Eruv Debate Continues in Westhampton

The Manhattan Eruv
The Manhattan Eruv,

So we’re back to the eruv debate huh? Okay…I’ll bite.

The eruv debate in Westhampton, which has been going on for years, just reared its head again this week after the East End Eruv Association brought a case to the Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals. An eruv is a religious boundary that surrounds a town using an invisible wire that allows Orthodox Jewish people to push strollers and carry car keys on the Sabbath and holidays in order to attend temple. It is, in my personal opinion, a divisive and powerful symbol.

It represents a “you’re either in or out” type of thinking, and in other communities who have implemented it (including one that my very religious Jewish uncle lived in and moved out of because of how much it changed things, in his thinking, for the worse), the eruv has encouraged an us-versus-them attitude that can make a town an uncomfortable place to be. Is this a good thing for a tourist community to embrace?

Mark your religion in your home, on your person, on your business and in your place of worship if you wish, but forcing a symbol around an entire town is a clear mark of boundary and border that brings it to the governmental level. Political boundaries are implemented out of sight in many places around the world, and the purpose of most of them is to divide. Borders, whether marked physically or just by the letter of the law, or both, send a clear message: “If you cross into this area, the rules change, no matter who you are.”

I’m half-Jewish, in case you were wondering. The people out there who are arguing that it is discriminatory to not allow the eruv need to take a look at this issue again and think of the overall ramifications.

This is America. You are free to choose and practice your religion, but are you free to make political borders around an entire community with it?

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