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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Eruv Enmity - Take II

This article, about the efforts on the part of a Hamptons Orthodox community to build an eruv, is outrageous. It has a lot in common with a similarly offensive story I posted about some time ago that shows a proposal for an eruv eliciting wild overreaction and disinformation regarding its impacts and properties. Some choice bits from a story about this year's version of the eruv battle - over a proposal to install one in Westhampton Beach:
The negative e-mails started soon after word spread that the Hampton Synagogue was asking the tony Village of Westhampton Beach for a proclamation permitting it to erect an eruv, or symbolic boundary, around the synagogue.

It would, one e-mail said, “allow the Jewish people to pass through people’s property on their way to temple. ... It is the beginning of a ‘push’ by the rabbi to create another Tenafly or Lawrence [both have large concentrations of Orthodox Jews]. Shopkeepers have already been asked rather strongly to please close their stores on Saturday.”

Another claimed that the “natural outcome of a designated area would alter the real estate complexion and property values within the area. ... What is to stop the Orthodox from demanding that Christians, within the eruv, not put up say Christmas ornamentation on their properties within the eruv?”

There were also those who insisted that “people would not be able to drive cars in the eruv ... and that [Jews] don’t like to walk on sidewalks within the eruv because of the cracks in the sidewalk,” said Clint Greenbaum, a member of the synagogue’s eruv committee.
"Allow Jewish people to pass through people's property on their way to temple"? Stopping Christians from putting up Christmas ornamentation on their properties within the boundaries of the eruv? Where do people come up with these unfounded fears? And of course, no article about the encroachment of the Orthodox into a community would be complete without vague, unproven allegations of "Shopkeepers have already been asked rather strongly to please close their stores on Saturday" (previous versions of this canard here). While an eruv doesn't have any of the magical properties its opponents seem to ascribe to it, it does seem to have an almost magical ability to make reasonable people lose their rationality completely.

Oh, and who can ignore this particular tidbit, a fun little dig at our own South Shore community of Lawrence by a member of the Westhampton Beach eruv committee:
Joel Cohen, a member of the synagogue’s eruv committee, said he agrees that withdrawing the request was a prudent step.

“When a segment of a greater community feels threatened by an ethnic or racial group, the best way to gain acceptance is to explain it so there is no fear,” he said. “Shoving it down one’s throat leads to enmity. ... There is no intention by the rabbi to create a shtetl or another Lawrence.”

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Racial Slurs and the Importance of Context

Ben Smith, whose coverage of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination deserves some sort of prize, posts an image that brought a grin to my face:

Aside from the incongruity of Barack talking to two hasidic men, there is the use of the term in the headline ordinarily thought of as a racial slur: "schvartzer." Of course, the context here is entirely innocuous. "Schvartzer" is simply the yiddish term for black, and the headline is simply making a factual statement that Obama is the "first black presidential candidate."

And context is everything.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Little League Lament

I guess something had to really annoy me to get me out of hibernation - and this is it:

Whose bright idea was it to run a bunch of little league games on the Sunday of Erev Shavuot??? The whole notion is just so, so wrong.

Why is it a wise idea to have people who will be ostensibly pulling all-nighters to learn for Shavuot spend the day leading up to it exhausting themselves by running around coaching/playing ball in 85-degree temperatures?

Also, did it occur to whichever shul youth directors or league organizers who planned the little league calendar that perhaps us mothers stuck in the kitchen simultaneously attempting to clean up from Shabbos and cook for Yom Tov might prefer to have an extra couple of pairs of hands available around the house to help out or to run errands?

If little league participants can get a week off for the Salute to Israel parade, there's no reason that the kids can't get another week off to properly prepare for the holiday of Matan Torah. There are some games scheduled for 3 PM on Sunday - which means there will actually be games in progress until just a few hours before the Chag begins!

It just seems to me to be a poor lesson for our children to be learning. I'm all for kids getting exercise and participating in team sports, but is it absolutely necessary to have them doing so in such an awkward and inopportune time slot? I'm sure not. The whole point behind the Orthodox little leagues is so that games can be scheduled for Sundays instead of Saturdays as in typical leagues, which would preclude Shomer Shabbat kids from participating. The decision to run the games this Sunday hardly seems to be in line with the concept of making the games in any way convenient for Orthodox participants.

Which reminds me of a similar situation we found ourselves in this winter. One of the orthokids plays in a popular hockey league in a local Orthodox high school. Games are generally played on weeknights. Somehow, it was decided when the calendar was planned that the Thursday night of Thanksgiving was off-limits for scheduling games, yet there were games scheduled for every night of Chanukah - and even running into the time to light candles, which meant that the whole family had to delay candlelighting until after my child's game. All in all, a poor show of prioritizing for my kids, in my opinion.

But hey, that's just me.