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Dame Janet Suzman speaks out over Camden Eruv Jewish boundary plan

PUBLISHED: 12:00 31 August 2012 | UPDATED: 12:25 31 August 2012

Janet Suzman

Janet Suzman

Clare Park

Tight-lipped opponents to plans for a special Jewish boundary through the heart of Hampstead have broken their silence for the first time in letters to the Ham&High.

Synagogues in Camden have applied for an 18-mile boundary line – formed by a mixture of natural landscape and thin wire – to be drawn up around Hampstead, Belsize Park, Gospel Oak, South Hampstead and West Hampstead.

The enclosure would allow Orthodox Jews to carry out simple tasks on the Sabbath such as carrying and pushing, and would let them move around more freely.

But opponents to the plans have spoken out following news that the scheme has received 600 letters of support.

Actor Dame Janet Suzman, who describes herself as a “secular Jew”, has called for the scope of the debate around the Camden Eruv to be widened from a simple planning issue to a discussion of how different faiths co-exist in the community.

In a letter to the Ham&High, the 73-year-old South African-born actor from Keats Grove, said: “I am bamboozled by the idea of religious paraphernalia being foisted on those who haven’t asked for it and don’t want it cluttering up the place.

“The idea of a constant daily reminder, bang outside my door, indeed anyone’s door, of religious practises which I find, if not anachronistic, then superstitious, is not a happy one.

“I have less than no objection to such practises taking place, if they must, but please, please, not to ruin the townscapes of a beautiful part of town, nor be made part of my daily grind.

“I don’t wish to be forcibly reminded of beliefs which play no part in my life, even though I may respect them well enough in another’s, but from a distance.”

A group of residents from the village has also written to the Ham&High complaining that Hampstead’s heritage heartland will suffer the most from the proposed boundary.

Poles would be put up near one of John Constable’s summer houses, outside Grade II-listed Capo di Monte in Windmill Hill where actor Sarah Siddons lived in the early 1800s and near a home owned by art historian and TV presenter Lord Kenneth Clark, in Upper Terrace.

Christine Pullen, a literary historian who lived in Hampstead Garden Suburb when the North West London Eruv was being built in 2003 and now lives in Hampstead, said: “I had reservations about speaking out about this but when I saw the plans I thought just how intrusive it was going to be in Hampstead.”

Camden planning officials are set to consider the plans, but no date has yet been set for a hearing.

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