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September 15, 2016 1:40 pm

Australian Religious, Political Leaders Condemn ‘Textbook Antisemitism’ Campaign Against Construction of Sydney Eruv

avatar by Lea Speyer

The construction of an eruv. Photo: Wikipedia.

The construction of an eruv. Photo: Wikipedia.

Religious and political leaders in Australia are widely condemning what they consider to be the antisemitic nature of a campaign against the construction of an eruv, a ritual enclosure constructed of posts and wires, Australia’s Daily Telegraph reported on Wednesday.

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies Chief Executive Vic Alhadeff told The Daily Telegraph that fliers circulating in the St. Ives neighborhood of Sydney — which are warning residents the eruv will create a “Jewish enclave” and the “eventual expulsion of secular people” — constitute “textbook antisemitism.”

They are “one of the worst examples of antisemitic literature we’ve seen in Sydney in a very long time,” he said.

Masada Synagogue Rabbi Had Kreb told The Daily Telegraph, “The vitriolic label contained in these false claims is baseless, antisemitic scaremongering. It cannot be tolerated.” He called on local politicians and residents to “take a clear and unequivocal stand against this hatemongering.”

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According to the report, Father Vincent Casey of Broken Bay Dionese, has condemned the fliers and issued his support for the Jewish community.

Jonathan O’Dea, a State Liberal politician, told The Daily Telegraph that he has been contacted by residents who are “deeply offended” by the fliers, which were “disturbing to read and highly inaccurate.”

“Assessment of the eruv should not be based on the ethnicity, religion or race of those supporting it — only legitimate planning and environmental considerations,” he added.

Australia’s race discrimination commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane, was quoted as saying he can “understand why members of the Jewish community are distressed by pejorative characterizations about them.”

“Our society should be one where people can freely express their faith and traditions, provided it is done within the limits of the law,” he said. “Let’s hope common sense and decency prevail here.”

One flier, sponsored by the St. Ives Progress Association, says the “risk of an eruv morphing into a religious enclave over the longer-term is very real. One of the underlying functions of an eruv is to encourage those of their faith to settle in the area. Over time, this has the propensity to redefine the demographics of St. Ives.”

Another flier states the main purpose of constructing an eruv is to “establish a modern version of the ghetto under Rabbinical control. The…consequences of an eruv establishment is the division of the community and eventual expulsion of secular people.”

The eruv plays a significant role in observant Jewish life. Without it, Jews who leave the confines of their homes on the Sabbath are forbidden from transporting objects or pushing strollers and wheelchairs. The eruv acts as an extension of a person’s home, thereby loosening such limitations.  

The battle over the St. Ives eruv has been a constant source of controversy in the area, the report said. The original eruv, which was attached to pre-existing power poles, was ordered for removal by the local council following backlash.

The Jewish community successfully obtained an injunction against its removal from the NSW Supreme Court and agreed to submit an application for approval from the council, the report said.

Before coming to a decision, the council issued a call for community feedback. It was then that outraged residents began circulating the “antisemitic” fliers in opposition.

This is not the first time backlash against the construction of an eruv has crossed the line into alleged antisemtism. As reported by The Algemeiner in June, critics objecting to a proposed North London eruv warned it would lead to “ghettoization.”

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