Opponents accuse Jewish minority of ‘religious encroachment’ as Eruv plans split Camden community
11:10 08 July 2014
A bid to build an Orthodox Jewish boundary in parts of West Hampstead and Swiss Cottage has split residents and led to accusations of religious encroachment.
Proposals for the boundary of poles and wires – known as an eruv – were submitted to Camden Council last month, marking out an area within which Jews can carry out activities deemed as work and banned during the Sabbath.
This includes pushing a trolley or pram, carrying shopping or keys, and pushing a wheelchair.
To mark out the area, the Brondesbury Eruv would see pairs of poles, each up to 5.5m high, with clear fishing wire running between them at 15 locations across West Hampstead and Swiss Cottage, as well as Kilburn and Fortune Green.
Brondesbury Park Synagogue said the zone is needed to accommodate the needs of its “growing community”.
It said: “The erection of an eruv not only relaxes an ancient religiously-held prohibition for the benefit of all observant Jewish residents but, more significantly, it allows those who are disabled, as well as those who are carers of disabled adults or pre-ambulant children, to leave the confines of their homes on Friday evenings and Saturdays.”
But a number of residents have written to the council to oppose the proposals.
While many argued that the poles would leave streets looking “cluttered” and would “disfigure attractive neighbourhoods”, others said the plans represented a wider threat of religion “encroaching on public spaces”.
One resident wrote: “I do not feel it is appropriate to enforce these on the public just for religious reasons and especially in open spaces.
“If these go ahead, it opens the floodgates for anybody to erect whatever they like.”
Another added: “I will be able to see this piece of street furniture from several windows in my apartment and have no desire to do so.
“We have enough stuff in our streets already; lines painted on roads, etcetera, and this is some more eyesore. Please stop. Enough already.”
Other residents expressed concerns that the use of nylon fishing wire would be a threat to bird life.
One Jewish father-of-three, who has a child with special needs, wrote: “Effectively we are housebound on Saturdays due to the lack of an eruv. Having lived temporarily in Golders Green [where an eruv already exists] we noticed a marked improvement in the quality of life and family time as we were not effectively confined to our home every Saturday.
“Acceptance of the application will further enrich the cultural diversity of Camden and make our lives so much easier.”