Haaretz and the NYT report on a local controversy regarding resistance to Westhampton beach Orthodox Jews wanting to put up an eruv.
You would think that wanting to tie some string to a few telephone poles would pretty much be ignored by the rest of the world, but it turns out that putting up an eruv has become a rather problematic venture over the past few years. A number of towns have begun to organize resistance to putting up an eruv.
The strangest part is that the resistance comes from both non-Jews living in the area… and non-Orthodox Jews, including, sometimes, Conservative Jews. It’s not as simple as anti-semiitism. Partly this stems from regions in New York where a few towns have gone from having few to having many Orthodox Jews, and in the process of becoming popular, sometimes the Orthodox community has made itself unpleasant by forcing some non-Jewish businesses out of business. Some of it is ignorance of what an eruv is by the non-Jews. But… you can’t say none of it is anti-semitism. For every five towns area where the Orthodox community has come in and refused to patronize non-shomer Shabbat businesses, are plenty of perfectly nice, normal Orthodox people who are just going about their business.
Ultimately the issue has become that people are protesting having a substantial Orthodox community in their area. The weirdest part for me is having liberal Jews mixed up in this. Okay, I can understand Reform Jews protesting eruvs in their neighborhood: some Reform Jews will stand on principal against any halacha if they are touched by it. (I’ve certainly had to occasionally work in situations where a Reform and Conservative shul will put on a joint program which, for logistical reasons, has to be in a Reform shul. And they will, as a matter of principal, refuse to provide kosher food. (BTW claiming that this is the majority of Reform shuls is as silly as claiming that all Orthodox communities are going to go around closing businesses that aren’t Orthodox owned) It isn’t the usual thing, but at least it isn’t peculiar.) In the case of any Conservative Jews involved in this, it’s downright peculiar, since Conservative Jews need eruvs as much as the Orthodox do: the prohibition against carrying on Shabbat has not been lifted, my Conservative chevre.
But the real story here is that the Orthodox are not always crazy when they start yelling about being picked on. In this case, it’s perfectly true, and in fact, the refusal of townships to put up eruvs because they don’t want the Orthodox to move in is not simple anti-semitism, but is also a form of internalized anti-semitism (I generally detest the use of that term, but it is, very occasionally, warranted). Friends, we need to start getting along better within the Jewish community. Granted, this is not all on one side. The Orthodox need to start working harder to not antagonize liberal Jews over their practices… and ought to be speaking up about Israeli refusal to separate synagogue and state. They could also work to make themselves better neighbors in a more public way. But in most places Orthodox Jews make fine neighbors, and finding ways to keep them out is just wrong, and bad for Am Yisrael, even if the Orthodox can’t meet the non-Orthodox halfway.