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Nov 8, 2011 3:05 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Judge Denies Injunction That Would Have Allowed Temporary Religious Boundary

Nov 9, 2011 1:38 PM

Southampton Town and the villages of Westhampton Beach and Quogue won a round in federal court this week when a judge denied a motion filed by a nonprofit that sought the establishment of a temporary religious boundary in the western part of the town.

Last Thursday’s ruling means that the plaintiff, the East End Eruv Association, will most likely have to wait until a separate federal civil rights lawsuit that it filed in January against the three municipalities—alleging that elected officials are discriminating against Orthodox Jews by blocking the boundary’s establishment—makes its way through the courts before being allowed to create the symbolic boundary, called an eruv. If established, an eruv would allow Orthodox Jews to engage in certain activities, including the pushing of baby strollers and wheelchairs, that are normally prohibited on the Sabbath.

In his ruling, Judge Leonard D. Wexler of the U.S. District Court in Central Islip denied the request made by the East End Eruv Association, stating that the action “is not ripe” because the plaintiffs never applied to the town to secure permits to attach wooden markers, called “lechis,” to utility poles in the town’s jurisdiction. The lechis are needed to mark the boundaries of the eruv.

Referring to recent testimony, Judge Wexler pointed out that the plaintiffs “left unclear the exact location of the boundaries of the eruv,” and that they failed to review variance procedures in the town code. Also, “the court finds that the evidence does not sufficiently show that Southampton selectively enforces its sign ordinance, regardless of whether or not its enforcement can be characterized as ‘vigorous,’” the decision states.

Regarding Westhampton Beach and Quogue villages, Judge Wexler notes that, since the court already sided with Southampton Town, “even a grant of relief for plaintiff as against the Quogue and Westhampton Beach defendants will not allow the construction of the proposed eruv.” He then goes on to deny the plaintiff’s motion without prejudice.

At the same time, Judge Wexler notes that Quogue Village’s sign ordinance in relation to the attachment of the lechis to utility poles “appears questionable,” and points out that Westhampton Beach Village does not have an applicable sign ordinance that the plaintiffs are required to follow. He then suggests that the plaintiffs propose a “revised eruv plan” and present it to the two villages for their consideration prior to any court conference.

Additionally, Judge Wexler ruled that an organization seeking a preliminary injunction must show that it will suffer irreparable harm without relief, and a likelihood of success based on the merits of their claims; the plaintiffs, he added, failed to prove either point.

“We are disappointed with the decision,” said Robert Sugarman, an attorney with Weil, Gotshal and Manges LLP in Manhattan, the firm that is representing the East End Eruv Association. “We think it is erroneous and we are considering what options we have.” One of those options, he said, is appealing last week’s ruling.

“Having said that, there are portions of the decision which are very favorable,” Mr. Sugarman added. “For example, with respect to Westhampton Beach and Quogue, the judge strongly suggested [that] they don’t have any basis to oppose the eruv, and even with respect to Southampton [Town], the judge raised real questions as to the applicability of the sign law and based his opinion on a procedural approach.”

The East End Eruv Association was seeking the injunction so it could create a temporary religious boundary for Orthodox Jews that would encompass most of Westhampton Beach and Quogue villages, and portions of the hamlet of Westhampton, until the courts ruled on the separate civil rights lawsuit. The Hampton Synagogue is located on Sunset Avenue in Westhampton Beach and would be the primary benefactor of the eruv.

Town officials and some community members, meanwhile, were thrilled to hear about the court ruling.

“We’re very satisfied with the decision,” said Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst. “The judge duly recognized [that] the separation in American law of church and state is part of our nation’s fundamental and constitutional makeup. The decision will save the taxpayers costly litigation had this gone forward.”

Arnold Sheiffer, chairman of the group Jewish People Opposed to the Eruv, said he was also pleased with the ruling.

“We are reviewing the determination with our attorneys and assessing its implications,” he said. “We will continue to monitor all developments and will, as always, seek to have our voice and interests of the local community heard by any court or municipality making a determination affecting our community.”

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To bad west hampton is not working with the people from the Synagogue . A Eruv walk would help the town grow in a good way
By ranger (54), springs on Nov 8, 11 5:12 PM
2 members liked this comment
I think not
By Hambone (514), New York on Nov 9, 11 10:44 PM
You my Amish looking icon...do not know how to spell Westhampton. I deem you an infiltrator and you will be ridiculed on sight. Nice tie icon...get a cape like me.
By Hambone (514), New York on Nov 21, 11 9:26 PM
Too bad Throne-Holst doesn't understand what this ruling means. Litigation is not over and this is going forward...
By ex-pat (49), East Quogue on Nov 8, 11 5:17 PM
ATH really does not have a clue.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Nov 9, 11 12:38 AM
Please Ranger, tell us how an erov will help to bring this community together, it has already done so much to facilitate peace and harmony in Westhampton Beach, BTW- wasn't the synagogue's present location only allowed after variances were passed for a non-conforming use in an area designed for residentual use ? The synagogue just seems to keep pushing to extend it's influence ( and it's power ) in this community...instead of promoting harmony .
By Bill in Riverhead (190), Riverhead on Nov 9, 11 6:32 AM
Why is this sect bringing up the question? If the women want to push baby carriages on the sidewalk (where it is safer) then let them. If it is a question of their religious values then fight out in the congreation. I almost said church but thats not right here in this case.
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on Nov 9, 11 3:17 PM
Why can't the Rabbi in Westampton take a local map and draw out the boundries. Declare where people can walk and where they can't A simple solution to a complex issue. Eveyone is happy, there is no longer controversy. Seems that the end result is exactly the same. . Slowly and methodically, the separation of church and state is being eroded - not just by this faith but many others, mine included (baptist). If you think a stick on a pole is silly, try going eyeball to eyeball with an angry rattlesnake. ...more
By lazymedic (100), southampton on Nov 9, 11 10:54 AM
I offer the trees and poles on my property for a fee. Of course I'll make it like a maze where they just run around in unknowing circles like a corn maze. I have visions of being like Stork and leading the marching band into a dead end alley during the Faber town parade.
By Hambone (514), New York on Nov 21, 11 9:29 PM
“The judge duly recognized [that] the separation in American law of church and state is part of our nation’s fundamental and constitutional makeup. " ATH clearly has absolutely no understanding of this entire debate. Her talking points are embarrassingly simplistic. The judge made no ruling re: "Church and State", his ruling, as stated in the article, is based on town laws regarding signs and permits. To inject church and state into the argument is a great disservice to both sides. ...more
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Nov 9, 11 11:00 AM
1 member liked this comment
I agree with lazymedic. Enough of this nonsense of bringing the courts into your religious disagreement. The public streets are free to everyone.
I am sick to the end, of people trying to push their religious dogma down my throat. The courts have decided in a woman's right to privacy which resulted in Roe v Wade. And I say thank goodness. I am in complete disagreement with any man (and the southern men seem to be at the forefront here) telling me what to do with my body. I never thought I'd ...more
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on Nov 9, 11 3:31 PM
1 member liked this comment
Tis simple.

No one likes the rabbi, so offer town support if he steps down

The Rabbi's 'house' somehow got converted to a hall for large scale meals and festivities. Come into compliance with the town building code and you'll garner support.

I live very close to the synagogue...I gotta tell you, it's vacant in the off season. Show us the 'demand' that exists and it can be considered. Right now it seems like a handful of crotchety old men are making all the noise (see ...more
By Hambone (514), New York on Nov 9, 11 10:43 PM
One of the topics not immediately apparent and, therefore, not discussed is how private entities like verizon, and national grid, accept applications (and fees) to allow the ervuv to be placed on the utility poles in the first place!
The exist to transport power and electonic communications and are given easements along the right of way. Are the private business entities to grant permits then, for pole attachments not related to the intended purpose for which the public easements where granted ...more
By kelbas (30), Southampton on Nov 13, 11 5:15 AM