By Jeanette Steele
SIGN ON SAN DIEGO
September 19, 2006
After accusations and denials of anti-Semitism were thrown around at City Hall, a La Jolla synagogue will be allowed to create a symbolic boundary using city streets.
The San Diego City Council voted unanimously yesterday to support Congregation Adat Yeshurun, despite the concerns of opponents who said a religious symbol has no business in the public right of way and that it will encourage “resegregation” in a neighborhood with a history of discrimination against Jews.
Members of the Orthodox synagogue were overjoyed by the council decision.
“I can tell you personally that the impact on our families will be tremendous,” said David Kupferberg. “This is something that is life-changing.”
Opponents were passionate about their many objections, including the argument that the boundary, or eruv, would be an eyesore that detracts from the enjoyment of living in La Jolla.
“Why should a resident have to look out their windows and within 3 to 6 feet see eruv lines, adapters or reflectors that are only used by a specific religious group?” said Misti Coleman of La Jolla.
Congregation Adat Yeshurun will start work as soon as possible on the boundary, which will encircle about 8 square miles of La Jolla and University City. Parts of it will consist of a clear, 20-foot-high wire that looks like fishing line.
Orthodox Jews' religious beliefs prohibit them from carrying anything outside the home during the Sabbath, from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.
That means 285 families who attend the synagogue on La Jolla Scenic Drive can't carry their children or push a wheelchair en route to Sabbath services, they say.
Eruvs help observant Orthodox Jews by symbolically extending the area they consider “home” to mean public space within the boundary. An eruv allows synagogue members to push their children in strollers, walk with a cane or carry food to a friend's home for Sabbath dinner.
More than 100 U.S. cities have allowed eruvs for their more traditional Jewish residents, including Los Angeles and New York. In Washington, D.C., the White House and the Supreme Court building sit within an eruv.
The concept has stirred controversy in some cities. In Tenafly, N.J., the issue went to a federal appeals court before the city allowed an eruv that had been erected without permits.
A College Area synagogue was the first in San Diego to erect an eruv after the City Council passed an ordinance in 2001 allowing the wires in the public right of way. Chabad of University City received approval in June to erect a boundary, but construction has not begun.
The San Diego Planning Commission granted Congregation Adat Yeshurun permission for an eruv in June, but the La Jolla Shores Association appealed the decision.
Association chairwoman Sherri Lightner told the City Council that the public right of way shouldn't be used by private groups without taxpayer compensation.
Lightner said another concern is risk to pedestrians should a wire break and fall. She also argued that it is wrong to erect wires when the city is working to place La Jolla utility lines underground.
Councilman Jim Madaffer said the arguments of people testifying against the eruv smacked of anti-Semitism.
“I just think there are people in La Jolla that simply still don't like folks of the Jewish faith,” Madaffer said, adding later, “All I can say is get over it.”
Madaffer and some synagogue members also pointed out that at one time La Jolla property restrictions didn't allow Jews to buy homes there.
Council President Scott Peters, who represents La Jolla, defended theeruv opponents.
“I don't want to suggest that I agree that's what's animating this discussion,” Peters said.
“It's not fair to say nothing's changed in La Jolla since ... 1973. If you look at the list of community leaders in La Jolla, Jewish leaders are prominent on that list.”
The La Jolla eruv proposal calls for about 4,700 feet of monofilament line, mostly at intersections where the boundary line needs to cross a street. The rest of the demarcation would use “natural” boundaries, such as existing fences. Six new stop sign-style poles would need to be installed, five existing ones would be replaced and two poles would be extended.
San Diego is possibly the first city to make eruvs include reflective strips of tape to alert birds to the wires. Beth Jacob Congregation in the College Area was required to use the strips. The City Council told the La Jolla synagogue yesterday that it can hold off until someone shows proof that the eruv wire is harmful to wildlife.