Ariea AharonAs an American-Israeli Jew who makes regular use of the eruv on the Sabbath, I am deeply troubled by the stance that the The East End Eruv Assn. has taken in their attempt at erecting an eruv in the towns of Westhampton Beach, Southampton and Quogue.

In a recent lawsuit, the EEEA cite antisemitism as motive for opposition to the eruv, yet
choose to further alienate their community with costly litigation, perpetuating the fallacious stereotype of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion wherein a devious handful of Jews supposedly seek “world domination,” achieving it through a ferociously medieval demonstration of power.

The timeless Jewish saying “Love peace, pursue peace” applies most judiciously here, yet the
EEEA chose ironically to defy the Talmud and neither love peace nor pursue peace in its pursuit of religious freedom.

School children are taught from the first grade that America was founded on both freedom for
religion and freedom from religion.

Our history for the past 400 years has been a pattern of wars, protests, movements, lawsuits
and amendments in an effort to balance the freedoms of the individual to practice his beliefs versus the rights of the public and other individuals to live in complete freedom from those beliefs.

The legal battle raging over the past several years in the towns of Westhampton Beach,
Southampton and Quogue is an example of the manifestation of this struggle today.

The argument for the eruv is that lechis (symbolic “markers” on telephone poles) do not, on
their own, represent any particular religion, and are hardly visible. The District Court in New Jersey sided with Tenafly in 2006 in ruling that the markers were religious in nature and ordered them removed. The Appeals Court overruled that decision, saying that the markers were “signs” just like any others and that to remove them constituted infringement of freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Tenafly appealed to the Supreme Court but it refused to hear the issue.

In March of 2008, Rabbi Marc Schneier of the Hamptons synagogue submitted a petition to
the trustees of WHB for the establishment of an eruv. Two months later, after the motion was voted down, Rabbi Schneier “froze” the application in a long letter stating his intention to use this summer to “extend the hand of friendship across the faiths and educate all segments of the community on precisely what an eruv is."

An eruv, under Jewish law, is a largely invisible demarcation of
an area, in this day and age often created by using existing telephone or utility poles. The designation of an eruv (through small pieces of wood or plastic affixed to utility poles known as a “lechi”) allows Orthodox Jews to carry or push objects from place to place within that area on the Sabbath. Without an eruv, men or women with small children or relatives confined to wheelchairs cannot attend Sabbath services or go to the park or to a friend's house unless, in some limited circumstances, they hire gentiles to push their strollers and wheelchairs.

A multitude of eruvs have been instituted nationwide, including in our nation’s capital.

While it is true that eruvs have been around for thousands of years, it is also true that Orthodox communities have been living without eruvs for thousands of years.

The eruv makes Sabbath observance easier and more pleasant. However, the absence of an
eruv does not, by any means, make Sabbath observance impossible.

Furthermore, there are several Orthodox Rabbis who advise against relying on the modern
eruv (telephone poles with wire, marked by a lechi).

That being said, there is still much rabbinical support for the erection of an eruv in any town
where there resides even only a handful of Jews.

According to local residents, some of them congregants of the Hampton Synagogue, this
battle has caused tensions to run high, cultivating a mentality of “us and them” in an area that had previously been “remarkably amiable”.

In keeping with Jewish values of “love peace, pursue peace”, the EEEA would best abandon
this divisive pursuit of eruv, issue a formal apology to the towns and their residents for having squandered nearly one million dollars, and choose instead to direct its boundless energies and funds towards addressing the antisemitism and animosity that is brewing in their community as of late.

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Ariela Aharon is an Orthodox Jew and patriotic American expat. She currently resides in Jerusalem, Israel where she studies psychology and volunteers as an EMT. Ariela is presently doing freelance work and can be reached directly at [email protected].