Atheists Claim Eruv "Imposes Orthodox Judaism" on Miami Beach, Demand Removal
Two months ago, Riptide reported that residents of Miami Beach were angry that an eruv -- an orthodox Jewish enclosure -- had appeared in Pinetree Park. The sticks and string were an eyesore and an affront to the separation of church and state, one local complained, but the City of Miami Beach backed the eruv.
Photo by Michael E. Miller String from an eruv runs around Pinetree Park
Now a national atheist organization has gotten involved. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has written a letter to the city demanding not only that the eruv in Pinetree Park be dismantled, but that all other public eruvs on the island be taken down.
"The religious significance of eruvin is unambiguous and indisputable," FFRF staff attorney Andrew Seidel wrote yesterday. "They are objects which are significant only to some Jews as a means to obey religious laws that have no bearing on non-adherents. They have no meaning except as a visual, public communication of a purely religious concept for religious believers of a single faith. The City cannot allow such permanent religious displays to be erected on public land."
This debate is nothing new.
During the Sabbath -- which begins at sundown Friday and lasts until nightfall Saturday -- Orthodox Jews are prohibited by scripture from engaging in a number of otherwise routine activities. One rule prevents the "carrying" of any object outside the home, whether keys or kids.
An eruv is a symbolic structure that blurs the boundary between private and public areas, allowing Orthodox Jews to leave their houses and push their children around in strollers on the Sabbath.
An eruv was erected around Miami Beach back in 1985. For much of the island, the seawall is considered enough of a structure to serve as an eruv. However, where there are breaks in the seawall, such as at a recently built kayak ramp in Pinetree Park, an elaborate network of ceremonial sticks and string must be maintained by local rabbis.
In 1999, orthodox Jewish residents of Tenafly, New Jersey, sued the city for the right to put up an eruv. A federal appeal court ultimately sided with the orthodox Jews but didn't address the underlying question of whether eruvs should be allowed on public land.
The issue has flared from time to time. In 2002, New Times covered the ACLU's complaints about the eruv around Miami Beach.
Now it's FFRF's turn to fire away.
"Allowing Orthodox Jews to permanently demarcate large areas of public property as a private Jewish household that is 'property' of the Orthodox Jewish community forces those of other faiths and no faith to live within an Orthodox Jewish religious enclosure," Seidel says in the letter.