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Sep 5, 2008 12:00 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Meeting on religious boundary leads to shouting match

Sep 5, 2008 12:00 PM

Prior to the inaugural meeting Sunday morning of a new group that is opposed to the creation of a religious boundary in Westhampton Beach, its founder called for civility and honor in his opening speech.

He did not get either during the hour-long meeting, which was attended by more than 200 people, organized by Jewish People Opposed to the Eruv and held at Starr Boggs on Parlato Drive in Westhampton Beach.

Group founder Arnold Sheiffer, who is Jewish, explained that he created the organization because there has to be a forum for Jewish people to voice their opposition to the eruv—a proposed boundary that would be denoted by black plastic pipes affixed to telephone poles and in which Orthodox Jews can push and carry objects on the Sabbath.

Mr. Sheiffer, who has a home on Oneck Road in the village, said during his opening comments that allegations of anti-Semitism should not play into the argument concerning whether or not the Westhampton Beach Village Board signs off on the proposed religious boundary, known as an eruv.

“Anti-Semitism has to be taken out of the mix,” Mr. Sheiffer said. “That’s not the issue.”

Mr. Sheiffer said his organization will make sure that the opinions of those Jews who are opposed to the eruv will be “taken seriously,” and that there would be “respect, courtesy and honor” in forums held by the organization.

However, Sunday’s meeting rapidly deteriorated into a shouting match when Alan Schechter, a representative of the Westhampton Beach Eruv Association—a group whose members support the proposed religious boundary—began to speak in favor of the eruv a little more than halfway through the meeting. Drowning out his speech were comments from audience members, many of whom were yelling that Mr. Schechter should not be allowed to speak because he favored the eruv.

While he was speaking, an unidentified man sitting in the audience asked Mr. Schechter why he does not “go hang himself on a telephone pole.”

In February, the Hampton Synagogue on Sunset Avenue in Westhampton Beach submitted an application to the Village Board, asking for its permission to create the eruv. In late May, after controversy on the subject grew, the synagogue temporarily withdrew the application. Synagogue officials have plans to resubmit the application to the village in the fall.

At Sunday’s meeting, Mr. Schechter was eventually permitted to speak for about a minute, during which time he said that there are hundreds of people who would use the eruv. He also described it as a “simple accommodation.”

Both Mr. Sheiffer and Jack Kringstein, the vice president of the Jewish People Opposed to the Eruv, told Mr. Schechter that the meeting was only open to those opposed to the eruv. After speaking, Mr. Schechter soon left the restaurant.

When the meeting concluded at 11 a.m.—an hour ahead of schedule—Mr. Schechter was approached by a number of people in the audience on the front lawn of Starr Boggs. Many were speaking out against the eruv. Others discussed a threatening letter that was sent to a man in the village who opposes the proposed religious boundary. The incident was reported to the Westhampton Beach Village Police.

The letter, which attacks those who oppose the eruv, was supposedly sent out by a group called the Alliance for the Separation of Church and State for the Greater Westhampton Area—a group that, ironically, has traditionally opposed the religious boundary. The letter demands that those against the boundary stop distributing mailings stating their opinions. The letter states, in part: “A message to all bigots who come on my property ... You are entitled to your feelings on this issue, but if I come home to find one more piece of your racist material in my door or in my mailbox, I will come to your house, knopck [sic] down your door and shove it down your wrinkled throat.”

The letter concludes with the following: “Do what you will with your life ... But stay off my property or you will be punched so hard, your biggest worry won’t be an eruv, but how to eat with out [sic] teeth.”

Last week, Village Police said they are trying to determine who sent the letter.

During Sunday’s meeting, Mr. Sheiffer said the organization was created, in part, based on his reaction to the informational meeting on the eruv held at the Hampton Synagogue on August 13. At that meeting, a large portion of the audience walked out when an attorney with the Westhampton Beach Eruv Association read offensive e-mails, many of which contained anti-Semitic comments, that had been sent to the synagogue.

“I was insulted by the charges of anti-Semitism,” Mr. Sheiffer said.

Mr. Sheiffer said the group would allow people against the eruv to be heard in the village, adding that he hoped to raise at least $25,000 at Sunday’s meeting. The money is expected to go toward advertising the mission of the Jewish People Opposed to the Eruv, he said. Mr. Sheiffer noted that he was hopeful that each audience member would donate $100 to the organization.

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I saw a quote about this meeting that was in the NY Post that said something to the effect of the problem that these non observant jews have with the eruv is that they don't want to create an enclave for the orthodox. What is amazing is that these useful idiots think that just because they are jewish they are inherently shielded from being anti semetic.
Of course nothing could be further from the truth. As pointed out earlier, some of the worst anti semites current & past have been & ...more
By Michael A. (3), NYC on Sep 8, 08 9:18 PM
There is a green line that runs through Hampton Bays (between the double yellow lines), I believe it is there for St. Patrick's Day?! One day that for some represents one of the of their biggest party days of the year, yet this stripe seems to be a permanent marked route in the hamlet. No one has a problem with this?!?

Let the Eruv be created or get rid of the green line and stop discriminating!
By wondering (63), Southampton on Sep 14, 08 5:44 AM