Eruv decision a win for the community

All smiles: Yair Miller (centre) with other Jewish members of the St Ives community, directly after Ku-ring-gai Council’s decision to approve the St Ives Eruv. Photo: Shane Desiatnik

CRIES of “mazal tov” echoed inside a packed Ku-ring-gai Council chambers on Tuesday night when, after an often heated two-hour debate following months of uncertainty, the St Ives eruv was approved by a resounding 8-2 margin.

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBOD) chief executive Vic Alhadeff – who in September slammed the St Ives Progress Association (SIPA) for distributing pamphlets against the eruv that he labelled “textbook anti-Semitism” – told The AJN on Wednesday: “We applaud Ku-ring-gai Council for its 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,” Alhadeff said.

Member for Ku-ring-gai Alister Henskens told The AJN he always maintained the eruv “will have a negligible impact on the community”.

“I am very glad that a strong majority of the Council decided the matter on its merits and supported continuing tolerance and harmony in our community,” Henskens said.

Davidson MP Jonathan O’Dea told The AJN, “It was important that proper process was followed, and it has been”.

“It is important now that the community accepts and respects Council’s decision.

“My personal view is that it [the eruv] is harmless,” O’Dea said.

Hornsby MP Matt Keane told The AJN, “Council’s decision was overwhelmingly a victory for tolerance, diversity and strengthening of community, in the face of fear, intolerance and the ugly side of Australian politics.”

Jewish speakers from the public stressed during the debate how much the eruv improves the lives of observant Jews, has no negative impact on other residents, and acts as “a device of inclusion rather than division”.

Adam Kellerman said, “I see this as an incredible opportunity to enhance peace and equality in this area – if there is oppression on one of us, there is oppression on all of us.”

The large Jewish contingent in the gallery was heartened by strong words of support from several Christian members of the public – particularly St Ives resident Anita Stucken – who said, “There is no place for exclusion, discrimination or anti-Semitism.”

“As a Christian, I found the post box flyers circulating a few weeks ago [by SIPA] horrific.

“None of us should remain silent in the face of such awful rhetoric.

“Let us be real – these [Jewish] people are our neighbours, our friends – let us not discriminate based on faith.”

Reverend Michael Kellahan said, “This really isn’t a question about plastic poles – this really is a question of religious freedom.”

Members of the public who spoke against the eruv claimed it was “illegally constructed” and “unlawful”, despite a Council report that confirmed “there are no technical reasons to refuse the application”.

Some went further, making controversial comments describing the eruv’s boundaries as “tentacles”, and that it would make St Ives “a religious enclave”.

When presenting her motion to approve the application, Councillor Chantelle Fernari-Osmond said, “I will vote on the basis of my personal, life experiences and values, knowing it [the application] is technically sound – the Jewish faith is a peaceful faith. That’s why I will be supporting this motion.”

Ku-ring-gai Deputy Mayor David Ossip said during the debate, “The eruv has been a part of the Jewish population for over 2000 years – it is an instrument of integration.”

Councillors Elaine Malicki and Christiane Berlioz voted against the application.

SHANE DESIATNIK