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Oct 12, 2008 1:02 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Group opposed to eruv urges petitions

Oct 12, 2008 1:02 PM

The leaders of a Jewish group fighting the establishment of a designated area in Westhampton Beach in which Orthodox Jews would be exempt from certain religious rules, urged more than 100 people at a Sunday morning meeting to sign petitions in support of their position.

The petitions will be submitted to village officials, and to the utility companies which would have to agree to the placing of strips of PVC piping on telephone and power line poles that would delineate the boundaries of the area. Within the proposed one-square-mile area, called an eruv, Orthodox Jews may bypass religious restrictions and push or carry things—including wheelchairs, baby carriages and strollers—to temple on the Sabbath. The synagogue first proposed the eruv to the Westhampton Beach Village Board in February.

At the meeting, held at Starr Boggs restaurant in Westhampton Beach, by an organization called Jewish People Opposed to the Eruv, the group’s founder and president, Arnold Sheiffer, spelled out why the group opposes the idea; he also chronicled the history of the Hampton Synagogue’s push to establish an eruv in the village.

Mr. Sheiffer, a longtime Westhampton Beach resident and Manhattan media executive, ended the hour-long meeting by telling people to sign a petition to be handed to the Long Island Power Authority and Verizon, stating that the community opposes the eruv. There also was a petition to be signed in support of an 18-page legal memorandum, spelling out the opponents’ case against the eruv. It was written by constitutional attorney Marci Hamilton. Ms. Hamilton was hired by another anti-eruv group, called the Alliance for the Separation of Church and State in the Greater Westhampton Area, to draft the opinion.

On Monday, Mr. Sheiffer said that more than 150 people had signed each petition. He added that he is expecting more signatures.

“The eruv is not the issue,” Jack Kringstein, the vice president of Jewish People Opposed to the Eruv and a resident of Remsenburg, said at the meeting. He added the eruv would change the community for the worse. He did not explain what he meant.

Mr. Sheiffer asserted at the meeting that the eruv prevents Jewish people from assimilating into their surrounding culture—a fact that he believes goes against Jewish law.

“They in no way observe the customs of the community—it becomes a place unto themselves,” Mr. Sheiffer said Monday, expanding his comments about the effects of the eruv. “That’s the way they want it—they don’t talk to anyone, women don’t have the same rights. We don’t want a special area set aside for any religion. We want to maintain a secular community.”

Mr. Kringstein said that Jewish People Opposed to the Eruv will be submitting a petition to the utility companies arguing there is a code in Westhampton Beach that prohibits the placement of signs on utility poles. Mr. Kringstein and Mr. Sheiffer cite the code to differentiate Westhampton Beach from Tenafly, New Jersey, a community that had a six-year-long battle over an eruv. Tenafly did not have such a restriction, Mr. Kringstein said.

The petition for LIPA and Verizon states that the group “objects to the use of utility poles and wires for any religious purpose” and states that using poles and wires violates a section of the code for Westhampton Beach Village.

Building Inspector Paul Houlihan has said that he does not consider the PVC-piping that would be used to demarcate the eruv, to be a sign.

The synagogue has withdrawn its application to the village for the eruv in order to suspend the review process but plans to resubmit it. Synagogue President Morris Tuchman said last week in an e-mail that the application would not be in the village’s hands for at least another two weeks. First, the synagogue will be submitting a legal opinion on the eruv authored by Manhattan attorney Robert Sugarman.

At Sunday’s meeting, Mr. Sheiffer asked attendees to remember the eruv issue over the winter, and to keep discussing the issue throughout the off-season.

Hal Kahn, the communications director for the group, said that attendees should read the blog against the eruv that he authors. The blog can be found at stopthewhberuv.blogspot.com.

Quiogue resident Irene Barrett lauded Jewish People Opposed to the Eruv for its efforts, and also told audience members to attend winter village trustee meetings and work sessions.

“I’ve been involved in this since March, and this presentation was fabulous,” Ms. Barrett said at the meeting.

She said that she believes that Hampton Synagogue founding Rabbi Marc Schneier will try to “sneak in” the eruv sometime between November and May.

At the meeting, Mr. Sheiffer said that the concerns of Jewish People Opposed to the Eruv followed from a Hampton Synagogue mid-summer information session on the eruv. At that meeting, Manhattan attorney Joel Cohen read e-mails that had been received, expressing anti-Semitic remarks, and provoked a large number of people attending the information session to leave the meeting.

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"'The eruv is not the issue,' Jack Kringstein, the vice president of Jewish People Opposed to the Eruv and a resident of Remsenburg, said at the meeting. He added that the eruv would change the community for the worse by bringing in unwelcome people." (From the above article.)

Opponents to the eruv in Westhampton Beach have said that it is not a civil rights issue and that they are not anti-Semitic towards Orthodox Jews.

Really? Who are the "unwelcome people" who "would change ...more
By Clint Greenbaum (10), Westhampton Beach on Oct 16, 08 8:55 AM
That's not quire the quote that I see unless the article has been editied .
The issue is Government is not forcing observant Jews from performing certain activities; Jewish law is. Why should an elected government give relief to a religious law? It defies logic and I think that should this go all the way to the Supreme Court (assuming the Village refuses) the Village would be upheld.
Suppose during Lent an observant Christian wants to eat meat on a Friday, or during Ramadan an observant ...more
By North of Highway (280), Westhampton Beach on Oct 16, 08 4:27 PM
Just to clarify: Mr. Greenbaum's quote above was indeed accurate, in that it quoted the first version of the article to appear online at 27east.com. As the print edition's deadline approached, our editors took a closer look at the paraphrase of Mr. Kringstein's remark--we did not have an exact quote to use--and we changed the wording slightly to eliminate the phrase "unwelcome people," which was, in fact, meant to characterize his sentiment, not present his words exactly. Ultimately, either characterization ...more
By Joseph Shaw, Executive Editor (206), Hampton Bays on Oct 16, 08 6:07 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Joseph Shaw, Executive Editor (206), Hampton Bays on Oct 16, 08 6:07 PM
Thank you Joe for that clarification. I did not mean to imply Mr. Greenbaum was making things up and I hope no one saw it that way.
I am sure we all want to keep this civil and respectable.
By North of Highway (280), Westhampton Beach on Oct 16, 08 8:41 PM
Clint, get it together, these are people of the Jewish faith taking an anti-eruv position. Hence, no anti-semitism here. Unless, anti-semetic semites are taking over the villlage.
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Oct 17, 08 9:57 AM
Hopefully Mr. Kringstein's comments will be renounced by the Mayor and the trustees of Westhampton Beach. Unlike the "Alliance for the Separation of Church and State in the Greater Westhampton Area," it seems that the mission of the "Jews against the Eruv" as represented by Mr. Kringstein himself, is not to stop the Eruv ("The Eruv is not the issue"), but rather
as stated and/or implied by Mr. Kringstein (in the New York Post article, during the two JPOE meetings, and in a number ...more
By Steven (113), Westhampton on Oct 17, 08 3:06 PM
Sorry Steven - don't see it that way - eruv or no eruv - anyone can move anywhere. You are trying to make this a civil rights case - it is not (despite what the governor says). The issue is the village is not restricting your rights in any way - religious law is. To seek recourse from a civic entitiy for a religious law makes no sense.
By North of Highway (280), Westhampton Beach on Oct 20, 08 1:33 PM