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Orthodox Jews get long-sought eruv in Westhampton Beach

Orthodox Jews have created an eruv in Westhampton Beach after six years of fighting opposition from village officials and their neighbors in the East End resort community.

The eruv is a zone that allows Orthodox Jews to do tasks, such as pushing strollers or wheelchairs, not usually allowed outside the home on the Sabbath or High Holy Days. It is invisible except for strips of pipe attached intermittently to utility poles along its borders.

The Hampton Synagogue in Westhampton Beach installed 45 of the markers -- called lechis -- in Westhampton Beach last week, following a favorable court ruling in June.

The synagogue has sought since 2008 to establish an eruv in the villages of Westhampton Beach and Quogue and an unincorporated part of Southampton Town. The East End Eruv Association, a nonprofit group affiliated with the synagogue, is still locked in litigation with all three municipalities.

"We look forward, in the near future, to expanding the eruv to Quogue and Westhampton," Hampton Synagogue Rabbi Marc Schneier and president Morris Tuchman wrote to congregants Friday in an email obtained by Newsday.

Synagogue leaders called the eruv a "historic milestone for our Kehilla" -- a Hebrew word meaning congregation -- "and the greater community." They did not return calls seeking comment Friday.

Opponents of the eruv cited a mix of legal and religious objections. Proponents argued the objections are rooted in religious discrimination.

In June, a federal judge ruled that Westhampton Beach had no laws that could block creation of an eruv, clearing the way for utilities to issue licenses for the synagogue to affix lechis to their poles. The judge did not issue a definitive ruling for Quogue or Southampton.

Verizon issued a license on July 28 allowing the synagogue to attach lechis to 18 poles in Westhampton Beach, and PSEG Long Island issued one on July 8 for 27 poles, spokesmen for the companies said.

Brian Sokoloff, an attorney representing Westhampton Beach, said he plans to appeal the ruling from June. "This case is far from over," he said.

Hank Sheinkopf, a spokesman for the eruv association, said the eruv "is hardly visible to the eye" and "has no impact whatsoever on non-Jews and nonobservant Jews."

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