Suzman attacks Hampstead eruv

Opposition to an eruv in Hampstead has been spearheaded by local actress, Dame Janet Suzman, attacking the “superstitious” practice.

In a letter to the Ham & High newspaper, the self-described secular Jew said that she was “bamboozled by the idea of religious paraphernalia being foisted on those who haven’t asked for it”.

Camden Council officials are considering a plan submitted earlier this summer for a Sabbath boundary, to run next to the nine-year-old North-West London eruv.

Under Jewish law, it is forbidden to carry, or push wheelchairs or prams outside the confines of one’s home on Shabbat. An eruv is a talmudic device which symbolically converts an area into a public domain, inside which one may carry permitted objects.

While eruv borders are mostly defined by railways, rivers or major roads, in some places they are marked by gateways of poles linked by wire. The proposed Camden/Hampstead eruv would require the erection of 92 poles.

Dame Janet wrote: “The idea of a constant daily reminder, bang outside of my door… of religious practices which I find, if not anachronistic, then superstitious is not a happy one…

“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 other residents also wrote to the paper to express consternation at the proposed siting of poles in a conservation area with historic homes.

But Rabbi Shlomo Levin, of South Hampstead Synagogue, the main sponsor of the project, believed that objections to displays of religion in public “did not have much impact on planning considerations”.

He observed: “The wire is completely invisible. If you take people to look at an eruv and you say here it is, they can’t find it.” The rabbi — like Dame Janet, of South African origin — said: “We don’t want to clutter Hampstead as much as anyone else doesn’t want it cluttered.”

Last updated: 3:20pm, September 6 2012