Photo Credit: NY1 Screenshot
Yard sign declaring rejection of Orthodox Jews' attempt to settle down in Westerleigh, Staten Island.

In early May, NY1 reported that residents of Westerleigh, Staten Island, became irate when they discovered that someone in their quiet, idyllic neighborhood, had attached thin PVC pipes to area utility poles, and by someone they meant Orthodox Jews, and by thin pipes they meant an eruv – the surefire sign that the Jews are invading…

For close to 50 years, the eruv has served as the beachhead for Orthodox Jewish families moving to the suburbs, mainly on the east coast of America, because the eruv, a halachic fiction turning the public domain private on Shabbat, facilitates Jewish communal life, especially for young families, as it allows mothers to push strollers to shul and back.


Which is why, as soon as those pesky eruvim had been detected, the Westerleigh improvement society started taking steps to prevent the Mosaic hordes from launching their invasion.

At some point it was discovered that Young Israel of Staten Island commissioned the eruv before receiving the approval of Con Edison, Verizon, and the Transportation Department. Because those tiny, frequently transparent threads that circle a neighborhood could cause the collapse of the entire infrastructure…

At this point, the eruv has been taken down, and Young Israel is negotiating with the relevant authorities about receiving their permissions properly to put it up again. But the entire affair is not about compliance with regulations. No, it’s all about blocking Orthodox Jews from invading the neighborhood.

According to NY1, there was a closed-door meeting of 150 affiliates of the Westerleigh Improvement Society at a local church, where they checked your ID at the door and where the anti-Semitic hollering were reminiscent of a Munich tavern putsch.

At some point, the 20 or so Jewish families who had been allowed in because they’re not Orthodox, got up and left. It was becoming too much like a Nazi rally. Michael Howald, of Temple Israel Reform Congregation in Randall Manor, who was there to serve as a bridge between the old and new communities, reported hearing people in the audience saying, “They are trying to replace us.” Yes, the slogans those neo-Nazis were yelling in Charlottesville, Virginia.

BTW, to balance out my personal vehement take on this story, I recommend that you follow this link: Staten Island Residents Express Concern Over Religious Boundary to the NY1 video report (they don’t offer an embedded version), to discover that not everyone in the meeting was a rabid anti-Semite. From the video it actually appears there are folks in this neighborhood who keep an open mind and even condemn the improvement society’s disturbing tone.

The Westerleigh Improvement Society printed yard signs that read: “Not Selling. Westerleigh Strong.” They issued a statement saying: “We are thankful that most of the Eruv has been removed, as it was installed without the required permission, required insurance, and did not follow standard or established details … We would like to call attention to the fact that we have a thriving community that we love, made up of folks of many ethnic and religious backgrounds, and welcome our new neighbors to assimilate with us and expect and insist that we all abide by the same laws and processes. So far these normal expectations have not been demonstrated.”

OK, how many inferences to Orthodox Jews can you spot in this statement? There’s “welcome our new neighbors to assimilate with us,” which Orthodox Jews don’t do. There’s “insist that we all abide by the same laws,” also not popular with Orthodox Jews…

There was another statement: “Westerleigh is a richly diverse community of residents who have a 100-year-plus history of joining together and enhancing the quality of life for all. The concerns voiced by a few people at the meeting come from a place of helplessness and fear of the unknown. These concerns are fueled by published articles and events that speak to the changes that occur in neighborhoods when there is concerted effort to populate them.”

Gosh, there appears to be money to be made in anti-Semitic dog whistles.

Michael Howald, a Reform clergy, and the Rev. Terry Troia represent a group called Communities United for Respect and Trust. They told “We try to bring together people of different backgrounds to talk about things that we share in common, so we can try to understand each other better.”

Naturally, the Orthodox newcomers would be delighted to get together with this Reform rabbi and his gentile ally to “bring about some healing,” as Rev. Troia put it.


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