Or is it?

A Long Island village is concerned about its local Jewish community establishing an eruv, voicing concerns it might lead to a division in the village.

“The objection to the eruv has nothing to do with religion, per se,” group chairman Arnold Sheiffer, a semiretired advertising executive. “What they object to is creating a division in the village where none ever existed.”

Formed in late August, the group has collected about $30,000 and enlisted 150 residents to fight the proposal, said Sheiffer, who has lived here for 30 years. Their intention, he says, is to blunt talk that anyone opposed to the eruv is anti-Semitic.

“We’ve always lived in peace and harmony. The truth is I didn’t know if people were Jewish or not. And the truth is I didn’t really care. And it was nice,” he said. “Now we have this thing, this eruv, that would create divisions.”

The local rabbi finds himself to be in a difficult spot.

Schneier applied to the village for permission to erect an eruv but withdrew his petition earlier this year as the controversy began to build. He said he intends to refile his request sometime this fall but declined to say when.

[…]Schneier told an acrimonious community meeting at the synagogue _ later posted on YouTube _ that he has no intention of backing down.

There are eleven clips of the meeting on YouTube. The first one can be found here.

Know what might be most scary though?

Opponents worry that if the eruv is established, Westhampton Beach _ a wealthy community but one less glitzy than its better known neighbors Southampton and East Hampton _ may evolve into an Orthodox enclave.

I can understand Westhampton Beach wouldn’t want their everyday lives regulated or impacted by Vaad Hatznius forces and similar extremists, but I suppose a little compromising couldn’t hurt, could it? Why not come up with an agreement that provides for revocation of the eruv as soon as the first frumer-than-thou agitator pops up? One of my brothers learnt during his military duty that the company disciplines itself – if one soldier messes up, the others will inevitably suffer, so everyone’s on guard lest somebody messes things up. It’s as easy as that.

Let’s get this straight, an eruv is not a wall. There wouldn’t be any trenches or moats. It need not even literally be a fence. Little symbols on utility poles might do the trick. It would basically just be an aid to the Orthodox members of Westhampton Beach’s Jewish community and the Orthodox Jewish summer residents there. Summer residents = people spending money. Orthodox summer residents = many people spending lots of money (my Chasidishe friends spend five- to six-figure sums on their upstate NY summer vacations).

On my trip to Antwerp in April, I saw that the entire old city was included in the eruv, marked by a wire six metres above ground level. Then again, Antwerp’s diamond business constitutes as one third of Belgium’s gross national product. Suppose Westhampton Beach should only admit rich Orthodox Jews.

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  • Keep down the eruv, and keep out the Jews. At least the Jews who aren’t embarrassed to be Jews. And most ant-eruv campaigns are led by… Jews. Old news.

  • I actually understand some of the concerns. What happened in Lawrence and elsewhere in Long Island provides reasonable grounds for concern. Public school funding has been a serious issue as the Orthodox community wants to pay less, rather than more, since they don’t use them. The fact that there are a few antisemites who may have hatred as a motive does not eliminate the understandable concerns of many for providing the infrastructure for an Orthodox enclave.

  • Batya, the article doesn’t mention whether Sheiffer is a Jew. I suppose he’s not as the name can either be derived from the professions of a shepherd or slate-cutter, professions Jews couldn’t pursue in medieval Ashkenaz. (Many lastnames people take for being Jewish are just plain German lastnames; more than one third of the US population is of German background.)

    DK, I can understand that. However, in democratic states there is the right to move and settle freely anywhere you wish. What the village could do to prohibit Orthodox settlement is to not designate new building property so people may only purchase or rent already existing real estate – this would then equally apply to anybody wishing to settle there.

  • in democratic states there is the right to move and settle freely anywhere you wish.
    – – – – – – – – – – – –
    And Jews are free to move in and settle in Westhampton.


    Since when did a minority religious ritual become a Constitutional entitlement or one of the native rights of man in a secular Western democracy?

    American Orthodox Jews lived for decades without these eruvim. And they are free to live that way in Westhampton.

  • B-D, the eruv appears to be a minor issue compared to the concern that Weshampton Beach could become an Orthodox enclave (with all that it entails). I’m not observant and find it utterly ridiculous that people will leave their front doors unlocked, won’t push prams etc. if there is no eruv. Just as I find it ridiculous that about each and any Orthodox community has got picky variations on what qualifies as tznius clothing over there. However, an eruv is not such a major object that it will necessarily impact non-Jews’ life in that place, it might even increase business. I suppose the real issue is one that’s been highly discussed here for a while with regards to Muslims, namely whether Western democratic societies can afford parallel societies establishing within their boundaries that do not abide by the common law to guarantee certain civil (or in the Muslim case, human) rights.

  • I really don’t see what the issue is. Most (all?) of the cases in which an eruv has built in a neighborhood have not resulted in the city magically turning into a massive Orthodox community.

    The argument has legitimacy in the sense that if it were to happen it could be a social problem, but the probability of it happening at least as far as I know is quite low.

  • Kari, that isn’t true. Again, please see the conflict between the secular Jewish population in Lawrence and the newer Orthodox population. An eruv enabled the change of character and eventually, tax dollar preference for the public school system.