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Trouble in Southampton

posted by awelborn

From the WSJ: They don’t want a shul

But some residents of Southampton apparently don’t see the charm. Thus the lawsuit. The dispute has gotten ugly with some locals suggesting that the synagogue is unsanitary and a "nuisance." Though local real-estate executives report that property values continue to soar, the plaintiffs remain unconvinced.

As one resident told New York magazine: "I’m sure we’ll be hearing complaints about anti-Semitism, but I’d feel the same way about Holy Rollers." Indeed, the issue may not be whether to embrace Jews in Southampton–who make up a significant portion of the village’s residents and visitors–but whether to embrace a certain kind of Jew in Southampton.



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Maureen

posted July 8, 2005 at 6:00 am


Holy cow. Apparently Orthodox Jews shouldn’t dare to worship their God even behind closed doors, because it harshes somebody else’s mellow. My butt. If I were Jewish I’d never want to be Orthodox, but I respect those who feel called to that; it’s an honorable way of faith.
Those Hamptons people opposing the shul…they should hide their heads in shame. They should walk around with paper bags on their heads. They should quit persecuting their neighbors and look to their own souls. And I say this as a Catholic, an American, and a human being.
Meanwhile, I’m sure there’s a Scientology office somewhere in that town….



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Donna

posted July 8, 2005 at 6:38 am


Actually, I think that if I were Jewish, I would want to be Orthodox, just as I want to be Catholic and not Unitarian or Episcopalian.
I’ll bet that those objecting pay loud lip service to “diversity” in other contexts. To a certain type of chic liberal, diversity means being comfortable with people of varying races and religious backgrounds – just as long as those others think, live, and behave just like chic white liberals. Don’t want any of those tacky, embarrassing types who take their religion too seriously hanging around – unless they belong to a non-Western religion. In that case, they’ll be praised for their “authentic spirituality” and quaint costumes and welcomed – as long as their nunbers stay small and they remain picturesque and exotic.



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G Shroff

posted July 8, 2005 at 7:40 am


Donna — right on!!!



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Nancy

posted July 8, 2005 at 8:33 am


This dispute is “tacky”, says the WSJ. That’s the nicest thing I can think of to say about it.
Good article. Well bred, understated, and it makes the Izod crowd look like fools.



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mb

posted July 8, 2005 at 9:00 am


I agree with the homeowners who don’t want it on that site. I know the area, and Southampton has amazingly restrictive laws about what you can do with your house and property. Homeowners must obey all kinds of other restrictions. It doesn’t make sense for a group to be able to sneak in large groups and then claim prejudice. The Scientologists wouldn’t be able to do it, either. If a group wants a place for large meetings, they should go about it honestly.



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Mike L

posted July 8, 2005 at 9:25 am


I am feeling cynical this morning, so I will point out that if you are supporting diversity, remember that the Jewish religion does not condemn abortion. So maybe they should be thrown out??



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Mike Petrik

posted July 8, 2005 at 9:35 am


Mike L
Although a minority, quite a few conservative and orthodox rabbis do teach that abortion is wrong under Jewish law.



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Cathy Koenig

posted July 8, 2005 at 10:21 am


Quite a few nonobservant Jews dislike Hasidim intensely. They use terms to describe them that would be antisemitic when used by non-Jews: dirty, fanatical, cheap, oversexed (I actually heard this one personally from a co-worker), etc. Now the Lubavitch certainly are out of the mainstream, and there has always been a tension between them and the Orthodox. The Lubavitch believe in reincarnation, which is why the concept of a dynastic Rebbe (head rabbi) has such importance. Their worship is also more emotional than the average Orthodox ceremony — feast days involve lots of shots of vodka, dancing, banging on tables, and loud singing (for the men at least). I think of the Lubavitch as Pentecostals and the traditional Orthodox as Catholics when making analogies to Christianity.
On the plus side, they are definitely more pro-life than either Reform or Conservative Judaism.



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marym

posted July 8, 2005 at 10:45 am


It doesn’t just happen to synagogues in Southampton. In my area it has been the establishment of a new Catholic parish in a well heeled town. People, who were to be part of the new parish, came out to complain how building it near them would be a nuisance to their McMansion lifestyle and lower property values. Poor pastor.



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Zhou

posted July 8, 2005 at 10:47 am


Their
Website.

Their address is 214 Hill St, Southampton, NY, 11968.
Some other nearby addresses:
Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Roman Catholic Church, 168 Hill Street (and Hispanic Apostolate at 169 Hill Street), Southampton, NY 11968 (less than a 10th of a mile to the West of the shul);
First Presbyterian Church of Southampton
2 South Main Street, Southampton, NY 11968 (0.4 mile East of the shul);
Saint John’s Episcopal Church, 100 South Main Street, Southampton, NY 11968 (0.8 mile Southeast of the shul);
United Methodist Church of Southampton, 160 Main Street, Southampton, NY 11968 (0.85 mile Northeast of the shul);
First Church of Christ Scientist, Pine & Cameron Streets, Southampton, NY 11968 (0.98 mile East of the shul);
Our Lady of Poland Roman Catholic Church, 35 Maple Street, Southampton, NY 11968 (1.24 mile Northeast of the shul);
First Baptist Church of Southampton Baptist Church, 57 Halsey Ave., Southampton, NY 11968 (1.48 mile Northeast of the shul);
Community Baptist Church, 11 Plant Street, Southampton, NY 11968 (1.55 mile Northeast of the shul);
Greek Orthodox Church of the Hamptons, Kimisis Tis Theotokou, 111 Saint Andrew’s Road, Southampton, NY 11968 (1.86 mile Northwest of the shul);

Yes, indeed. Those religious people do bring down the property values.



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Zhou

posted July 8, 2005 at 11:22 am


Here is another news article. Notice this part:

…you can imagine the consternation when, in the summer of 1999, two doors down from the Catholic church on Hill Street—the widest, most conspicuous thoroughfare in Southampton, dividing the wildly expensive properties of Shinnecock Hills and North Sea from the stratospherically expensive beachfront estates of Meadow and Gin Lanes—a family arrived that clearly hadn’t seen the membership brochure. The man who bought the place had a bird’s nest of a beard and wore dark suits all summer long. He and his wife, who dressed demurely even by Southampton standards, were young but had a bevy of children—two at first, five before long. They invited guests on Saturday mornings—dozens of them—and the visitors parked their SUVs and sports cars on the edge of neighbors’ lawns. They sang songs. They cooked meals that produced strange odors. “The smells coming out of there!” says Ron Grimaldi, who until recently lived across the street. “I don’t know how people live next door.” It gets worse: They renovated—the ground level was gutted to make additional room for guests…

Did you catch that this is “two doors down” from the Catholic church on Hill Street—the widest, most conspicuous thoroughfare in Southampton”.
It’s not like it is on some exclusive, hidden away in the hills cul-de-sac.



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Joseph Kubis

posted July 8, 2005 at 11:26 am


‘The Lubavitch believe in reincarnation’
I think that a more accurate statement is:
Some Lubavitch believe that a previous Rebbe, Rebbe Schneerson (deceased), is the Messiah,who will come at the end of time.



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mb

posted July 8, 2005 at 11:48 am


Indeed there are other religious places in SHamp but they all got there fairly. they didn’t lie to the town board, pretend to be a house instead of a religious group. The “smells” have nothing to do with it – SHampton after all has the same diverse cuisine that NYC has – it is the basically the same people. Left out of the article quoted from NY mag is the part in which a homeowner complains that she can’t build a barbecue – the inference being if homeowners in Shamp have to obey minute rules (and believe me, they would get official citations if they didn’t), why is it OK for a group to flaunt the rules. Leave the religious part out – substitute “Baker Street Irregulars” for “Hasidim” – the BSI would not be permitted to meet that way. Sorry, I don’t see religious prejudice here – I see a group ignoring rules that everyone else has to follow.



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Samuel J. Howard

posted July 8, 2005 at 11:51 am


No, I think it is accurate to say that Lubavitchers more broadly believe in reincarnation.
Furthermore, this is not particularly a Lubavitcher doctrine, as is the belief of _some_ Lubavitchers that the Rebbe was/will be the Messiah.
It’s rather an esoteric topic and much of the information has been muddied by a “new-age judaism”.
Check out:
http://tinyurl.com/9qbbj



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Samuel J. Howard

posted July 8, 2005 at 11:54 am


“Leave the religious part out – substitute ‘Baker Street Irregulars’ for ‘Hasidim’ – the BSI would not be permitted to meet that way. Sorry, I don’t see religious prejudice here – I see a group ignoring rules that everyone else has to follow.”
But you can’t leave the religious part out. Religious organizations and religious practice have a priviliged place in American society and American law.



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Nancy

posted July 8, 2005 at 12:00 pm


mb,
How about the “unsanitary” part? (That’s a piece away from ‘they didn’t fill out the right forms.’) These Jews are less “sanitary” than the Catholics? What exactly is going on here?



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mb

posted July 8, 2005 at 12:23 pm


I have not been to SHamp this year and have no knowledge of the “unsanitary” part. I presume the complaining homeowners will specify. The point remains, why does one group get to ignore rules all other homeowners have to obey? If this one group is permitted to flaut the rules, how can the board enforce the rules on other homeowners? (Admittedly, a lot of the rules in SHamp would appear outrageously rigorous in another town. But them’s the rules, it is no secret that they are rigorous in SHamp, and other homeowners must follow them).



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Mike Petrik

posted July 8, 2005 at 12:41 pm


Samuel,
I understand your point about the privileged place of religious instituions, but it is more complicated than that. The First Amendment’s two religious clauses accord both privileges and limitations, so it probably fairest to characterize that “place” as special. In any event, the First Amemdment’s speech clause does permit neutral time, place, and manner restrictions, and it does not seem unfair or troubling to apply that concept to the exercise clause. In any event, I think mb’s point at the very least would suggest that what animates the bitterness here has less to do with religious prejudice as such than the very sense of “privilege” you mention.



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Zhou

posted July 8, 2005 at 2:15 pm


Dear mb,
The Presbyterian Church has been in Southampton since the 1640′s.
The Episcopaleans built St. John’s in 1912, and the Catholics built Our Lady of Poland in 1918.
How old are these “rules” that people are worried about, and who wrote them.
How many Jewish places of worship were there in Shouthampton before this community arrived in 1999? I think the answer is zero. And it is zero all the way back to the 1600′s.
The Rabbi moved in in 1999.
Why did it take 5 years of services every Sabbath for the Village to send a letter saying he “would need to apply for a special exception zoning variance to continue operation as a house of worship in his private residence.” If they didn’t mind for five years, why now?
And why are some citizens filing a suit while the board is trying to decide the the application for a zoning variance? [“the opposition is residents who don’t even live nearby,” Rabbi Konikov said.](Ref.)
The one house between the Jewish Center and the Catholic Church recently sold for $2.4 million, IIRC. Hardly a concern about property values.



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Nancy

posted July 8, 2005 at 2:48 pm


Hey, Zhou, wake up and dig it, these Jews are unsanitary. And no one noticed for five years, but it’s an important issue now, right?



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kathleen reilly

posted July 8, 2005 at 3:38 pm


Zhou, “the rules” are relatively new b/c the place is changing, and quickly. a big concern in southampton is traffic. The place’s appeal lies in its rural character, and the town must go to great lengths to keep it that way. Traffic is a huge problem there already, and chances are that if there were less of it, that 2.4 million dollar house would be worth quite a bit more, trust me.
There are many places with less charm in perfectly close proximity to Southampton to enable worship.



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Susan Peterson

posted July 8, 2005 at 5:11 pm


But doesn’t one have the right to have religious services in one’s own home?
At what point does it become a church or synagogue or “place of worship”? Is there a limit as to how many people one can invite to one’s home for a regular bible study? Can the state impose such a limit?
Susan Peterson



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Susan Peterson

posted July 8, 2005 at 5:27 pm


The Lubbavitchers may have gone about this the wrong way; possibly they did so because they knew they would be refused from the beginning if they did it the right way. Or maybe they just felt they had to right to assemble for worship in a member’s private house without asking anyone’s permission.
I think it is absolutely clear that prejudice against people who dress funny, have too many kids and in general don’t “act like us,” is a major part of why they aren’t wanted there.
As for traffic…don’t they walk to services like the Orthodox? (Can’t drive a car on the Sabbath.)
Where I grew up, Rockland County, has a Hasidic community, New Square. There is a lot of hostility towards them. They were involved in accessing government benefits to an excessive degree, I believe, possibly to a reprehensible degree. But a lot of hostility I hear expressed is toward their lifestyle, weird clothes, too many children, and “how they treat their women.” My sister offered one who was hitchhiking a ride one day, and he asked her if she had her period. She found this offensive, put her foot on the gas and drove off, and has had an onus against them ever since. She can’t get into the frame of mind where the guy has this religious prohibition and has to know whether he is allowed to ride in the car with her, and it is not personal. She thinks that his question means that if she had her period then she would be dirty or disgusting. Well, she has a right to feel that way about his prohibition and a right not to give him a ride either. But not a right to extend her feeling to refusing to have such folks in the neighborhood. And of course the most common comment to hear is “they breed like rabbits, it is disgusting” “I wish I could get one of those women alone so I could tell her about birth control” “How can these women let men do this to them? ” etc. Meanwhile I am looking at a beautiful family having an outing in the park, the father feeding the ducks with the kids off a pier where we used to feed the ducks with our kids when we visited my parents, and I am identifying.
And I do feel that if we don’t stick up for them, it could be us next.
Susan Peterson



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kathleen reilly

posted July 8, 2005 at 7:07 pm


Susan, I very much doubt that in most localities one has “the right” to services in one’s home. That’s why you can’t decide to just make your house into a church. I can almost guarantee there is zoning against such in the Hamptons, though I don’t know this for a fact. The locality can certainly enforce zoning ordinances on a case-by-case basis.



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Nancy

posted July 8, 2005 at 8:49 pm


kathleen,
I live in an exclusive (which means, you better have a lot of money if you want to buy a house here now) town in California. However, nonetheless, I don’t expect the city to police my parties, and if I want to gather some friends here to get drunk, to play Scrabble, to dance, or to worship God, that is my right.
Even if we all were to dress oddly.



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Boniface McInnes

posted July 9, 2005 at 5:03 am


“SHampton after all has the same diverse cuisine that NYC has – it is the basically the same people.”
Maybe if you substitute “8 square blocks of Manhattan” for “NYC”. If you really expect anyone here, even those of us who have never been east of the Mississippi River, to believe that there are a mix of WASPs, Hatians, Dominicans, Jews and Black Americans out in the Hamptons, you must really underestimate our intelligence. (Maybe there are, but I bet they eat whatever is provided to them as servants, and stay in the back room when out of those darling little uniforms.)
No offense to Nancy or Susan Peterson, but jeeze, a certain class of Americans just sicken me. The very idea of excluding Jews as neccessary to protecting the rich man’s aility to play country squire!!! And people wonder why I loathe this nation?
“Those houses would be worth a heck of a lot more than a paltry 2.4 million if those dirty Jews had never moved into the neighborhood”, indeed!



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Nancy

posted July 9, 2005 at 9:18 am


Well, Boniface, I hope someone can talk you out of loathing this nation. That said, however, I cannot but agree with your last paragraph.
My sense here is that this is class war as well as anti-Semitism. Maybe class war period. Now, nice, clean (which means, Like Us) well-behaved Jews/Christins/Whoever who don’t take their religion too seriously or have too many children, and who drive nice cars, well, they’re welcome here any time.
But these Lubbavitchers! Please, my dear! (Not Our Sort!)



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Boniface McInnes

posted July 9, 2005 at 12:33 pm


“Now, nice, clean (which means, Like Us) well-behaved Jews/Christins (sic)/Whoever who don’t take their religion too seriously or have too many children, and who drive nice cars, well, they’re welcome here any time.”
And that, in my experience, is post-war America in a nutshell. (I have no idea what America was actually like before WWII and will not cast judgement based on the testimony of others.) But you have summed up the source of my loathing, at least in part, quite well.
I just don’t see much to love about the society which surrounds me. Quite the contrary. I’m not your average anti-american (we tend to have a mutual detestation for one another) but, barring extraordinary change in the cultural landscape, I’d prefer the importation of the primitive native culture of Oompabamaomao over the death, greed, arrogance and feeble-mindedness surrounding us.



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kathleen reilly

posted July 9, 2005 at 12:55 pm


The jewish people in question weren’t having a party, they were having religious services full stop. Did you read the linked article(s), or are you just venting? Would you say the same if there were jews building bonfires in their backyard? Those aren’t allowed in the Hamptons either.
The Hamptons is not just any exclusive area, it is a special place. It’s old and it looks that way. There are very few places like it in the country (anymore). The local government is trying to protect the atmosphere and they have every right to do so. they have been successful thus far (to a point), which is why people with means buy homes there, including the jewish family in question.
Just because people are religious and have lots of kids doesn’t mean they can’t be called out when they flout the law.



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Nancy

posted July 9, 2005 at 1:57 pm


The jewish people in question weren’t having a party, they were having religious services full stop.
So…..if they had been having a party (or, being convivial sorts, maybe a lot of parties), maybe with a lot of food and music and all that, it would be perfectly OK? And why is that, please?
Or do the Hamptons police everyone’s parties too? Lest the “atmosphere” (whatever that means) be threatened? No birthday parties? (ooo, all those balloons, so tacky, my dear!) So if I lived there, which may God forbid, I’d have to ask the city counsel before I had a party?
And the Catholic Church just down the block doesn’t threaten the “atmosphere”…why? Because it’s old? (The renovated house is presumably also old, and I’d doubt the renovations show from the outside.) Because no one much bothers to go? Because the people who do go don’t dress funny, and being every one of them successful practitioners of NFP, have only one or two children per family?
Now, fond as I am of Boniface (!) I don’t think I can throw in with him entirely. But. He does have a bit of a point.



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Boniface McInnes

posted July 9, 2005 at 3:23 pm


“The Hamptons is not just any exclusive area, it is a special place.”
Why, where else within two hours of Manhattan can the elite be minutes from the beach and (pre)tend potato feilds, away from the odors of mere mortals? And the history!!! Why, right over there, beyond that dune, is where Muffy Livershire invented the prosciutto croissant, when in desperation she had to (gasp) make her own lunch from ingredients in a basket! The scandal! I just marvel at her self-reliance though. What an amazing inspiration for us all when the help leaves us in a lurch, as those lazy ingrates are so prone to do. (Probably off drinking wine from a screw-cap bottle!!!) They should put an historical marker there, but a subtle one which will not detract from the marvelous veiws of sand and salt-water, so unique to this land God and Solomon-Smith-Barney have blessed us with, and which we so richly deserve! Screwing the poor is a hard lot in life, don’t you know?



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Septimus

posted July 9, 2005 at 5:22 pm


If these good folks serve as a Trojan Horse to strike a blow against these wannabe-fascist homeowners rule and restrictions, God bless them, they’ll be doing the cause of human liberty a great service.



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Nancy

posted July 9, 2005 at 5:26 pm


Hooray, Septimus, at last something we agree on. Right on!



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