In a first for the East End, creation of an eruv, a symbolic fence used in Orthodox Jewish observance, is being sought by a synagogue in Westhampton Beach.
The resolution sought by The Hampton Synagogue is expected to come up for discussion at tonight’s village board meeting. Rabbi Marc Schneier and Morris Tuchman, the synagogue’s president, formally requested permission from the village last month to erect the eruv, which creates an area within which Orthodox Jews can push or carry things without breaking religious law that bans work on the Sabbath outside of one’s home.
"We have more and more traditional families that have moved to Westhampton Beach," Schneier said. "According to Jewish law, one can carry items outdoors on the Sabbath only when the act occurs within a proper enclosure. We have a number of younger traditional families who are not able to wheel their babies to services on Saturday morning."
Mayor Conrad Teller said he expects the village board to discuss the matter further at its April 16 work session.
An eruv usually is made by putting wooden or plastic sticks on utility poles, sometimes with string or cord connecting the poles. In Westhampton Beach, however, thin plastic poles would be placed just beneath the lowest wire on existing utility poles at the boundaries of the eruv. The utility wires would constitute the symbolic fence.
Richard Haefeli, the Hampton Synagogue’s attorney, is in separate negotiations with the Long Island Power Authority for permission to use the utility poles.
Sometimes controversial, eruvim have been constructed in communities across the country. Courts in general have ruled that a municipality must show a compelling interest before creation of an eruv can be denied.
All of Brooklyn Heights in Brooklyn, for example, is enclosed in an eruv. The eruv covering parts of Far Rockaway and Lawrence shares a common border with another eruv covering parts of Cedarhurst and Woodmere.
Teller, who said he has researched eruvim on the Internet and checked with the village attorney, said the board probably has no legal basis to deny the synagogue’s request.
The synagogue is seeking a resolution that gives it permission to construct and maintain the eruv for 18 years.
Schneier said the synagogue has about 500 members and draws about 1,000 people for Saturday services in the summer.
"Like everything else out here, we’re summer-oriented," he said. If the village board waits until May to act on the resolution, that would be acceptable, he said, but "If we can [start] in April, it will be pretty well completed by Memorial Day."
About 20 plastic markers will be needed to define the eruv, and Schneier has to approve the initial placement of each marker. Afterward, the markers must be checked each week to make sure none are damaged or missing.
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