In case you haven’t been following, an eruv is a specifically designated area, which as long as one stays within its borders, allows Jewish residents flexibility of movement by allowing them to carry particular objects (house keys, medicine, baby strollers, canes, etc.) outside the home on the Sabbath and Yom Kippur, which begins at sundown tonight, September 22. In Westhampton, the demarcation has been proposed by securing “lechis,” best described as small plastic fastening strips, to existing utility poles and then stringing thin wires between them.
This wire has created a war among area residents. It is assumed that once the eruv has been established, Westhampton will become a haven for religious Jews who adhere to the strictest interpretation of their faith.
Many are opposed to the eruv, and that includes Jewish People for the Betterment of Westhampton Beach, a group who previously filed a lawsuit to stop it from being erected. In early 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals -2nd Circuit in New York ruled that lechis on utility poles do not breach the separation of church and state.
The battle became so contentious that it made national news and was even debated on The Daily Show in 2011.
And that is why I wrote the Vatican months ago and requested intervention by his Holiness, Pope Francis the 266th. I believe he can bring peace before this escalates into the throwing of rocks or worse.
The Pope’s real name is Jorge Mario Bergoglio and he was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is a man of the people. In his earlier days he was a nightclub bouncer and a chemical technician. He has recently been credited with helping to restore diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. One of his platforms is his commitment to interfaith dialogue. Also of note, he openly opposes global warming, consumerism and irresponsible development. And that makes him the perfect person to bring peace back to Westhampton.
According to the Pope’s official schedule, he will be at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 25 at 8:30 a.m. At precisely 11:30 a.m. he will attend a multi-religious service at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. The Our Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem will get to see him at 4 p.m. An hour later, he will motorcade through Central Park and end the day at 6 p.m. with a Mass in Madison Square Garden.
The next day, he is scheduled to depart JFK for Philadelphia at 8:40 a.m. This is where the opportunity lies. I project that the Pope will have approximately 10 hours of downtime immediately following mass and before his departure from JFK the next morning. Hello, Westhampton!
This should actually be an easy one for the Pope to solve. His aforementioned opposition to irresponsible development illuminates the inappropriateness of the Westhampton eruv. One of the primary goals of Westhampton and like areas on the East End is to aggressively fight irresponsible development. That’s why you don’t see many of the big box stores, skyscrapers or other big city stuff around. In order to keep this sense of community it is imperative that large-scale changes are not permitted. Nothing should be done that could dramatically change the composition of the neighborhood.
Well, the introduction of an eruv would very well have that effect. Development isn’t only related to physical construction. The introduction of a culturally enticing element, such as an eruv, would have the same impact as allowing a Super Walmart to be built in the middle of town.
The Eruv, is an open invitation to persons of a certain belief, and that could eventually change the entire look and feel of the Westhampton community. There is already a healthy mix of religious options in Westhampton, including a Synagogue and Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian and Episcopal churches.
And this isn’t about just singling out the eruv. The same would ring true if the Catholics got out of line and wanted to build a Saint Patrick’s sized cathedral in the middle of town. It would be irresponsible development.
Hopefully, the Pope will visit Westhampton, at which time he can hold secret meetings with various parties, which will result in the abandonment of the eruv. Not because of any religious belief, but to honor those who have fought so hard to keep Westhampton as it exists—a wonderful little town of diverse cultures and friendly faces.
So, on September 25, just after midnight, I will be standing at the entrance to Westhampton with a sign that reads, “Welcome Pope Francis.”
Tell us your opinion on the Westhampton Beach eruv!