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Judge delays ruling on placement of eruvs

A federal judge reserved decision Wednesday on whether to order three East End municipalities to allow the placement of an eruv -- a symbolic Orthodox Jewish boundary marker -- around their communities.

The East End Eruv Association, a group of local residents, had asked U.S. District Judge Leonard Wexler to issue a temporary injunction to prevent the Town of Southampton and the villages of Quogue and Westhampton Beach from stopping the organization's plan to construct an eruv.

Wexler asked for more legal papers before making a decision.

An eruv is a ritual boundary in which Orthodox Jews are permitted activities they normally would not perform on their Sabbath, such as carrying objects and pushing baby carriages.

An eruv consists of long, narrow plastic strips -- known as lechis -- that are vertically attached to utility poles; and wires strung from poles. The eruv would encircle parts of the three municipalities.

The attorney for Westhampton Beach Village, Brian Sokoloff, and the attorney for Quogue, Thomas Spellman, argued that the eruv association's case was not "ripe" for federal court because no eruv plan had been officially submitted.

If such a plan was rejected, the association should have gone to the local zoning board of appeals, said Maureen Liccione, attorney for Southampton.

The association contends it is a target of religious discrimination, which the municipalities deny. Liccione said Southampton wanted strong enforcement of codes barring signs on utility poles to ensure quality of life.

But the association attorney, Yehudah Buchweitz, argued that it would be "futile" to submit an eruv plan to the municipalities because of hostility they had shown to an unrelated and since withdrawn 2008 eruv plan of a local synagogue.

The association argued the signage codes have not been strongly enforced, and the municipalities were using the issue as an excuse to block any eruv.

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