Tomorrow's NY Times today

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Tomorrow's NY Times today

Sunday's headline on the front page of The New York Times Long Island section reads:

Orthodox Jews' Request Divides Resort Village

The story leads with a recitation of the full page advertisement in the The Southampton Press Western Edition of June 12 taken by The Westhampton Beach Al­liance for the Separa­tion of Church and State.

Despite some concerns expressed by locals familiar with Joseph Berger's by-lined story, it's not a bad one, and nowhere near as superficial as the report by WCBS2 of five weeks ago.

Of particular interest are quotes attributed to Mayor Conrad Teller and Rabbi Marc Schneier, especially in comparison to statements they've made earlier and elsewhere.

Mayor Teller to the New York Times:

"He has assured eruv supporters that he favors the eruv, but in a recent interview he described himself as neutral.

'I don’t want to see a big controversy over something innocuous, but there’s quite a big group that has feelings about this,' he said. "

Mayor Teller contemporaneously to Newsday:

"I'm so angry with these suckers [who took out the ad] that what I'd really like to do is hand a proclamation to the rabbi and let them sue me."

Mayor Teller in Long Island Jewish World¹:

"Westhampton Beach's Mayor Conrad Teller called Schneier to express his concern and his intent to write a letter to the editor² of the South­ampton Press denouncing the ad."

But if Mayor Teller has been inconsistent in his public statements, the Rabbi has been all over the place, outwardly affecting a conciliatory at­titude with the critics of the eruv's critics, and pledging to spend the Summer "educating the community" about the nature of an eruv, while carefully picking his spots to use more inflam­matory language.

In the same Jewish Week interview in which he stated:

"I have elected in consultation with the leadership of the synagogue to take the high road and use the summer to create further understanding in our community."

...he disingenuously spoke of a "nasty, ugly battle" with Village officials who "tried to stop the synagogue."

(Not only not very conciliatory, but a trans­parent fiction to anyone who was there.)

From the June 20-26 Long Island Jewish World:

"Schneier, on the similitude of this ad to those of early Nazi Germany, noted that he felt it was not merely coincidental that this ad came out the same week the Hampton Synagogue was honor­ing Joseph Garay, a Holocaust survivor, as Father of the Year."

(Well, that's certainly not intended to have a calming effect on anyone. Rabbi Schneier seems to subscribe to the same Spiritual Leader journal as the Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.)

And from that same piece by Jewish Week's David Gertler:

"(Schneier) recalled an attempt during the during the nascent days 'to prevent the synagogue from opening.'"

It's a good idea to challenge one's own per­cep­tions on a recurring basis, so the owner of the property which had been rented to the Rabbi, Martha Lewis, was asked her recollections of the events.

"Gwen Ramage brought me Rabbi Schneier and his wife, Esther, who wanted my house on Mill Road as a Summer residence. Then I was asked if it was all right if they did Shabbat in it, which I though was like a Rosary group or prayer meeting. Next thing I know I'm getting notices from the Fire Marshal that my house is being improperly used as a place of public assembly and it wasn't rated for that."

It seems to suit the Rabbi's purposes to position the events of 1990 as a religious war pitting a bigoted municipal bureaucracy against small group of Jews quietly exercising their First Amendment rights.

And that is absolutely his right to carry that fiction, but if he persists in that dishonest folly, he shouldn't be surprised if people view his sincerity with a certain amount of dubiety.


¹.- A Great Neck-based free distribution weekly so steeped in tradition that it has absolutely no... as in z-e-r-o... Web-presence and doesn't even list an E-mail contact on its masthead.

².- No such letter has been forthcoming.


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