Culture, Global, Identity, Religion

Internal Eruv hatred?

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.

13 thoughts on “Internal Eruv hatred?

  1. some Reform Jews will stand on principal against any halacha if they are touched by it
    Are you claiming that there are Reform Jews who will stand on principle against the prohibitions on murdering and stealing? If not, then either you’re slandering “some” Reform Jews or you’re slandering halacha.

  2. The New York Times article says:
    But opponents have stirred visions of Westhampton Beach turning into a village where Orthodox Jews dominate the public school board and reject increases in the budgets of public schools their own children do not attend.
    I think the system of local control of school budgets is problematic for this and other reasons (more problematically, it means that wealthier areas have substantially better-funded schools, leading to the self-perpetuating triangle of education, jobs, and housing). However, given that this system is in place, and given that the local governments in question don’t have the power to dismantle the system, this seems like a legitimate public-policy reason to oppose an eruv, in a way that can’t simply be chalked up to antisemitism (internalized or otherwise). (Similarly, I don’t know if any such efforts are in place, but I could understand New Hampshirites supporting legislation that would discourage members of the Free State Project from moving there.) Nobody on either side seems to be contesting the claims that an eruv would lead to a substantial Orthodox Jewish population influx, or that the majority of the Orthodox community opposes participation in the public education system. (Are there Orthodox voices supporting sending one’s kids to public school?) And, of course, many Orthodox Jews live outside of eruvin, so the absence of an eruv doesn’t keep out Orthodox Jews entirely.

  3. Somehow I doubt public schools is on anyones mind in the Hamptons. And Lawrence is really the only school district where Orthodox Jews have vocally opposed funding public schools. Most other Orthodox Jews view public schools as tzedaka/social responsibility or at least a good investment in property values.

  4. The one thing that triggers my hesitation against having eruvs on public land is the issue of separation of church and state. As a godless, riding-the-rail-straight-to-hell atheist shaygetz, the less interaction between religious institutions and the local or federal government there is, the happier I am. And yeah, in a practical sense, tying a string to a telephone pole doesn’t cause much interference with life in the community, but looking at it as a more general principle, how much accommodation should the government be expected to make for religious proscriptions or practices? I’m the guy that the fundies use to scare the flocks into sending money, the one who dearly wants to see the crosses and Ten Commandments taken off public lands and the “In God We Trust” removed from our money. In the context of all those symbols cluttering up our public landscape, the eruvs hardly show up on my mental radar, even in Brooklyn. And yet, I can’t help feeling that it’s the same kind of intrusion on secular space. I want public space to remain secular and agnostic, and for religion to remain a private thing.
    In addition, eruvs represent one of the things that bug me about religion in general: the way it invents rules and then just as quickly invents ways to get around the same rules. The eruv always struck me as a bit of a cheat. I think that if the rules make it impossible for you to reasonably live in society, it’s time for the rules to change.

  5. And, of course, many Orthodox Jews live outside of eruvin
    …some of them because it’s too expensive to live inside the eruv. So I suppose this would actually be a reason for existing homeowners concerned about property values to support an eruv.

  6. In addition, eruvs represent one of the things that bug me about religion in general: the way it invents rules and then just as quickly invents ways to get around the same rules. The eruv always struck me as a bit of a cheat.
    The party line is that it’s not a cheat because the rule and the exception originated at the same time. More specifically, the eruv doesn’t permit carrying in a reshut harabim d’oraita / public domain as defined by the Torah (yeah yeah, I know), which may or may not exist in real cities anyway. What the eruv does is provide an exception to the rabbinic prohibition on carrying (which applies in many more circumstances than the “Torah” prohibition). So if the rabbinic prohibition on carrying outside an eruv originated at the same time as the rabbinic permission to carry inside an eruv, then carrying inside an eruv was never prohibited in the first place, so the eruv isn’t really a loophole to get around the rules.
    That’s the party line. But some consequences of eruv and hotza’ah miderabbanan (the rabbinic prohibition on carrying) being so inextricably linked are:
    1) For those who subscribe to a version of Judaism that permits questioning the ideas behind rabbinic decrees and rejecting them, a rejection of the idea of eruv (based on substantive rather than procedural grounds, since the procedural issue is addressed above) might lead not simply to “not holding by the eruv” (i.e. being unwilling to carry even within an eruv) but to a rejection of the prohibition of hotza’ah miderabbanan (and therefore, effectively of hotza’ah in general).
    2) Those who subscribe to a version of Judaism that doesn’t permit this sort of questioning (including, I would presume, the Orthodox would-be residents of Westhampton) should still consider the reasons behind the rabbinic decrees that they accept. (I don’t think there’s a doctrine of “chukim” — laws whose reasons we don’t understand but should follow anyway — when it comes to rabbinic laws.) And it seems to me that at least part of the reason for eruv (and therefore the reason for the rabbinic prohibition on carrying) is, for better or for worse, the creation of close-knit and insular Jewish neighborhoods. While Jewish individuals and organizations are free to pursue this if they wish, it doesn’t seem that this is an appropriate goal for the secular government to pursue, nor should Jewish communities expect assistance from the government toward this goal. If eruv were simply legalistic mumbo-jumbo (as it tends to be portrayed on both sides), then “t[ying] some string to a few telephone poles” would be innocuous, but it’s more than that — it’s a means of achieving a particular societal outcome, and that outcome should be evaluated when deciding whether to put up an eruv.

  7. BZ wrote,
    “Nobody on either side seems to be contesting the claims that an eruv would lead to a substantial Orthodox Jewish population influx, or that the majority of the Orthodox community opposes participation in the public education system.”
    The public school system is definitely a concern, please see the Times article:
    It’s nothing personal, really, but if you want your community to remain invested in the public school system, I would strongly recommend not allowing an eruv in an area already enjoying heavy Orthodox influx.
    Avi wrote, “Most other Orthodox Jews view public schools as tzedaka/social responsibility”
    I don’t think that is a primary concern of the frum, actually, Avi.

  8. The problem isn’t anti-orthodox Jews. It’s anti-liberal Jews. Since we all know the Jews in the Hamptons are really NYC Jews, the Rav Moshe Feinstein prohibition on eruvs in NYC (the reason there’s no eruv on the Lower East Side) must extend to the Hamptons. Right?

  9. Westborough, NY is one of the most bigoted places in the US. Boycott their products if you must unless they get their act together and at least be okay with allowing people religious freedom. An Eruv is hardly noticeable. No religious principles get imposed on anyone. The only difference is that more Jews carry on Shabbos. That’s it. It is a civil rights issue and a religious freedom 1rst Amendment issue. The Jews, who want to put up that Eru, are simply using their religious freedom rights to do it. The people opposed to them are bigots, pure and simple. When you get down to it, all their arguments are bigoted. This attack on religion really needs to stop!!!! I can understand not wanting to be religious. But attacking religious people for being religious when they’re not imposing anything on you is another story. That’s what this is. Anti-Semitism and anti-religious bigotry all wrapped up together.

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