Westhampton, NY – The leaders of a Jewish group opposing a religious boundary proposed for Westhampton Beach Village urged more than 100 people who attended a Sunday morning meeting to sign petitions voicing their opinions on the matter to utility companies and village officials.
At the meeting, held by the organization Jewish People Opposed to the Eruv, the group’s founder and president, Arnold Sheiffer, spelled out the reasons why the group is against the religious boundary and chronicled the history of the Hampton Synagogue’s application to establish an eruv in the village.
An eruv is a 1-square-mile boundary demarcated by PVC-piping on utility poles that allows Orthodox Jews to bypass religious restrictions and push or carry things—including wheelchairs and small children—to temple on the Sabbath. The synagogue first proposed the eruv to the village in February.
Mr. Sheiffer, a longtime Westhampton Beach resident and Manhattan media executive, concluded the hour-long meeting by telling the attendees to sign petitions to be presented to the Long Island Power Authority and Verizon stating that the community does not support the eruv, as well as a petition supporting an 18-page legal memorandum against the eruv authored by constitutional attorney Marci Hamilton.
“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.
Mr. Kringstein said that Jewish People Opposed to the Eruv will be submitting petitions to the utility companies to explain that there is a code in Westhampton Beach that prohibits the placement of signs on utility poles. Mr. Kringstein and Mr. Sheiffer used 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 code, Mr. Kringstein said.
When the synagogue temporarily withdrew its application to the village for the eruv, it stated that it would resubmit the application in the fall. So far, the synagogue has told village officials that it would be submitting a legal opinion authored by Manhattan attorney Robert Sugarman on the matter. Mr. Sugarman worked for the Tenafly Eruv Association when that group won a battle for an eruv in Tenafly, New Jersey.
Hampton Synagogue President Morris Tuchman said that the legal opinion would be submitted to the village within the next two weeks and that the synagogue would be re-submitting the eruv application soon after.
At today’s meeting, Mr. Sheiffer additionally asked attendees to not forget the eruv issue over the winter, and said that the attendees should discuss the issue throughout the off-season.
Mr. Sheiffer explained that Jewish People Opposed to the Eruv was borne out of the Hampton Synagogue’s mid-summer information session on the eruv. At the meeting, Manhattan attorney Joel Cohen read e-mails that had been received that expressed anti-Semitic remarks, and provoked a large number of people attending the information session to leave the meeting.
Mr. Sheiffer and others in the audience aimed barbs at Hampton Synagogue Founding Rabbi Marc Schneier. “The rabbi said the eruv was going to be black two-by-fours, then he said pipes …” Mr. Sheiffer said. “The rabbi doesn’t know what the eruv is going to be, and neither do I.”