Here we go!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Here we go!

"Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night!" – Bette Davis, All About Eve

It should come as scant surprise that the Jewish community... and not just those of the Orthodox persuasion... have decided enough is enough!

They are speaking out against what they clear­ly feel is a pervasive anti-Semitism among locals after several months of sitting quietly by and letting Irene Barrett and the rest of the ad-hoc anti-eruvians run amok rattling sabres about Westhampton Beach becoming "another Five Towns."

To date, the most visible... no surprise here!... proponent of the eruv chatzerot has been Rabbi Marc Schneier, assuming a conciliatory posture within the immediate community while uttering antagonistic rhetoric to media as di­verse as The New York Times, WCBS and Long Island Jewish World.

Not that there hasn't been provocation, most notably the dishonest full-page advertisement run by the Westhampton Beach Alliance for the Separation of Church and State¹ in The Press in June.

But with the announcement of the Hampton Synagogue's oddly-delayed "eruv educational meeting" this week², members of the Congre­gation are amping up their voices, witness the Letters pages in today's Press!

Notable among them was the "egregious³" ef­fort from Clint Green­baum who chose to equate Westhampton Beach with the South during the Civil Rights struggle of the '60s.

Nice, Clint! That's almost up there with the Rabbi's likening the Village to Nazi Germany in the mid-'30s, and you don't get to do that until you see Mayor Conrad Teller standing at the utility poles with large dogs and a pick-axe handle, the Fire Department at the ready with their hoses!

(Reader's can safely pass up Alan Schech­ter's enumeration of the 150 eruvs al­ready established in the United States, and be thankful his scope wasn't global.)

This is going to be a bumpy time, and none of it bodes well for Westhampton Beach... two different sources close to the temple have made it clear that if the Village Board denies the request for the eruv, the Rabbi already has the legal team in place to take the matter to court... this is hinted at in Synagogue Presi­dent Morris Tuchman's letter... where the municipality will have its pants pulled down.

It will be costly. It will be embarrassing. And worst of all, it will afford the Rabbi something substantive the next time he decides to let the words "nasty, ugly battle" fall trippingly from his lips.

Like it or not, the reality is that Rabbi Schneier holds all the cards in the game.


¹.- The shadowy group may have lost its name, but not its will.

².- Along with, not concidentally, the announce­ment that Governor David Paterson is coming to the Synagogue, to be followed by NY At­torney General Andrew Cuomo (possibly with his father Mario) and perhaps even Presi­dential hopeful Barack Obama. Events have shown, Rabbi Schneier prefers political solutions above all others.

³.- Not OtBB's charactization but that of one of Mr. Greenbaum's fellow congregants.


1. WHB Joba said...

Well, folks... See Tenafly, NJ. And of note, one of the current Synagogue leaders was also very, very instrumental in Tenafly's million dollar loss on this same issue.

2. Hampton West said...

Well perhaps its my browser but the "opinion" option of the electronic version of The Press seems to be MIA - hence I cannot read the letters - gee, guess I'll have to make a 7-11 run and buy the paper. Given OtBB's description of the letters it seems the rhetoric is being raised - not a good thing.

Well, you gotta know that with at least one of the individuals involved, it was unavoidable.

3. Specialist said...

Was it not Tim Laube who made the point that he would approve the eruv to save the Village from a lawsuit? Smart boy that Tim Laube! Let's hope Teller sees the light for a change and saves us from another lawsuit.

I don't know if that was Mr. Laube's rationale. I was under the impression that he, as with a number of others (myself included), take the view, "Why not!? Where's the harm?" But as Tim follows the blog, he can respond if he likes.

Mayor Conrad Teller and Village Attorney Hermon Bishop initially understood the issue as well as the certain outcome were there to be a court case, but the Village Attorney does the bidding of the Village Board, and the Mayor seems to be powerless against the two Italian-American Trustees when they are of one mind.

The other aspect of all this is Mayor Teller's increasing propensity to flip-flop on any given issue: most notably of late on the eruv and the police department. He could, as he darkly fantasized in a Newsday interview last June, "hand a proclamation to the rabbi and let them sue me."

Or, for that matter, under the vagaries of Orthodox Law, Chief of Police Ray Dean could issue the approval as well. I suspect that he has the cojones if he wants to do it.

4. Morris Tuchman said...

I read Clint's letter as asserting that majority does NOT rule, and is not consulted, on civil rights issues. The Mayor should not, and cannot, listen to his constituency (as he asserted he must to Jessica DiNapoli) in such cases. George Wallace had overwhelming popular support.

This one goes to the front page.

5. Matlynn Carville said...

Let those labels fly! NOW "The Resistance" movement on the WHB Board are Italian-Americans? Why not call a spade a spade and call them Roman Catholics?
Let's not start confusing our Religious biases with our ethnic ones, please. Just tell me how this will impact the school and tax base please, a la Kiryas Joel, that upstate religious enclave that pays NO taxes?
WWJS?: "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's...."

I don't know that both are "Roman Catholics." Do you?
"The Resistance?" Interesting, but in my view, is an unwarranted elevation of their positions in respect to the eruv. Are you actually suggesting that "The Jews have taken over, and Mmes. Levan and Birk are the valiant remnants of Christian opposition?"

As for what Jesus might say, my own inadequate knowledge of the Bible learned at my Grandmother's Presbyterian knee, suggests that he'd start with scourging the temple of, not the money-lenders, but those with egos which interfere with reasonable objectives.
– Dean

6. Morris Tuchman said...

The eruv will do nothing to the tax base (except increase it because property values seem to always rise where there is an eruv) as no religious use of property would be created.

7. Matlynn Carville said...

I am hoping I can respectfully request an open dialogue on your forum, Mr. Speir. The Synagogue just doesn't seem like neutral ground.

So, Hello, Mr. Tuchman.

Assuming the role of devil's advocate in the interests of truth, justice and the American way:

  1. IF property values go up in eruv districts, may I therefore conclude eruvs attract wealthy, Orthodox Jewish folk to live within their confines? Why else would property values rise?
  2. If eruvs define an area where the Orthodox observant are allowed to ambulate with strollers on their holy days, how is this NOT a religious use of property?
  3. Instead of Googling my knowledge of questionable resources such as Wikipedia, Mr. Tuchman, would you mind addressing here the history of Kiryas Joel's transformation into a closed, non-tax paying religious community? Did it start with eruvs?
I think if the community sees the simple placing of eruvs on light posts as just that, and not a portend of the dissolution of the cultural construct of their Village, frightened folks might be comforted.

Thanks --
That's fair... but I don't think that Kiryas Joel all started with an eruv.


8. Hampton West said...

Read the letters in The Press - the eruv will happen, I have no doubt - but in my opinion Mr. Tuchman et al may have a Pyrrhic victory; as I see it a lot of good faith has been lost. The folks at the Synagogue need a course in public relations.

I have acknowledged that the Jewish community has been severely provoked, but your point is well-taken.

Still, one of the letter writers to The Press several months ago made a point of stating that in the matter of the eruv, a Pyrrhic victory would be no victory at all.

9. Tugboat Bertha said...

There are people who call themselves Christians but don't have a clue what being a Christian is. It is all about love. It is not about fighting with God's Chosen People among whom were Joseph, Mary and Jesus. Going through the motions at a Sunday service does not a Christian make. What would Jesus do? He would remind those who are engaged in this ridiculous battle that the First Commandment is to Love God and the second is like unto it: Love your neighbor as yourself.

Dear Bertha;

I don't wish to mislead anyone... the use of the description "Christians" is my doing, and I have yet to hear any of the anti-eruvians make that claim for themselves.

Of course, I don't get invited to any of their klaverns.
– Dean

10. Tugboat Bertha said...

Matlynn Carville mentioned Roman Catholics in one of the comments that appears higher up in the list of comments in this spot. Roman Catholics are Christians and they, like Christians of other denominations, sometimes need to be reminded that Jesus was a Jew and came to teach us how to love one another.

11. Cynthia DiLonardo said...

First and foremost, the ERUV is not a done deal, and the majority of this community is totally against it, and has no intentions of throwing in the towel as many of you suggest. I would like to share my experience of HATE that I encountered at the synagogue this past Saturday,when the Govenor spoke. I am not a member of the synagogue nor am I Jewish, I went to hear the Govenour speak. For all of those who were not there, let me tell you that the Rabbi who claims the eruv has nothing to do with the Orthodox, made direct mention of how sad it was that there were members of the synagogue that were unable to be a the service due to the lack of the eruv, we all know that he was referring to the Orthodox> The govenor also spoke about the eruv, and he wanted the residents of Westhampton to know there was a new sheriff in town.I had the opportunity to speak with the govenor after his speech, and told him how disappointed I was that he would make a statement like that when he is the Govenor of all the people, and that he did'nt even know how the majority of the residents felt about this eruv, he told me that based on how the Rabbi spoke of him in his introduction of him, that he had no choice but to take his speech in that direction. You decide, was the Govenor lying to me or the members of the synagogue???After speaking with the Govenor I went back to the patio where at least 200 people had gathered after the speech. I was talking with some members of the press, telling them how the majority of the westhampton residents DO NOT want the ERUV, while speaking with the reporter I was VERBALLY ATTACKED by 2 members of the synagogue, who with there finger in my face screamed at me that the eruv was a done deal, and they were going to shove it down the throats of the residents.I was appalled at not only what they had said, but that a man would have the nerve to speak to a woman that way. I then caught sight of the Rabbi, and went over to speak with him. I told him I was not a member of his synagogue, bu t that i had come to hear the Govenor speak,. Since the Rabbi PREACHES on his website, how he wants the community to get along , be tolerant of each other, and did not want to cause any unrest over the ERUV , I thought he should know how some of his members were verbally attacking me. Instead of listening to what I had to say, he told his security to remove me from the property. when I pleaded with him to talk to me he screamed that I was assulting hom , and to call the police.Can you imagine this man of the cloth LYING and acting like this. Well let me tell you, as I was being thrown out the RABBI screamed at me that the ERUV was a done deal, and to let him know how much I wanted to sell my house for......BEWARE the RABBI has every intention of running every non jewish homeowner out of this town. EVERYTHING THE RABBI CLAIMS, ABOUT WANTING PEACE AND HARMONY, AND THAT HE PULLED HIS APPLICATION FOR THE ERUV BECAUSE SO MANY PEOPLE WERE UPSET, IS NOTHING BUT LIES.HE HAS EVERY INTENTION OF BRINGING THIS COMMUNITY TO ITS KNEES. I can only hope that people will finally step up to the plate and stop him, because it can be done if we all band together.....

As Mark Twain mused: "One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact."

It may comfort you to cleave to this, Madame, but I don't believe that you speak for the majority of Westhampton Beach residents.
– Dean

12. Morris Tuchman said...

Responding to Matlynn Carville, whose comment I did not see until now,(sorry):

  1. The eruv here will help the aged and disabled, mothers with children, and all CURRENT residents (that care about it) by permitting them to carry "ID," keys, bags, etc. to the Synagogue. If you look up real estate listings, you will see that brokers routinely state that houses are "within the eruv." Truthfully, I can think of no neighborhood, and indeed Mayor Teller noted after speaking with the Mayor of Tenafly, whose demographics have appreciably changed BECAUSE of an eruv.
  2. There is no "religious" right to carry items in the streets of the Village, it is every citizens right to do so. The request of the Mayor is pursuant to orthodox tradition to ask for permission to carry items in the streets from its, again, symbolic "owner." The eruv does not use public property as its "symbolic" enclosure; it uses existing LIPA poles to do so. There is no use of public property for religious use.
  3. I do not know if Kiryat Yoel is a non-taxpaying village. (I wonder how the Village would survive if it were.) Nevertheless, it CERTAINLY was not started by an eruv. In fact, I am not sure that an eruv even exists there. Joel Teitelbaum was the Grand Rabbi of the Satmar Sect in Williamsburg. When he decided to establish an incorporated entity (establish not take over an existing one) the Village was called "Kiryat Joel" or the "Village of Joel." It was established because of the overcrowding in Brooklyn.
Thank you, sir, for the clarifying response.

I think that the non-taxpaying issue arose out of some information about an area of Monroe County which experienced a large influx of Orthodox Jews who immediqately declared their houses to be synagogues, which then removed the property from the tax rolls, and put an onerous tax burden on the dwindling percent of others.

13. Matlynn Carville said...


I truly thank you for taking the time and patience to continue our public dialogue on this blog. I feel the exposure of our conversation on can open channels of understanding to a wider audience faster, as well as my personal understanding.

(Thanks Dean, for this opportunity.)

To continue, I have read your responses carefully, and wish to continue discussing the three initial queries.

  1. The eruv for your Orthodox congregants will, if I understand correctly, make possible "for those who care about it" (your quote!) the ability to access religious services they would otherwise be forbidden to attend by infirmity or gender, by distance or age, etc.

    The eruv only affords this right to those who reside within the eruv, correct? What if you are so unfortunate as to be an Orthodox Jew who is not able to afford or find a residence within the eruv? You're SOOL -- too bad, "other" Orthodox dudes and ladies -- you must suffer the consequences of not being a chosen one, and stay home; or be forced to walk the further distance to the Synagogue - keyless, strollerless, etc.? If you're too old or infirm, and reside outside the eruv, too bad!? Mr. Tuchman, to me this sounds like the Jewish faith is ageist and sexist, and even possibly economically discriminatory to its own congregants -- imposing an artifically designated hardship with the establishment of the eruv. We need to contact Linda Kabot! Who is this newly minted accomodation for after 18 years of community accord?
  2. You commented, "There is no 'religious' right to carry items in the streets of the Village, it is every citizens right to do so."


    Unless, apparently, you're an Orthodox Jew; which means your status as a citizen is diminished for religious observation? I am trying to see it through my different cultural "lenses," and am astounded the Orthodox haven't all gone off and become Reform! Whew. That's oppressive stuff. But hey, whatever works for you....

    Further, you stated, "The eruv does not use public property as its 'symbolic' enclosure; it uses existing LIPA poles to do so." Now Mr. Tuchman, to these ears that resonates straight out of Bubba Clinton's play book of what is "is?" While the poles may be owned by LIPA, they are located in and provide support to a lot of public property. The eruv defines a space; not a telephone pole. Again, we have a cultural failure to translate; and to lightly obfuscate the issues or dust them off as inconsequential regarding using an eruv (or a crucifix, for that matter) on a very publically visible pole outside the confines of the "box" house of worship unsettles the heck out of those goyim who are sharing the common public property, not the religious culture. On a previous post I alluded to the fact the placement of the eruv is translating as a "marking" of territory, and it's making the local "dawgs" wary.
  3. When I Google "Kiryas Joel," it sounds like some digruntled locals were displaced and handed a larger burden of taxes because of the establishment of this community. If they don't have an eruv, is it because they have become such a homogenous religious enclave that an eruv isn't required?
Much thanks for your feedback, sir.
Good luck with this one, Moish!
– Dean

14. Morris Tuchman said...

Dear Ms. Carville;

I am very pleased to have this dialog with you. Thanks to Dean for letting us do so.

  1. As Dean has alluded to earlier in his blog, of course we would like to have the eruv extended to the broader community. We thought, incorrectly, that when people would see how the eruv had no adverse impact on their lives, we would seek to expand it. But, yes, until then, those outside the eruv, "for those who care about it," will be unable to carry items etc. The eruv IS the dispensation that Jewish law proscribes to "solve" this problem. I imagine that similar arguments about sexism etc. could be made for many other religions (although having a father stay home with babies would pose the same problem). But it still harms no one and is (very) little more than an accommodation to folks that ask very little of us. I don't want to make this personal but my 88-year-old father cannot walk to the Synagogue. 18 years ago he could. I still can. This accommodation is for him, amongst others.
  2. There is no religious symbol WHATSOEVER attached to the poles. At most, a very thin PVC pipe would be attached to some poles. An eruv must look like a doorway; if the wires on the pole are on the side, a pipe is added to that pole so that the look of a lintel, and posts, is emulated. There is no Jewish star, no picture of any kind, no sign on the pole NOTHING but, perhaps, a 1/4" PVC pipe added to the pile already on the pole. (Yes, take a look at one.) Do you really believe that if a religious symbol were attached to a city, not LIPA, owned pole that there would be no court that would find that as an establishment clause violation?
  3. Which brings us to Kiryat Joel. There are repeated court decisions striking down legislation granting government funds for special education needs in that village. The courts found "establishment clause" violations because money was going from the government to religious institutions (albeit for Special Ed for children). If they don't have an eruv it is because they are so strictly religious that they will not avail themselves of the dispensation that I alluded to earlier. Most Jews accept this dispensation, set up by King Solomon, but not all do. It is similar to prayer in the vernacular in the Catholic Church or in Latin, the Church endorses prayer in the vernacular but there are some that refuse to do so for religious reasons.
Under the circumstances, well done.

However, in item #1, I believe you mean "prescribes" rather than "proscribes."
– Dean

15. Morris Tuchman said...

"Prescribes" it is! "Proscribe" would prohibit. Thanks.

16. Matlynn Carville said...

Thanks for your reply, Mr.Tuchman. I'm going to try to sum this up from my perspective after our conversation. As is common with other religions, cultures, and traditions, rituals strange to those who don't practice them cause discomfort and loss of balance. Not bad, not good, just different.

(We don't seem to have many Muslims in the neighborhood yet, therefore will not be likely see nor hear their unique characterizations in the immediate future; but their practices will, of course, also require tolerance.)

You might not see the eruv as a religious symbol, but quite frankly, many of us will, and this is ALL about what the community sees and feels. A portal, a "door," is a symbol just as is any other structure or icon specific to a religion, a race, and/or a past tradition, like the Confederate flag. You should really try to own that. We have so many more examples of religion-based violations of OUR mores -- Santeria, the Church of the Latter Day Saints, The Jehovah Witnesses, the Hari Krishna kids, any evangelical commune; from the innocent to Jonestown, and Jews for Jesus come to mind as rattling community norms. In a big city, these religions seem to be absorbed better. Smaller established groups often resist changes to the status quo. Barack Obama described how we cling to the comforting and familiar; then he got hell for it! Now, in your efforts to establish the eruv, so have you! The community feels safe with what it knows; and fear what new additions will do to security, comfort, and cultural norms.

The most Orthodox of your congregation are quite different from the Reform and Conservative sects with whom we have grown accustomed, comfortable, and in some cases really respect and love.

I have, honest-to-goodness, noted the most annoying Observant have a propensity to walk across the street in a really maddeningly slow manner, as if the people in the cars POLITELY awaiting their crossing don't matter nor exist. Perhaps you can discuss this rude habit in your synagogue. Step it up folks! I'm not talking the infirm or aged here either. That, I get. Rabbi Schneier, contrary to rabbi-broadcast rumors, has NOT been able to part the Seas of Traffic for safe passage here.

While religions, like the RCs, send their tithes eventually to Rome (and back) I understand your congregation's donations stay put. Is this a way to shut out undesirables among your own ranks?

Please forgive my directness. It seems calmer to discuss these fears and biases on this blog, where the loud voices of anger and assertion on BOTH sides can't block the flow of information.

Apologizing in advance,I would also hope your rabbi can locate deep inside himself some humility and stop patting himself on the back for all his good works. Further, if he wants the community to listen without rancor, he might want to leave "the new sheriff in town" home, and get another rabbi out who can communicate with the gentiles in a more diplomatic manner.


Play clean, stop the the anti-Semite rhetoric. For the record, everybody is prejudiced about SOMETHING. It's hard wired into our development. Mine. Yours too, and your rabbi and congregants. We just have to learn how to work around it.

Get the big wigs to circle the USA with an eruv boundary, as Paramarine so brightly posited on a previous post. Your rules, a larger scale, higher rabbinical intervention. Game over and won.

I hope your Dad can make the services very soon.

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