One of three federal lawsuits filed in connection with a proposed eruv enclosure in a suburban New York beach community was dismissed.
U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Wexler dismissed a suit on Monday brought by a group of Jewish residents on Long Island opposed to the construction of the eruv, an enclosure that permits religious Jews to carry items in public on the Sabbath, The New York Times reported. Proponents of the eruv in Westhampton Beach, N.Y., are affiliated with the Orthodox Hampton Synagogue, which has had repeated run-ins with local residents fearing an influx of Orthodox Jews to the seaside community.
Judge Wexler also set a timeline for the other two suits, one brought by the East End Eruv Association attempting to set up the eruv, the other between the three villages on whose land the eruv would be erected, Westhampton Beach, Quogue, and Southampton, and the utility companies the poles belong to.
“This used to be an amiable little town,” said Ellen Indursky, a member of the Hampton Synagogue, who told the NY Times on Saturday that she regrets her synagogue’s bringing up the idea of the eruv in the first place. “It’s created an us and a them; you are either on one side or the other,” she said, adding, “There’s more feelings of anti-Semitism here now than there has ever been.”
Very few Westhampton Beach residents are Orthodox, according to the Times, and the Hampton Synagogue is the only Orthodox congregation in the area. About 20 of the synagogue’s year-round members, and some 200 summer resident families say they need the eruv, according to the rabbi, Marc Schneier.
But in the Hamptons as in every other community where Orthodox Jews put up an eruv, having it there is an open invitation to even more Orthodox Jews to settle down there, especially young people. This is because the eruv allows young mothers to take their babies to synagogue on Shabbat morning, to attend services. It also permits the disabled to be pushed in wheelchairs to shul. In short, it makes life easy on the Orthodox and before you know it, they fill up the area.
Or, as the Times put it: “…many in Westhampton Village…say they fear the prospect of more Orthodox Jews moving in if the eruv is constructed. The mayor, Conrad Teller, estimated that perhaps 90 to 95 percent of Westhampton Village is now against it. ‘It’s divisive,’ he said. ‘I believe they think somebody’s trying to push something down their throats.’”
Yes, it appears nothing is more offensive to the gentry in the Hamptons than invisible fishing lines stretched 20 feet in the air between electric poles.
Some locals told the Times their bigotry is economically founded: “Storekeepers on Main Street have voiced practical concerns, because Orthodox Jews traditionally don’t spend money on the Sabbath. ‘Retail is hard enough as it is,’ said Anick Darbellay, sitting in her dress shop on Friday. ‘I don’t want to have to shut down on Saturdays. Have you been to the Five Towns?’ she asked, referring to an Orthodox Jewish enclave in Nassau County. ‘That’s what happened there.’”
JTA content was used in this report.