Janet Suzman must be very unhappy living in London. Her equilibrium is being threatened by a daily reminder of religious practices that she views as ‘anachronistic’. She is, apparently, referring to the proposed eruv for the Camden area. Living in London and England where there is a plethora of Churches (some cannot be far from her windows), where the English flag itself bears a religious symbol must be torture for her secular soul. Invoking an anachronistic God to do something as outdated as ‘saving’ the queen in the national anthem must bring agony. Driving or traveling near Regent’s Park where, apart from the Churches, there is a very prominent domed and ornate reminder of yet another religious set of practises she may or may not find outmoded in the form of the Regent’s Park Mosque, must be simply unbearable. All of these reminders are patently obvious and open expressions of religion. Whether Ms Suzman finds these distressing or distasteful, we cannot know for certain as she has not appeared to take any public action against them. A church, a flag or a coat of arms is a more obvious public expression. The giant Menorahs that the Chabad erect at Chanukah are a clear public reminder of religious practises and ideas. The Chanuka menorah itself is meant to serve as a reminder.
What is strange is that an eruv, a combination of a few poles and wires in addition to existing structures looks nothing like a religious article. There are numerous poles and wires in Camden, as well as elsewhere, that do not invoke thoughts of any beliefs or practises anachronistic or even futuristic for that matter. In a country where crosses abound it is these apparently neutral items, a few poles and wires, that offend the secular sensitivities of Ms Suzman. Has she toured Italy and been appalled by the anachronistic imagery in the art and architecture? Maybe both Wembley and the Olympic stadiums offend. Both those structures have far more poles and wires in them than the average eruv. The structures of an eruv have nothing specifically Jewish about them. They are not comprised or inscribed with Jewish symbols or Hebrew lettering. They do not even have big noses.
What is so difficult about a few poles and wires? Why should a person who is comfortable, it would seem, declaring themselves to be a ‘secular Jew’ be so uncomfortable by a few poles and wires which would facilitate the appearance on the streets of a few more baby buggies on Saturdays?
Rabbi Craig Levin
(Sent to Jewish News, published 27 September 2012)
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