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Westhampton Beach Residents Embroiled In Religious Boundary Debate

Originally Posted: August 18, 2008

Kelly Carroll

  |   38 Comments · Print Article

About 30 minutes into Wednesday’s public information session, a good portion of the crowd walked out. As the meeting went on, audience members would yell-out in protest against the words of the discussion leaders. Photos by Kelly Carroll

Westhampton Beach - Not an hour into the public information session regarding the Hampton Synagogue's desire for an Eruv to be designated in the village of Westhampton Beach, one-third of the overflowing crowd stood up and walked out, angered over the reading of anti-Semitic e-mails sent to the synagogue.

"This was supposed to be an informative meeting," yelled Jim Going, an attorney in the village. "You have made this something about Christians versus Jews."

The Hampton Synagogue, located on Sunset Avenue in Westhampton
Beach, has been in formation for the past 18 years.

Only minutes before, the synagogue on Sunset Avenue was inundated with people, spilling out on to the extra chairs set up on the patio or standing out on the lawn, stretching to hear. When Joel Cohen, one of the panelists for Wednesday's information session, began to read from the "hateful e-mails," the once peaceful crowd took turns yelling out "moron," and "filibuster," accosting Cohen and other members of the panel before eventually deciding to leave the premises altogether.

While it may sound like this scene was initiated simply by the reading of e-mails, it is actually a microcosm of the religious tension that has seemingly been brewing in the village of Westhampton Beach all summer long.

"I was disappointed, you know, taken aback by people's conduct, their intolerance, their disrespect," said Rabbi Marc Schneier, leader of the Hampton Synagogue congregation. "This community prides itself, at least publicly, as a community that champions religious diversity. We have seen the ugly head of anti-semitism."

Community Outcry
In the spring of 2008, the rabbi submitted an application to designate a certain part of the village as an Eruv, a religious symbolic area that allows practicing Orthodox Jews to conduct every day activities within that area that they normally wouldn't be able to on the Sabbath, like push strollers and wheelchairs or carry a child.

Glenn Dorskind opened the evening with a letter to the audience telling
them that they were setting an example for future generations.

The proposal caused considerable outcry from many in the Westhampton Beach community, and the rabbi eventually withdrew his application, stating he wanted to spend the summer educating the people on what exactly an Eruv is and how it will be implemented. His efforts were negatively received as evidenced by the scene Wednesday night.

"This congregation is committed to an Eruv, because we view this as our elemental right," Schneier said at the meeting. "This is not an issue that is subject to community approval. We believe that Westhampton Beach and this orthodox congregation should now join the ranks of hundreds, if not thousands, of Jewish communities throughout the land."

Rabbi Schneier asserted that an Eruv is a civil right, protected under the 14th amendment, as well as the first amendment which does not allow the prohibition of the free exercise of religion. He has taken on this debate as a civil rights struggle – contending that not granting an Eruv is tantamount to telling African-Americans they could not use a white restroom in the 1960s.

Yet those against the Eruv have their own reasons for not supporting it. Pastor Jack King of the Beach United Methodist Church in Westhampton Beach said he does support the Eruv, but that "the way it is being advanced, a fait accompli, people in a democratic society don't generally like to have things thrust upon them."

Westhampton Beach resident Meg Warren contemptuously approached the panel,
angered over the procedure of the information session.

Others voiced their concern that creating an Eruv would make the Westhampton Beach community attractive to Jewish people looking to live within an area that makes it easier for them to worship, in turn, creating an all-Orthodox Jewish community in Westhampton Beach. Those worried about this effect cited areas on Long Island such as the Five Towns and Lawrence, which are predominately religious enclaves.

Rabbi Schneier also admitted that he feels that objections are coming from residents who do not want more Jewish people in their community. However, the rabbi's position is that his congregation is at the forefront of combating religious extremism, deflecting the charge that he is trying to create an entirely Jewish community in Westhampton Beach Village.

"I have dedicated my career to the strengthening of relations between religious and ethnic communities," he said. "I wouldn't tolerate fundamentalism or extremism. We celebrate our religious community."

Newly re-elected Mayor Conrad Teller said that, down the road, he doesn't see a whole Jewish community coming into Westhampton Beach Village. However, the mayor currently has an attorney going over the legal implications of this situation - whether the village is obligated to issue a proclamation instating the Eruv, and what would happen if the village doesn't issue the proclamation, as well as outlining the compelling reasons to not issue one.

However, Rabbi Schneier says the Eruv has to be instituted.

"It's not a matter of religious technicality, it's a matter of religious law," he said. "As a practicing Orthodox Jew, for me it's a matter of faith."

There was a tense mood at the Hampton Synagogue in Westhampton Beach Wednesday night. The leader of the synagogue's congregation, Rabbi Marc Schneier (second from left), has proposed designating an Eruv for the village.

A Matter of Religious Law
According to Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman, of the Jewish Center of the Hamptons in East Hampton, religious law prohibits the carrying of things on the Sabbath, except in the home. An Eruv is a concept of expanding the boundary of the home, where one would be permitted to conduct activities on the Sabbath they normally would not be permitted to do in their home.

"It's to make life more livable," he offered, adding "they can't even carry an umbrella."

According to Jewish law, the synagogue is required to get the permission of whoever is in charge of the area to designate an Eruv, meaning the local government. In addition, the area of the Eruv must be clearly outlined to the people. Rabbi Schneier said he would like to use wooden two by fours painted black and fixed to telephone and electric poles to show the designated area. For that, he has already gotten permission from Verizon and the Long Island Power Authority.

Panelist for the night's information session Joel Cohen chose to read several hate
e-mails that have been sent to the synagogue. Rabbi Marc Scheier (center) received
questions from the audience, but was defended throughout the night by his panel.

Rabbi Zimmerman assured that there are no legal implications to putting up an Eruv. Jewish Orthodox residents observing the Eruv cannot walk on other people's property or use private property for religious use.

Where religious law becomes tricky, however, is in the many sects of Judaism and their different rules. Where Reform, Reconstructionist and Liberal Jews are concerned, an Eruv wouldn't even be needed because they do not follow the rules of not-carrying on the Sabbath. In addition, Conservative Jews can drive on the Sabbath for religious purposes and wouldn't be affected by the carrying law either. However, Orthodox and Hasidic Jews cannot drive on the Sabbath at all, nor can they carry outside of their designated home area, hence their desire for an Eruv.

"Once you start driving, the community is meaningless," Zimmerman commented. "The whole purpose of the Sabbath is community."

Why Now?
Still some question why the synagogue needs an Eruv now, after operating seemingly well in the community for the past 18 years.

"The Hampton Synagogue has experienced growth, in particular the number of young families," Rabbi Schneier explained. "These younger families are now confined to their homes on the Sabbath."

Schneier added that the congregation has a growing disabled community, which needs to be wheeled to services, which is prohibited under the no-carrying law as well.

"It sounded as if this is religious law, then they have no alternative," said Pastor King. "My religion doesn't have those kinds of restrictions."

Is It Worth It?
Yet, still others wondered if the Eruv was really worth all the disruption within the village – hateful e-mails sent to the synagogue, angry meetings with residents storming out, and a former deputy mayor, Tim Laube, who claims he is moving out of the village over the tension he has experienced.

"I am Jewish and emotional," said Norman Remler at Wednesday's meeting, his voice shaking into the microphone. "I think with the proper education, people will find it does not change their life one iota. But the disruption it has caused within the village – why not address the real issue now, which is the disruption, which is more important than the Eruv itself."

Many of the speakers voiced their opposition to the Eruv being discussed for their

When asked how he would respond to the comments of Remler and others, Rabbi Schneier replied "I hear his concern, but I have to be true to my religious conviction – true to my religious belief, true to my congregation."

The rabbi also insists that his entire congregation supports him in this effort. However, he is persistent in his refusal to admit exactly how large his congregation is.

Mayor Teller said he has heard from a member of the Jewish Orthodox community that the Hampton Synagogue has only nine members in its year-round congregation, adding that the numbers do "swell" in the summer.

"I have no clue, I'm not the kind of rabbi who surveys," Schneier said, when asked for the numbers again on Thursday. "I'm not that judgmental. I don't delineate Orthodox or Reform Jews in my synagogue. But we have had significant growth compared to prior years."

Recently, the Eruv has gained support from Governor David Paterson, who came to speak at the synagogue on Aug. 2. Rabbi Schneier has also reached out to Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy. Yet it is support in his own backyard that he cannot muster.

On Sept. 7 the rabbi will be speaking about the Eruv at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Westhampton Beach, an event he says will be much "calmer" than last week's information session. As the summer winds down, Schneier looks ahead to the fall when he will once again submit an application to instate an Eruv encompassing the entire village.

"Ultimately the right will prevail," Mayor Teller commented. "We are well-rounded, cosmopolitan. Once it's established, it will disappear. On paper, it seems like a very simple thing."

Residents young and old turned out for the information session, underscoring the division among neighbors regarding the controversial measure.

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Guest (Linda Jacknow) from North Woodere says::
Living in the Five Towns for over 30 years,k I have to tell you that althugh I know we have an eruiv in our neighborhood, I have never seen or noticed it. It bothers me not at all! I do't think that most of the people can point it out on the telephone poles or wherever they are. Personally, I don't need one since I drive on the Sabbath to synagogue, however, if some of my fellow reidents do for their religious observance, what's the big deeal???? It seems obvious to me that the real reason people are against it and so vehemently against is...... is pure anti-Semitism!!! Very sad indeed!!
Mar 25, 2011 7:54 am

Guest (Hyman) from Jerusalem says::
This is a blatant violation of the division of church/cults and State. No religion is allowed to place their strings etc.. on public property. Imagine if Christians wanted crosses placed all around the City!!!! What kind of cult uses string to allow them to break their own rules?
Mar 25, 2011 5:34 am

Guest (Guest) from CT says::
What a disgrace. The Wall Street Journal reporeted today that the reason residents are opposed to this is because they are concerned that this will become another five towns, with black hatted Jews moving in in droves. What unabashed anti-semtism. Let's keep out the blacks, the hispanics and every other group we are opposed to. I feel like I walked into the 1950's. How appropriate this hit the news right before Martin Luther King day. The residents and Mayor of Westhampton should be ashamed!
Jan 13, 2011 3:20 pm

Guest (Guest) from Remsenburg says::
Merry Christmas!
Nov 8, 2010 6:05 pm

Guest (Guest) from Miami says::
Wow, I'm glad I moved out of Westhampton 20 years ago when I did. Sounds to me like too many angry, pushy people moved out from the city and now the atmosphere in WHB is more like Bed-Sty. WHB used to be such a nice community to grow up in. My own street was white, black, hispanic, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish... we all got along. Then the city people moved in... that's the real problem.
Nov 8, 2010 10:00 am

Guest (Guest) from wetshampton says::
Hmmm, not long ago a fella named Ira Rennert said he wanted to build a house in Sagaponack. Townspeople objected saying a home as large as he wanted wasn't a home but a Retreat to be used by his religous friends. He cried foul, so , 63 acres , 29 bedrooms 39 bathrooms , $150,000 hot tub, pool, 164 seat movie theatre, 2 bowling alleys, tennis, squash, basketball courts, and a 17,000 sq ft garage that holds 100 cars later he's looking to add an outdoor bathroom. So much for trust
Sep 23, 2010 10:55 am

Guest (EMO) from E Moriches says::
To answer Educate me's question, the rules of the Sabbath cannot be "bent" to accommodate mothers and the handicapped. It is the commandment to honor the Sabbath and the only exceptions that are made to that rule is to save a life, hence the doctors and the women in labor. I can understand why a young mother would want it, not being able to carry a diaper bag...not being able to carry your infant...but it is also Jewish law to promote and uphold peace...I'm not so sure the Rabbi did such a great job there.
May 24, 2010 4:48 am

Guest (Westhamtpon rez) from duh says::
Who is the guy in the back of the first picture w/ the pinkshirt, captain's hat and white mullet? he looks like Grandpa Roadie
Oct 28, 2008 12:09 pm

Guest (Westhampton Rez) from Duh says::
Ya Peter, what's with the all caps? BTW Eruvs only matter for one day anyway so by saying it doesn't matter for the other six days..doesn't matter! You'd be giving Schneier what he wants regardless. I think what you meant to propose was that it be a summer item. This way it comes down in the fall, the school board wouldn't [need to] cater to the Kosher, and taxes stay in the mesoshpere instead of the stratosphere. ..or I could be wrong
Oct 21, 2008 12:00 am

Oct 20, 2008 7:18 am

Guest (WHB Rez) from WHB says::
Instead of expending your efforts on an imaginary line why doesn't the Dynagogue buck up and buy a parking lot? I think the unstated reason there is angst about this is that the Synagogue's lot is at capacity (it is a really small lot). As such they are forced to park on all the side streets which is annoying to the homeowners and actually against the Village rules. The Catholic Church had foresight for a large lot and the Presbyterian Church do too. Why not pool your funds and re-do the eyesore that is the old gas station?
Oct 6, 2008 12:00 am

Guest (mrmamarl) from Marlborough Ma says::
Society accepts "invisible" boundaries everyday- i.e. Drug Free Zones around schools and parks, and no fly zones. I have noted that in most areas the cost of Eruvin (noted the plural when I was intrigued by the discussion and looking at information online) are handled by donations by the people who use them and usually use existing components (i.e. telephone poles) with the approval of utilities. If they cause no damage, incur no cost to anyone else, and help anybody with matters of their own faith, what is the issue?
Oct 2, 2008 10:10 am

Guest (Jake's Dad) from Westhampton Beach says::
Dear WHBQT Blogger, Actually, you got the wrong guy. I know the person who you THINK I am...but I am not him. I am not a member of the synagogue or on any eruv committee. Oh, and speaking of pseudonyms...I like yours too!!! Truth is...I'm not claiming any "high moral ground". I am concerned and saddened by the division this has created in our community. It is, however, my understanding (from conversations with our Village Mayor and members of the Village Board) that the synagogue does NOT need governmental "permission" to proceed. Rather, they assert that their tradition requires (or possibly suggests) that they receive community support of the creation of an eruv. Can't the "community" referred to be just the community of the synagogue? Why bring the rest of us into it? Permissions do, however, need to be secured from the various utility companies on who's poles the boundaries will be mounted. You can be reasonably well assured that those permissions, if not already secured, are forthcoming as there is precedent for this all across the country. What concerns me the most are the extreme postions on either side of this discussion/controversy. Opportunities for reasonable dialog, education and understanding have been lost. Now we have another ad hoc committee, "Jewish People Against the Establishment of the Eruv" (or something close) and the rhetoric has spread outside the borders of the Village (as a founding member of this group lists his residence at Remsenberg). There is a lot of hysteria, most all of it completely unfounded, about the possible impact of an Eruv on the nature of our community. I, for one, don't believe that the diversity of our community, the quality of life or the values of real estate will be measurably affected. The issue of the Eruv is a local Westhampton Beach issue, specifically the Village of Westhampton Beach since the proposed boundary would be within the Village. Yes, our village may be the "downtown" for Remsenberg, Quiogue, etc. but, last I looked, residents outside of the Village don't pay Village taxes and don't vote in our elections. I suppose they are entitled to their opinions... but it's Village business. The public advocates, for or against, simply throw fuel on the fire. It has recently come to my attention that the Village is in the process of hiring outside counsel. As a taxpayer, I'm unhappy about this but, as the situation escalates, maybe it is necessary for the Village to avoid exposure to litigation. It's a sad situation... and I stand by my earlier posting that hopefully cooler heads will prevail and bring understanding and reconciliation to our community.
Sep 10, 2008 12:00 am

Guest (Interested observer) from Mystic, Conn says::
I listen to this story and wonder why the entire world is not decreed an ERUV. Then people can do as they please on the Sabbath, just like every other day any where they want. If the world is you oyster then the world will be your home, thus negating the need for such places. This seems to be a case of self imposition.
Sep 7, 2008 8:20 pm

Guest (Interested observer) from Mystic, Conn says::
I continue to read this story and wonder. First, I wonder why Orthodox Jews feel they need to obtain government approval to create an ERUV. Seems to me that they need only decide this for themselves. These same people are already free to go anywhere they want on public property as Americans. No "special" government permission is needed just because it is on the Sabbath. If the Orthodox Jewish community wants to tell their members that some street, collection of streets, block, or park is now an ERUV why do others need to be addressed or consulted? (It seems to me) no one outside the Orthodox community cares if an Orthodox mother lifts up her kid or pushes a stroller, or whether an Orthodox man carries a newspaper, sandwich, or other item. It does not affect anyone else. Why does anyone else need to be involved? Just do it. Government has many more important things to discuss and work on.
Sep 7, 2008 12:00 am

Guest (WHBQT Blogger) from Westhampton Beach says::
"Jake's Dad" wrote: "I am deeply saddened to read that people 'stormed out' of the recent meeting. That is an infantile, irrational and irresponsible reaction... like a child holding his ears when being scolded by a parent." Well, JD, you can come here and pseudonymously cluck your tongue while name-calling, but you were there at the head of the room in your green kippah, and you did nothing to help the situation when Joel Cohen took a wrong turn. He'd gotten off to a good start with, among other things, his eruv/A-Rod joke, and then made a terrible and divisive choice. You did nothing, so don't try to claim any moral high-ground. "The synagogue does not need our 'permission' to proceed." I remark at your agility in how you position yourself here, posing as a "23 year resident" while failing to disclose that you are one of the four members of the Synagogue's Eruv Committee. In point of fact, "Jake's Dad," by your behind-the-scenes actions and your rhetoric, you have made yourself a large part of the problem. O, and "McKinnley of Quogue," if you really think "the walkout was obviously planned and staged," then you're probably still convinced that there will be a Subway Series this Fall.
Aug 28, 2008 10:34 am

Guest (Educate Me) from Westhampton & NYC says::
I am all for education. Here are some earnest questions I'd like addressed: - If Orthodox doctors or women in labor can use cars on the Sabbath for medical emergencies (as I assume they can), why can't the law be bent for disabled congregants in wheelchairs, or new mothers with strollers also? - Once the Eruv is established, would only the mothers and disabled people take advantage of the ability to use strollers or wheelchairs? Is it only 'as needed' that Orthodox men might carry an umbrella? Or, does an Eruv give cart blanche approval for all Orthodox to carry wallets and ride bicycles and conduct themselves as they do on all other days? Just curious. - If holding to Orthodox laws is too difficult for some, are they not open to becoming Conservative Jews? Is the theological practice of the Jewish religion so different between Orthodox and Conservative, that this isn't a viable choice? Isn't the point of being Orthodox to adhere to more strict Jewish law - like a priest's vow of poverty - to demonstrate commitment to the religion? If you bend the law, aren't you just Conservative? I recognize this may come across as an ignorant question and asking someone to change their affiliation is probably considered a ludicrous idea, but am curious about the response. Freedom of religion should mean we allow ourselves to practice it as we see fit as individuals and communities within the US law certainly, but why not within the X,000 years of rabbinical law? - A point that makes this difficult to understand, is the lack of precedent for other religions seeking similar government approval for 'bending of the rules' of religion. Mormons are not allowed to drink alcohol, period. Are there parallels between abortion and Catholicism, where there are religious and government forces in play? I think those are entirely separate. How about the "no meat on Fridays" rule for Catholics during Lent? Are there dispensations for that - even within the church (forgetting any government involvement)? Abortions are forbidden by the Catholic church, regardless of what the government might permit. Are there any other religious parallels where church and state need to agree to a religious law? Divorce? Polygamy? Would looking at those parallels help us understand an Eruv in any way? - Is it possible for you to secure "public" approval more privately? Could you get a behind-the-scenes quiet "approval" from anyone willing to offer it (Police Chief, Governor, Mayor), promise not to go public with that, and be done with it? Do you need a proclamation, or can it be a secret handshake? If the latter would suffice, then I suggest that you pursue that path and cease and decist the public airing of differences, which is highlighting and even creating some of the ugliest of opinions. I am sure that is not the intent of establishing an Eruv.
Aug 27, 2008 12:41 pm

Guest (It's Smee Again) from Soon to be near Sunset says::
Come Saturday I'm going to be hanging out counting the wheelchair people and stroller crowd...I'll compare that to the numbers..oh in let's say...January
Aug 25, 2008 5:54 pm

Guest (Lee) from East End, LI says::
Westhampton Beach should just say no! The no-establishment clause of our Constitution requires this. LIPA and Verizon already agreed to assist in the construction of this eruv. That should be good enough. The Hamptons Synogogue should neither expect nor ask the Town to establish an eruv. I would love to see the meeting firsthand. Does anyone know of any postings of the meeting? I couldn't find it on YouTube. Thanks and have a nice day!
Aug 24, 2008 12:49 pm

Guest (McKinnley) from Quogue says::
Clearly only a handful of people walked out after Joel's speech and the walkout was obviously planned and staged. I think they walked out because couldn't face the rawness of the comments that were read. Strange, because the comments were not directed toward them, but rather towards Jews. I don’t think they walked out because they love Jews and they were outraged at the anti-Semitic comments – I think they walked out because they had to face the ugliness of anti-Semitism. Perhaps they had to look at their own hearts and question if some of the hatred stated in those comments was part of who they were. They pretended that they were too holy to hear what was read, but there was nothing holy or religious about their childish walkout. Joel shouldn’t have read the comments. He wasted a lot of time and it wasn’t productive, but those that staged the walkout out revealed something very telling about themselves and now, thanks to Youtube, the whole world will have the opportunity to analyze their behavior.
Aug 21, 2008 11:52 pm

Guest (Follow the Money) from In your backyard says::
It's simple..follow the money. The gentiles don't want it...that's clear enough. I think their reasoning is twofold. They don't want to become lakehurst and Schneier seems to be a huge bozo. Jews in their own congregation are not overwhelmingly for it (I watched the You Tube) There are a few Orthodox which that benefits. Rabbis are paid by the congregation. An Eruv would grow the Orthodox congregation. More money for Schneier. To use an old jewish term "he eats gold".
Aug 21, 2008 1:21 pm

Guest (Westhampton Rez) from WHB... says::
WOW! I watched the You Tube of the meeting. First before you slam me...let me just say I am completely indifferent on the Eruz as an item. That being said Joel Coen (sic?) might be the largest arse ever. let's recap... 1. Let's not have hate. By giving the Imam example he basically set the stage to say "no hate in my house". 2. he then reads a bunch of letter which may have come from people there, people in WHB, or from anywhere in the world (they were emails and therefore relatively untraceable). These he submits as a basis for starting the meeting. If I were there I would also be irked enough to leave. As it stands now he set the stage so that any disagrement that is negative is not welcome. In short they are setting themselves up as victims if they don't get what they want. State your position (both WHB residents and the Synagogue). If WHB gov't is necessary then enter the process and majority rules. I'd hope that the more Coen (sic?) and Schneier speak and keep this alive then the more they do to hurt their position...
Aug 21, 2008 12:07 pm

Guest (Abbybwood) from Westhampton Beach says::
Anyone interested in viewing the entire meeting at The Hampton Synagogue last Wednesday, August 13th can go to YouTube.com and type in the search words: "Eruv Westhampton Beach".
Aug 20, 2008 4:32 pm

Guest (WHB Rez) from WHB says::
I think there are a couple of points that remain unclear. This issue first erupted when residents felt the Rabbi was trying to gain approval through stealth. They objected to the "process." I have never heard what about that process was so heinous. The second issue is, should you use public and private land (via easement)for religious purposes? Certainly not, but that makes a St. Patrick's Day Parade a sticky wicket now doesn't it? A lingering issue was Rabbi Scheier's efforts to have WHB's business observe Sabbath rules, though later denied it was investigated by Mayor Teller. The reality is it did happen and that's what scares the bejesus (pun intended) out of full time residents. They have thirteen weeks to make their money for the winter. They certainly do not need any rainy days nor a Rabbi telling them when they can be open (as if the Beach Bakery has tons of kosher food anyway). Lastly I can envision a day when control of the school board is influenced or even wrestled away and property taxes soar because the WHB schools need kosher kitchens and additional courses in Hebrew... Far-fetched? Not really. Lastly it is conspicuous to me that the Catholic Church in Quiogue has made no mention of this whatsoever... why is that?
Aug 20, 2008 12:00 am

Guest (Hamptons Rez) from WHB says::
Oh and another thing, there is no such thig as a "civil religious right" as Rabbi Schneier was quoted as saying in The Southampton Press. Playing that card coupled w/ the Governor visiting was an overplay. I think the WHB residents have a total right to be angry with the Rabbi because he choose to use those words and take those actions before a hearing or a vote. It reeks of duplicity and even more so is a strong arm tactic. I also do think an impact position (not a full study) should be put forth. How many residents are Orthodox? By what number does this swell by in the peak season? These are not unreasonable questions. How many are in wheelchairs (I've never seen anyone in a wheelchair going to Temple... there are three used on the beach but that's different.) FYI - if you don't think there is an active effort to court Orthodox Jews to WHB, just read the number of real estate listings that have the phrase "walk to services." PS If you are in a wheelchair and cannot be pushed or use it because of your religious laws you really have to re-think things. If you are stranded on a desert island and it's Friday during lent and the only thing to eat is meat, then by all means eat it. No right minded priest would hold that against you. If a murderer has a gun to my child's head and says he is going to pull the trigger, to kill him first is fully justified. Hate to think I couldn't work the trigger to save my child because of some 3,000 year old rule.
Aug 20, 2008 12:00 am

Guest (Person of faith) from Bridgehampton says::
Religion is man's futile attempt to institutionalize God. Focus on your faith and you will find common ground. Religion divides, faith unites.
Aug 20, 2008 12:00 am

Guest (Jake's Dad) from Westhampton Beach says::
I am deeply saddened to read that people "stormed out" of the recent meeting. That is an infantile, irrational and irresponsible reaction... like a child holding his ears when being scolded by a parent. It saddens me to see that the community that is my home, the community that I serve in many ways, the community that I have grown to know and love over 23 years of residence, be divided so profoundly. It is time for cooler heads from all sides of the debate to come together to find common ground based on mutual understanding. Address the issues...state your fears...open your minds. The Westhampton Beach that I know is a multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-religious village. We are a resort community with a solid core of very good and decent people who live here full-time. I don't see the community becoming a religious enclave on the scale of Lawrence or Cedarhurst or Teaneck, suburbs of and bedroom communities for NYC, with the establishment of an Eruv. We are fundamentally too diverse with landed interests spanning generations. It would take significant numbers of homeowners to bail out and sell only to Orthodox Jews for this to occur. Many homes in the Estate section are in families for generations and probably generations to come. If you are put off by seeing families walk to worship on Friday nights or Saturdays that is representative of a religious intolerance that is anthetical to the premise that this Country was founded upon. I believe that this is a "tempest in a teapot" but there will be more anguish and angst on both sides of the debate before it quiets down, and it will quiet down. I have no objection to the establishment of an Eruv. I have no objection to the Village providing a "Proclamation" in support. The synagogue does not need our "permission" to proceed. We would all benefit from greater understanding and tolerance of all people, regardless of race or religion. It is up to all of our community leaders -- secular and religious -- to continue this dialog and promote understanding, not division.
Aug 20, 2008 12:00 am

Guest (Westhampton rez) from WHB says::
The problem is not an influx of Jews or anyone else... it's the artwork! What the hades is that on the wall? It looks like mold. WHB doesn't want to prevent Jews from living there, they just want to ensure tasteful art is promoted.
Aug 20, 2008 12:00 am

Guest (Amazed from Queens) from Queens N.Y. says::
In this case, I see, there are not even nylon wires going up! They are using EXISTING telephone lines as the Eruv wire. All they are asking of the town is to "lease" them the right to carry in the streets on Saturdays; as has been done over 170 times in the US, including Washington D.C., where Eruvs were established. "Rabbi Goldstein" - is that really a fake name? Your comment cannot be coming from a Rabbi. Folks, take my word for it -- he's snowing you!
Aug 20, 2008 12:00 am

Guest (Confidential) from Hamptons says::
Perhaps what has people concerned is that this religious group is asking to construct religious objects on public right of ways. The "markers" the rabbi is requesting to be placed on telephone poles, etc, as well as approval by the local government constitute a mixing of religion and government. This is a slippery slope for sure. Considering that erecting crosses across the village in the same way would likely lead to mass protests and a suit by the ACLU it's no wonder people of all faiths are asking questions.
Aug 19, 2008 10:32 pm

Guest (Anne) from Westhampton says::
Tolerance? Is that what the Rabbi was exemplifying at the eruv meeting? How about a simple, democratic vote and let the majority decide? Nobody likes to be told "Because I said so!" and that's exactly what the synagogue is doing. Their idea of "education" is more like "bullying".
Aug 19, 2008 10:05 pm

Guest (non-holycow) from sag harbor says::
Another perfect example proving that all religion is mindless hogwash
Aug 19, 2008 7:12 pm

Guest (Furst Tyme Hear) from Baltimore says::
I don't think the problem is the eruv itself (which is hardly visible) but the belief that it will attract more religious Jews to the town. An eruv generally is placed in an area where a significant number of Orthodox Jews already live. I don't know if this applies to Westhampton Beach. If only a handful of Orthodox live there, I think it would be unusual to build one. However they are not built to attract more Jews but to make life on the Sabbath easier for those already living within it's boundaries.
Aug 19, 2008 1:19 am

Guest (Lineless in the sand) from Westhamtpon Beach says::
This is no longer valid: "On Sept. 7 the rabbi will be speaking about the Eruv at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Westhampton Beach" The church withdrew its invitation. That was probably very difficult for Revered David - he's a good man and I'm sure he wanted to reach out. Regardless of the truth, those in the Vestry that pressured Reverend David will only reinforce the notion that there is a far reaching divide that goes beyond the Eruv. The way forward is for Jews and Christians to meet together, to eat together, and to talk together. It has to become a grass roots healing movement. The religious "leadership" has to take a step back and let the locals (not the summer visitors) manage this. We have to live here after they leave and with all due respect, we don't need their help or advice. The walls of the synagogue and the churches are blocking our ability to communicate. We have to open the doors, breathe fresh air, and dance together on Main Street.
Aug 19, 2008 12:00 am

Guest (eunice miller) from westhampton beach ny says::
The Westhampton Beach people can come together in that they share a love of the lifestyle in the town. No one has wishes of destroying the fabric of the town. There is always resistance to change. People fear the Eruv will change the demographics. It is true in a town that is a resort designation near a large city, there will be city people and town people in summer months. The city people may seem like outsiders to the town year rounders and would like to control the mix. However, our civil laws prohibit people from controlling the ethnic groups that are attracted. However, there should be some comfort for town people that the numbers swell in the summer and then the City people return to their life in the City. However, isn`t a town enhanced to have families that are faith based in the town. These families are law abiding and family centered. No one moves to a town for an Eruv , they come in the summer for the same reason everyone else does.
Aug 19, 2008 12:00 am

Guest (Rabbi Goldstein) from New York City says::
The United States Constitution guarantees that no state religion will be established; this is to say that everyone can choose how they worship. There is no requirement for a government approve of, or regulate a religious practice. When Rabbi Schneier asks for a town board to "approve" an Eruv, he is insisting that the Constitution be ignored. It is not surprising that people are angered. As Jews, this great country gives us the right to our beliefs. It is unreasonable to ask the government to certify our beliefs. We have all seen the destruction that can be wrought by religious fanatics. The Orthodox Jewish community in Westhampton needs to re-evaluate it's leadership. The claim that civil authorities should be forced to approve religious decisions is 100 percent wrong.
Aug 19, 2008 12:00 am

Guest (Out of Towner) from Brooklyn says::
Has religious tolerance reached the Hamptons yet? Does the constitution apply there yet? Oh you, over there, do you even know what an eruv is? It is a barely visible nylon string, strung between usually already existing poles and other structures. If you wouldn't look for it, you wouldn't notice it at all. Sounds to me like the people who are making a big stink against the eruv either have nothing better to do with their time, or otherwise just flat out don't like Jews.
Aug 18, 2008 11:13 pm

Guest (Matthew Kennedy) from NYC says::
You guys sound like a bunch of religious zealots, it's ridiculous
Aug 18, 2008 3:28 pm


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