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Mar 18, 2015 10:08 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Search Continues For Elusive Eruv Markers In Westhampton Beach

Mar 18, 2015 1:18 PM

Seven months after the creation of a religious boundary encircling Westhampton Beach Village, locating the actual markers identifying that boundary’s borders is a fruitless endeavor—fueling speculation among non-believers that it does not exist, and forcing those of the Orthodox Jewish faith who are benefiting from its establishment to take a leap of faith.

Some people who live in and around the village have mistaken wooden wire covers and pieces of string attached to utility poles as being the markers, known formally as lechis. But the markers in this case are said to be translucent PVC strips, meant to mark the outline of the boundary, or eruv—and attempts to find a single one have repeatedly come up empty. For some, it calls into question the legitimacy of the religious boundary.

“It’s supposed to be visible—you’re supposed to see it, and the lechis are supposed to go from the bottom of the pole all the way to within 3 inches of the wires [at the top],” said Jack O’Dwyer, an avid opponent of the eruv who has split time between Westhampton Beach and New York City for nearly three decades. “The whole thing is fake, man. I hope it never goes through.”

At issue is religious law that bans Orthodox Jews from certain activities on the Sabbath, including simple activities like carrying keys and pushing strollers, outdoors. An eruv is a way around the restriction: It essentially creates an “indoor” space by using lechis to create symbolic “walls,” making it easier to attend temple, for example, with children and house keys in tow.

Supporters say the eruv was established in Westhampton Beach last August. Its creation was heralded by The Hampton Synagogue on Sunset Avenue in the village—the original applicant for the boundary—and the East End Eruv Association, the organization currently embroiled in lawsuits with Westhampton Beach and Quogue villages, as well as Southampton Town, with the hopes of expanding the boundary so that it encompasses more than five square miles, including portions of Quiogue and Quogue Village, on the South Fork.

Officials representing the East End Eruv Association, or EEEA, say the eruv was consecrated by a rabbi after the lechis were attached to various utility poles throughout the village last summer. This came after a U.S. District Court ruling by Judge Kathleen Tomlinson last June, stating that the village was powerless to stop the installation.

Interested parties who call the synagogue will hear an automated message stating that the current status of the eruv is “up.”

Earlier this month, The Press obtained, through a Freedom of Information request, a record of the 46 utility poles licensed to the EEEA by the Long Island Power Authority and Verizon for use in the eruv. A thorough examination of those poles over several weeks revealed no apparent markers on any of them, even though many were purported to have two lechis on them.

When asked to verify what the lechis look like, or where they are located on the 46 poles, officials with the Public Service Enterprise Group Long Island, a subsidiary of LIPA, were at a loss.

“LIPA licensed the poles to the East End Eruv Association, and they’ve handled everything,” PSEG spokeswoman Elizabeth Flagler said. “We’ve been told that they’ve been built, but we don’t maintain them, so I couldn’t tell you what they look like.”

EEEA officials swear that the lechis have been installed, saying the eruv would not be official if they were not. However, those same officials have denied repeated requests to disclose the whereabouts of the lechis and, after LIPA provided The Press with documentation showing the poles where they are supposed to have been installed, have refused to provide any proof of their existence.

“The rabbi who certified the eruv knows of their locations, and that’s all that matters,” Manhattan-based EEEA spokesman Hank Sheinkopf said Tuesday afternoon. “We are reasonably concerned about vandalism, so it makes no sense to reveal locations and, as we’ve always said, they’re hardly visible to the eye if at all.”

Mr. Sheinkopf previously denied requests seeking the location of the lechis, citing concerns that people who oppose the eruv would take it upon themselves to climb the poles and remove the markers.

Bob Sugarman, one of the Manhattan-based attorneys representing the EEEA in its litigation, said the lack of visibility of the markers only furthers his argument that the eruv is not causing any type of damage to village residents who do not follow Orthodox Judaism.

Furthermore, he maintained, the lechis should be of no concern to anyone who is not an Orthodox Jew.

“This is an issue which is internal within the Jewish community—it doesn’t have any impact, and you speaking to a rabbi is not going to change that,” Mr. Sugarman said after being asked to supply contact information for the rabbi who certified the eruv. “The whole focus that has been put on this is irrelevant. It simply doesn’t matter.”

Because the EEEA installed the lechis themselves, PSEG has no record of their installation. Likewise, those who live near the supposed hosting poles have no recollection of this work being done either.

Two utility poles adjacent to Wendy Erwin’s home on Bishop Place in Westhampton Beach are supposed to have lechis installed on them, placed there last summer, according to LIPA records. However, she said she observed no such activity.

“I think my husband would have noticed something like that,” Ms. Erwin said when asked about the lechi that was reportedly installed on the pole next to her driveway.

Similarly, Mayor Maria Moore, who lives on Lilac Road, where five poles were licensed to accommodate a total of 10 lechis, said she had no knowledge of their installation either. Ms. Moore said that though she hasn’t made a point of looking for them, she has never seen one of the markers when walking around her neighborhood.

“In that regard, I don’t know any more than anyone else,” she said. “The synagogue had a ceremony to bless the eruv and they did file papers in court saying the eruv is up.

“[The EEEA] swore in an affidavit in court that the lechis were up,” she continued. “So, I would be surprised if they were to do that if that was not the case.”

Village Trustee Ralph Urban said the board has been approached by residents who are skeptical about the existence of the lechis, something, he said, board members cannot help but question themselves. “Yes, we are wondering,” he said. “To be honest, that’s still in the hands of our attorneys and we haven’t heard back from them about that yet.”

Mr. Urban noted that neither he, nor anyone he knows, has been able to find any of the lechis.

On Tuesday morning, Village Trustee Patricia DiBenedetto said she was not at liberty to discuss what she’d seen because the village’s litigation with the EEEA is ongoing.

Trustees Hank Tucker and Charlie Palmer did not return calls seeking comment.

Contrary to what had been previously suggested, the poles licensed to the EEEA do not run along the village’s borders, but rather many are sprinkled throughout central parts of the municipality, such as on Lilac Road, Liberty Street and Old Riverhead Road, leaving some swaths of the village outside the limits marked by the lechis, including Dune Road east of Rogers Beach and the area north of Montauk Highway and west of Old Riverhead Road.

However, Mr. Sugarman said the lechis need not specify the exact border of the eruv, because it is the overhead utility lines that actually mark the boundary and carry it pole to pole. He insists the entire village falls within the eruv.

“They do not need to be placed on every pole, they do not need to be placed around the outside of the village,” he said. “It’s the telephone wires that mark where the eruv is.”

Some people have taken it upon themselves to scour the village for lechis, including Mr. O’Dwyer, who has covered the ongoing litigation on his website, www.odwyerpr.com, and its corresponding newsletter, both of which cover the public relations industry.

Despite being the most vocal eruv critic, Mr. O’Dwyer believes he recently found a lechi on Oneck Road; a closer inspection of the pole in question revealed a wooden cover for an electrical wire.

Remsenburg resident Stephanie Davis also had her curiosity piqued when she heard the news that the eruv had been established. So she decided to look for lechis while taking her dog, Lexi, for a walk shortly after the news broke. Sure enough, she said she found what she believed to be lechis—pieces of string tied to screws at the bottom and near the top of two utility poles on South Road near White Oak Lane in Westhampton Beach.

“I saw the Five Towns Eruv truck in the area,” Ms. Davis said, referring to a maintenance vehicle from an eruv district in southwest Nassau County. “It was a weekend day, and I was coming back from the beach. I’d never seen them before, so I knew they had to be the lechis.”

Alas, another red herring: In addition to not matching the given description of the lechis as translucent PVC, neither pole has been licensed to the EEEA for the eruv.

Despite the lack of hard evidence suggesting that the lechis are in place—something all parties recognize as a requirement for an eruv—simply having the synagogue’s seal of approval is all some village residents need.

“If I have Tropicana orange juice, and there’s a kosher sign on it, I’m not going to question a rabbi to see if it’s kosher,” said Clint Greenbaum, a parishioner of the Sunset Avenue synagogue and eruv supporter. “If the rabbi said the eruv is up, then it’s kosher.”

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one is on the corner of Bayfield and Oneck Rd
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Mar 21, 15 8:55 AM
Well then, it seems that the entire eruv issue is a non issue after all
By Lets go mets (377), Southampton on Mar 21, 15 9:23 AM
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Mar 21, 15 9:56 AM
'If I have Tropicana orange juice, and there’s a kosher sign on it, I’m not going to question a rabbi to see if it’s kosher,' said Clint Greenbaum, a parishioner of the Sunset Avenue synagogue and eruv supporter. 'If the rabbi said the eruv is up, then it’s kosher.'”

Pure casuistry. Rabbi Marc and Clint Greenbaum are of one mind.

The lechayayim, in fact, are notional.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Mar 21, 15 2:09 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Arnold Timer (327), Sag Harbor on Mar 21, 15 2:23 PM
If the rabbi says the earth is flat and the moon is made of green cheese, I suppose I should believe that, too.
By PQ1 (167), hampton bays on Mar 21, 15 4:00 PM
1 member liked this comment
Apple is developing an iPhone app for eruv locations
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Mar 21, 15 8:05 PM
1 member liked this comment
Rumor has it they're calling it "iRuv"...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Mar 26, 15 11:21 PM
1 member liked this comment
where are the St. Patrick's Day markers and the streets closed for the parade? ohm OK, there they are.
By dfree (818), hampton bays on Mar 21, 15 11:36 PM
O'Dwyer, since you feel so passionate about this issue, why don't you pony up for lawyers to argue it? I for one, don't want to see real money - my tax dollars - spent fighting over an imaginary line.

We should be talking about an aquatic center, revitalizing businesses, getting a sewer system/district , ...

O'Dwyer, I am dubbing you town crier of West Chelm.
By winkelby (38), westhampton on Mar 22, 15 6:04 AM
I meant Chelm Hampton.
By winkelby (38), westhampton on Mar 22, 15 6:07 AM
It's nice to know the world hasn't ended over the Eruv. Geez, we have St. Pat's parades in every other town, San Gennaro Feasts, Easter Egg hunts, Bunnies, Christimas tree lightings, Santa Claus photo opps all over the East End. Enough of the analyzing of a minority religious group's ideologies that requested something to benefit their constituents. What does Santa Claus have to do with the birth of Christ and the Easter Bunny with the resurrection? Each religious group has their own ideas that ...more
By Infoseeker (280), Hampton Bays on Mar 22, 15 1:24 PM
1 member liked this comment
Rather then having an Easter Hunt this year perhaps we should have a Lechis search with appropriat prizes for the winners.
By watchdog1 (543), Southampton on Mar 22, 15 2:14 PM
By winkelby (38), westhampton on Mar 22, 15 6:12 PM
So it's ok for me , as a Jewish person, to have Christian holidays shoved down my throat....?
By Biba (566), East Hampton on Mar 24, 15 12:31 PM
1 member liked this comment
well I never minded having both holidays off from school !!
c'mon im sure you didn't mind that.
and ive never minded celebrating Diwali and some other world holidays that ive come to learn about and appreciate.
(just wish we would get a few days off for Festivus!!)
I like sharing my holiday wishes with my increasingly international group of family & friends .. and I like when they share their wishes with us !
By david h (405), southampton on Mar 28, 15 7:29 PM
Good one!
By Infoseeker (280), Hampton Bays on Mar 22, 15 2:28 PM
Minimizing or making light of this is not the answer. Much of the carnage in the Middle East can be traced to religious fanaticism that trumps reason. The U.S. was founded by people who rejected belief in the supernatural since they had seen the tragic consequences of that in Europe. Promoters of eruvim want governments to validate their irrational and often dangerous beliefs. I hope they have finally met their match in the Hamptons.
By JackO'Dwyer (16), New York on Mar 23, 15 10:04 AM
1 member liked this comment
"Met their match?" By your own admission, they have already prevailed. The have their eruv.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Mar 23, 15 10:26 AM
Jack, you are 1/2 right. Bigotry and intolerance are no laughing matter.
But I think its pretty clear that its YOU who wants the government to validate your irrational and dangerous beliefs.
By winkelby (38), westhampton on Mar 23, 15 12:10 PM
1 member liked this comment
Another uninformed person
By Biba (566), East Hampton on Mar 24, 15 12:31 PM
Uh what?

Much of the carnage? One could also argue it is about resources and power they are fighting about w/ religious overtones.

"The U.S. was founded by people who rejected belief in the supernatural" What again? No the US was founded as a for profit enterprise or as a religious haven (or both). Atheism was not "a thing" in the founding of the US.

Lastly how is "eruvim" dangerous? I am RC so I would defer to someone better versed in this. MY B-in-law is Jewish...should ...more
By Hambone (514), New York on Mar 25, 15 11:58 PM
1 member liked this comment
Deism was present, however there was still belief in the supernatural. Maybe there were some leaders who "rejected belief in the supernatural" but the populace at large did not. The interest in the supernatural was quite prevalent in the 18th century, and carried over into the 19th with Victorian seances, charlatans, pedals, cables, pulleys, crystal balls and all the occultists, healers, and psychics to go with them. There have been "seers" and oracles for millennia. Though the Oracle at Delphi ...more
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Mar 26, 15 1:43 AM
"Promoters of eruvim want governments to validate their irrational and often dangerous beliefs".

Dangerous beliefs? LOL- You can't make this stuff up.
By Infoseeker (280), Hampton Bays on Mar 23, 15 4:37 PM
1 member liked this comment
To David H's comment about holidays off....
I'm 50 years old
When I was a child in East Hampton in the 70's MY holidays were not cause to close school. And most Jewish holidays are not legal holidays where banks etc. are closed .
There is no such thing as a "Judeo-Christian" society bottom line !!!!
So this constant complaining about Jews and our traditions is getting really really old

By Biba (566), East Hampton on Mar 29, 15 8:16 AM
in phildalephia, same eon as you, the schools respected the jewish holidays and the kids took those days off. the Christian holidays mostly schools were closed yes. so from our perspective as kids and considering the issue of 'days off'..we all used to think the jews got both and that was envious.
By david h (405), southampton on Mar 29, 15 10:26 AM
Using a non-invasive string is not exactly posting your religion. It is what it represents and attracts that the naysayers don't want. If it was a Christian issue there would be no discussion on this board. It would be business as usual...because our Founding Fathers....blah, blah, blah.
By Infoseeker (280), Hampton Bays on Mar 29, 15 9:28 AM
please spare us the Christian revisionism & falsehoods.

the founding fathers were most definitely not christian
By david h (405), southampton on Mar 29, 15 10:20 AM
1 member liked this comment
The founding stooges or the later ones? .. Curly was best ever, Shemp was good enough, but no one liked Curly Joe
By david h (405), southampton on Mar 31, 15 8:41 AM
You're telling me 30 /40 years ago Jewish holidays meant no school for people in philly ...???
By Biba (566), East Hampton on Mar 30, 15 6:23 AM
well as far as we knew it was like that at all the other schools nearby ..maybe not th catholic shools har, but it was no big deal from our kid perspective. they were just lucky. the jewish kids got the days off when schools were closed for whatever reasons. not like they 'owed' anyone the days. and school was completely on board not a problem. then they would come in and 'complain' that they had to do all this religious stuff and we stared at them in jealous disbelief.
By dave h (193), calverton on Mar 30, 15 11:08 PM
pray tell, what was their religion for the most part?
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Mar 30, 15 8:18 AM
There are no Christian legal holidays. There are holidays born in Christianity (and animism) but today their celebration by the government is purely secular or non-sectarian. Jews place menorah in public displays to emphasize this fact.

Moreover, rather than complain about public parades whose nascence is in other religious beliefs, why do the Orthodox Jews not apply for permits for "Lechi Day" (or "Exodus") parades? Since the court has declared that TRANSITORY displays of religious ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Mar 30, 15 8:39 AM
1 member liked this comment
People...it's a string with symbolic meaning. Get over it.
By Infoseeker (280), Hampton Bays on Mar 30, 15 9:47 PM
The crux of the issue at the outset was the separation of Church and State. LIPA poles were, and continue to be state owned, public property. However, part of the poles are owned by Verizon as well and there lies one technicality.

Truth be told, and many millennia proves such, that when religion loses the favor of the people it becomes mythology. This is just another mythical belief structure whose day will pass with time.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Mar 30, 15 11:27 PM
People will never get over hating Jews
Bottom line
By Biba (566), East Hampton on Mar 31, 15 12:21 PM
hope that you are quoting the great Tom Lehrer .. "National Brotherhood Week".. approx. 1965. his humor as relevant, funny and edgey today as it was an eon ago
By dave h (193), calverton on Mar 31, 15 9:27 PM
Oh lord...I have heard it all. Biba you are right. So sad in this day and age such intolerance. America the land of the free....sure...
By Infoseeker (280), Hampton Bays on Apr 1, 15 6:44 AM
It is past time for Jews, who are now intrinsic to the American establishment, to cease asserting victimhood to finesse exceptional privileges.

Bottom line.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Apr 1, 15 8:28 AM
You're missing the point...
But that doesn't surprise me
By Biba (566), East Hampton on Apr 1, 15 9:58 AM
to Biba:


"People will never get over hating Jews
Bottom line
You're missing the point...
But that doesn't surprise me"

Was the point that you are making something other than that everyone who opposes the eruv is an anti-Semite? Did I miss a subtlety?
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Apr 2, 15 6:18 AM
Just like your ilk claims anything anti Obama is racist HH? Some consistency please.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Apr 2, 15 7:04 AM