Revisiting Clint's Letter...

Friday, August 01, 2008

Revisiting Clint's Letter...

Updated 08/01/2008 - 5:55 pm

...or "Me and Moish get to it."

Earlier today Hampton Synagogue President Morris Tuchman offered a Comment to yes­ter­day's blog entry:

"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."

However one reads Mr. Greenbaum's letter, his invoking the American Civil Rights battles¹ of the '60s as well as a minor "parable" from Dr. Seuss was particularly inappropriate.

To address the points you raise:

  1. To assert "that majority does not rule" is silly and unrealistic... of course the majority rules, it's the Democratic way.

    What is at issue here is whether the majority should rule! And that's assum­ing that a majority of the Village Board is in opposition to the granting of the Synagogue's request for an eruv.

    And I'll warrant that it appears that's the way things are presently going with Mmes. Levan and Birk agin the eruv, the Dep'ty Major... likely as a matter of political expediency... telling the anti-eruvians assembled at nutburger Irene Barret's home that, his recorded votes to the contrary, he was actually with them, and the Mayor who, whatever his personal feelings, originally seemed to have understood the unpleasant conse­quences of denying the request.

    But as the past three years have shown us, Mayor Teller is quite capable of ut­tering contradictory statements within the same interview.
  2. Successful politicians obviously do listen to their constituency, or at least give the appearance of doing so.

    But Mayor Teller, who has with a cer­tain amount of pride described himself as "cheap," is the chief fiscal officer of the Village, and having been instru­mental in his role as Police Chief in leading the municipality into two (2!) costly and embarrassing lawsuits, as a purely practical matter should have the cojones to stand strong and at the very least tell his constituents: "The Syna­gogue is going to get their eruv one way or the other, so I'm going to save us all a lot of money and ugly publicity and grant the request."
  3. Citing George Wallace's popularity only serves to support the point about suc­cessful politicians listening to their con­stituency. The man was four times elected Governor of Alabama, only once as an incumbent.

    But even conjuring up the name of that fist-faced little Southern cynic also serves to further the divisiveness that you and other representatives of the Hampton Synagogue profess to wish to avoid.

    References to the Jim Crow South equate all those opposed to the eruv... including those with legitimate con­cerns... with the night-riding Southern bigots and marginalizes the bitterly-fought struggles for racial equality of 40-45 years ago.

    Where have any members of the Jewish faith been denied access to any bath­rooms or water fountains in Westhamp­ton Beach? Which of them have been hosed-down by racist Police officers? What Jewish students have been met on the school-house steps by officials wielding pickax handles?

    As a member of the Westhampton Beach School Board, Mr. Greenbaum must upon sober reflection know how inappropriate, even "egregious," such an allusion would be, and as one who has heretofore appeared sensitive to the issues raised by the eruv request, I am astonished that the President of the Synagogue would follow Mr. Green­baum's lead in that manner.

Equal time should now be afforded the afore-cited "legitimate con­cerns" of some who opposed the establishment of the "eruv."

(I do not presume to speak for the ad hoc one-time "Alliance" group, only as one who has wrestled with the issues m'self.)

As OtBB has oft-documented, the Hampton Synagogue's entry into Westhampton Beach was a less than auspicious one, and this has led to a basic mistrust of Rabbi Marc Schneier which has only increased over the years. His congregants may adore him, but I have grown weary of his egocentric pronouncements and revisionist views of the events of 1990 from the temple's 'umble origins in Martha Bergeron Lewis' house on Mill Road.

If, as Napoleon Bonaparte said, "History is a lie agreed upon," I disagree most vociferously, and others who may recall what actually tran­spired, probably feel the same anger when we read the Rabbi's disingenuous comments about his "nasty, ugly battle" with the Village in establishing the Synagogue².

Then there's the recurring matter of the credit the Rabbi likes to claim for himself and the Synagogue as being responsible for most of what is viewed as positive within the local Community.

(The sub-text of his message is that "If not for me 'n' the Synagogue, the Main Street theater would be boarded up, and the rest of the Village would look like downtown Riverhead!")

References equating Westhampton Beach with '30s Nazi Germany only cause heels on both sides of the issue to be dug in further.

But let's leave the Rabbi and his 800 pound ego out of this for a moment.

There is significant non-congregant Jewish opposition to the establishment of the eruv chatzerot, and one of the most telling docu­ments to surface was uncovered and circulated by Dune Road's Jacqueline Sprotte, one she found on an Internet site from which it was soon removed. Apparently a reprint of a dis­turbing Newsday report on Lawrence since it has literally been taken over by Orthodox Jews.

(Although that report can no longer be found on-line, I'll try to reprint portions of it in the days ahead.)

If one of the Jewish battle cries of the last half of the 20th Century was "Never again!", then perhaps the current sentiment of "Not here!" can be understood as something other than naked bigotry.

For my part, I don't think this will ever occur, but then I spent the better part of 50 years assuring the more arch of my fellow firearms owners that gun registration did not lead to confiscation the way it had in Norway and other countries, only to see New York City Mayor David Dinkins and Police Commissioner Lee Brown threaten that very thing in 1991!

Not everyone who views the establishment of an eruv with distrust and suspicion is a crypto-Nazi or a closet Klansmen, so continued refer­ences to '30s Germany and the '60s South will promote neither harmony nor détente.

I'm confident that as a reasonable man, Mr. Tuchman, you can control yourself... maybe even Mr. Greenbaum can as well.

But based on his relatively short history here, I hold out no such hope for Rabbi Schneier.


¹.- In truth, Mr. Tuchman was first to make the Civil Rights reference two months ago.

².- I once mused how the headlines in The Long Island Jewish World might have read if Fire Marshal Dennis Cochran had bowed to political pressure and then a tragedy struck:

Horrific Fire at Hamptons Synagogue
83 Jews burned, trampled to death as
Irish Fire Marshal fails in his duties.



1. Morris Tuchman said...

My favorite blogger in WHB said this in his May 2, 2008 blog:

"It was, quite simply, the worst of Westhampton Beach on display during a two-plus hour monthly Village Board meeting, and the "hot topic" was not the $25 million dollar Federal Civil Rights lawsuit by the Muchnicks, but the Hampton Synagogue's proposed eruv.

Anyone there who might have felt they had taken a wrong turn in a time machine and wound up in a Southern town in 1912, can be excused. The amount of irrationale fear and ill-concealed bigotry was alarming in the utmost."
Good Shabbos, Dean
What sort of Civil Rights battle do you imagine might have been occurring anywhere in the South in 1912?

But (sincere) thanks for the chuckle.
– Dean

2. Hampton West said...

Well, Dean, a strong opinion that we all would like to avoid. But unfortunately I have to agree with you - everything in life is a two-way street and the Synagogue wants it one way.

3. William Rodney said...

Please clarify. If the eruv allows non-permissable acts to be performed on the Sabbath (pushing a stroller), how do the folks living outside the eruv get to the temple with their children? It would appear that congregants living outside the proposed district are not being given any consideration. Will the downtown area of WHB become the focus of frenetic real estate purchases by young families with children and strollers? Why not expand the size of the eruv to allow all members of the congregation within walking distance (since no driving or parking is permitted) to have the same opportunities as those within the proposed space?
Or is growth of the eruv already part of a long term plan?
I'm confused.

I'm afraid that you haven't been paying close-enough attention... but then there's a great deal to wade through even with all the bombast and rhetoric stripped away.
  1. Observant Orthodox families living without the eruv will be leaving their progeny, purses and house keys at home.

    The parking issue is separate from the eruv.
  2. Although I received an inquiry for the ol' family homestead about 10 years ago, any "land rush" within easy walking to the Synagogue would have been done 12-14 years ago.
  3. The Rabbi's original intention, as OtBB has previously noted, was to create an "eruv" encompassing an area from Remsenburg to Quogue (which would have included Quiogue and likely sent nutburger Irene Barrett on a killing spree).

    It was deemed too sizable an undertaking (three political sub-divisions instead of just Westhampton Beach) for a first pass, and the current, more modest proposed was put forward.
  4. Absolutely.
Trust you are now appreciably de-confused.
– Dean

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