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Ku-ring-gai Council has approved the Jewish eruv in St Ives in a landmark decision



Jessica Rapana, North Shore Times

An overflowing council chamber erupted into applause on Tuesday night when Ku-ring-gai Council approved the St Ives eruv.

The lengthy battle over the religious device, which was erected last year, came to a head this week when the council voted, 8-2, in favour of the eruv, which has divided the community for more than half a decade.

More than 200 residents squeezed into the council chamber on Tuesday night to witness the landmark decision, acknowledged by speakers as “one of the biggest we will make” and “one that will stand out as unique”.

Residents addressing the council argued passionately for and against the eruv, urging the council to “deal kindly and justly” and to take the matter “very seriously”.

Orthodox Jewish residents, including young mothers, elderly and disabled, told councillors how they would be prevented from leaving their houses on weekends if the eruv was removed. Non-Jewish residents also supported the eruv.

Resident Anita Shephard said she had been “a little concerned”, worrying she would be “made to feel like an intruder” and picturing a wall “similar to the one Donald Trump wants to build”.

Instead she had felt a “real sense of community”, she said.

Other speakers rallied against the eruv, condemning the Jewish community for “taking the law into their own hands” after the council rejected an eruv bid in 2011.

St Ives Progress Association’s Peter Moate said the eruv had been erected “in a clandestine manner”.
Others warned the retrospective approval of the eruv – which, they said, was erected illegally – could set a dangerous precedent.
Councillors then went on to debate the issue, considering both the “technicalities and social impacts”.

Independent councillor Elaine Malicki urged councillors to defer the decision, arguing the application was incomplete after suggestions there were conduits which had not been included in the application.

However, she and independent councillor Christiane Berlioz were outvoted on this with the remaining councillors voting down the amendment, after advice from council staff that the original motion was valid.

Deputy mayor David Ossip dismissed suggestions approval could set a precedent.
“This a unique case ... I know this because I work with precedents every single day,” Cr Ossip, a lawyer, said.

He added not all conduits in St Ives were for the eruv and, regardless, councillors needed only to consider the list in the motion.
“Whether that constitutes a functional eruv or not is not our concern that’s a matter for the applicant.”

The council approved the matter 8-2.

COMMUNITY PRAISES COUNCIL DECISION

Jewish paralympic champion Adam Kellerman has joined the chorus of praise for Ku-ring-gai Council after its decision to approve the St Ives eruv this week. Mr Kellerman, who is in a wheelchair, was one of 10 speakers who argued in support of the eruv at the council meeting on Tuesday.

He told councillors those most affected would be “young mothers, the elderly and disabled people like myself” who could not move around on Sabbath.Yesterday, he said the outcome would “benefit the whole community”.

“It doesn’t really have any negative impact on anyone, I think that’s really important to recognise because there were a lot of statements made last night against the eruv but I didn’t hear any individuals say ‘it negatively impacts me in this way’ ... so I’m very glad that the verdict came back the way it did.”

“For any disabled person who uses any kid of wheelchair or walking device, it’s incredibly important that they stay involved in community activity.”

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Vic Alhadeff also applauded the “sensible decision”.
“The eruv enables Jewish residents of St Ives to observe their faith in an innocuous way and we can all now put this issue behind us and move on,” he said.

Freedom for faith executive director Reverend Michael Kellahan said he was happy with the resolving of the issue, which had always had the Christian backing.

“The Christian support was always there but, given what was taking place, we wanted to make that explicit.
“The real effect on the Jewish community would’ve been so many of them would’ve been housebound and the reason for that was because of their beliefs.

“I have great hope at a local level, it will get people talking about those beliefs and not seeing them as barriers,” Mr Kellahan said.

Ku-ring-gai mayor Jennifer Anderson said she was pleased the matter had been resolved through an impartial process by which residents could express their views.

“The Council’s duty was to assess the application on its merits and ensure proper process was followed, which has been done.”

Members from the St Ives Progress Association, who actively rallied against the eruv and warned it would create a “Jewish enclave”, did not respond to the North Shore Times’ request for comment.

COMMENT

I had never heard of an eruv a year ago.
Reporting on the arguments for and against the eruv in St Ives has been an educational experience, enlightening me to the Jewish faith and its traditions.

Yet to this day, I struggle to comprehend how such a harmless structure can have generated so much fear and intolerance.

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