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Governor Paterson Addresses Eruv Issue at Hamptons Shul

pater.jph.jpgCBS2 HD reports: NY State Gov. David Paterson pleaded for religious tolerance Saturday during a speech at a Long Island synagogue.

The governor made his remarks to an Orthodox congregation in Westhampton Beach that is trying to win village approval to erect a symbolic enclosure called an eruv — a territory usually marked by small plastic symbols affixed to utility poles.

The markers are nearly invisible to those passing by, but to Orthodox Jews they are a big convenience. Within the boundaries, they may engage in activities like pushing strollers or carrying packages that would be otherwise prohibited during the Sabbath, which begins at sundown Friday and ends at nightfall Saturday.

Paterson expressed his support for the idea Saturday during his speech at the Hampton Synagogue.

“I am hoping we can bring tolerance and understanding to the desire of those who want to erect the eruv right here in the Hamptons,” he told more than 800 people attending a morning service.

The synagogue’s rabbi, Marc Schneier, temporarily suspended the request after some residents complained it would change the village’s character.

One an ad published in a local weekly newspaper said that the eruv, which would cover one-third of the village’s 3 square miles, “will proclaim us an Orthodox Jewish community for all time.” A few others said it violated a separation between church and state.

The Westhampton Beach mayor has said he has no problem with creating an eruv, but Schneier said he wanted to put off the formal request until the fall. Schneier has called a community meeting later this month on the subject.

“I might stop by,” Paterson said. “I want people to know there is a new sheriff in town,” Paterson said, as the congregation stood and applauded.

The Orthodox synagogue’s year-round population is about 100, but the population swells to 800 in the summer, many who are not Orthodox, congregant Glenn Dorskind said.

Schneier on Friday said the controversy threatened his community’s civil rights to religious freedom.

“I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would be fighting a civil rights battle in my own backyard for my own community,” he said.

5 Responses

  1. This is pretty wild, IMHO. To say having an eruv “will proclaim us an Orthodox Jewish community for all time” is quite racist and bigoted. Having an Eruv will certainly make the area more attractive to observant Jews, but let’s not delude ourselves; the character of the area is what it is, and it will not become another New Square by simply erecting an eruv. Besides, even if that were the case, the clear implication of the statement is that they do not like Orthodox Jews, which is, at face value, racist and bigoted.

    Out of curiosity, do the many bells that toll atop Roman Catholic churches in towns like Rockville Centre and others, “proclaim them Roman Catholic communities for all times”? Is that a cause for concern for the author of that statement, or is only “proclaiming [Westhampton beach] an Orthodox Jewish community for all time” problematic? This really reeks of racism and bigotry to me, whatever one’s personal likes or dislikes may be.

    The old, tired and fallacious argument that it violates the separation between church and state (more precisely the establishment clause), is, of course, ridiculous. If anything, denying the eruv *due to religious reasons* is a denial of the constitutional right to religious freedom granted in that very clause, and, it could be argued, a de facto establishment of Christianity as the national religion.

    I agree that, in the interests of peace, it may not be the appropriate thing to do to lobby for the harmless eruv, but I feel those comments are outrageous and their connotations are, frankly, almost right out of the middle ages and certainly very un-American.

  2. Oy! The day has come when a non Jew has to come along to help the Jewish community make peace with itself!
    Anyway, it is very nice that Gov. Patereson did this and he is A-OK in my book!

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