriages or carry their children. The creation of this religious zone would resolve those issues.

It should also be emphasized that the ultimate goal of the synagogue is not to create a larger Jewish community in Westhampton Beach—a rumor that has been widely circulated among those who are trying to hide in the shadows while pushing their anti-Semitic agendas. The fact is that the eruv is designed to accommodate the estimated 500 families already living in the area, many of whom have young children. It should be noted that other communities on Long Island, including Plainview and West Hempstead, are ahead of the curve in that they already boast similar religious boundaries, with zero impact on village life.

History is on their side: A previous challenge to stop the creation of an eruv in the Borough of Tenafly in New Jersey was overruled by the courts. Yet the Hampton Synagogue has been diplomatic in its attempt to appease village officials and residents, switching the markers from wood to black plastic after some raised concerns about their visibility.

Now the time has come for the Village Board, after leading one more public discussion on the issue, to put the rumors to rest once and for all and allow the synagogue to mark off the boundaries.

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