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June 1, 2016 3:10 pm

Critics of London Eruv Proposal Say Construction May Lead to ‘Ghettoization’

avatar by Lea Speyer

The construction of an eruv. Photo: Wikipedia.

The construction of an eruv. Photo: Wikipedia.

A proposal to build an eruv — a ritual enclosure constructed of posts and wire — in North London which would permit Orthodox Jews to be able to carry certain objects outside their homes on the Sabbath or Yom Kippur, is facing backlash as critics say it will lead to “ghettoization,” the UK’s Daily Mail reported on Wednesday.

According to the report, the proposal under consideration by the Camden Council is being sponsored by a group of local synagogues. Local architect Daniel Rosenfelder told the Camden New Journal, “Once the poles are there, they are impossible to find. People don’t notice them. The argument that it will destroy social cohesions — it hasn’t happened in any city in the world.” Rosenfelder added that the eruv will have the opposite effect, claiming it will make people “feel more part of the general community.”

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

Adrienne Burgess, an opponent of the eruv plan, was quoted by the Daily Mail telling the Council’s planning department, “No religious group should impose its structures on this community.” Karen Cramer, who is also against the plan, said, “We need to take in the views of the whole community rather than just a minority religious group. Going ahead with the eruv also increases the threat of religious encroachment on public spaces from any religious group.”

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Elana Moynihan said that while “we want to preserve people’s freedom to faith, this should not be taken as an excuse to override the rights and rules of everybody else. Nobody is allowed to build in our common spaces so why should religious bodies be?”

According to The Times, the eruv in question would be constructed using fishing wire measuring 0.02 inches thick suspended from tall poles approximately 18 feet high across 40 points around Camden. The eruv would create a new six-mile perimeter in North London and, should it be constructed, would become the largest eruv in Britain by joining with already existing eruvim, including an 11-mile perimeter in North West London.  

This is not the first time an eruv proposal has faced significant opposition in London. In 2014, plans to construct an eruv in West Hampstead drew backlash, the Daily Mail reported, with one resident saying, “Adding wires creates the idea of a ghetto in modern society.” Another resident called Jewish laws “outdated” and said, “We should be protecting our progress as a society, not restricting it.”

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