Barnet Council has approved plans for a local eruv despite the opposition of a Tory councillor who said that the religious boundary would be “marketing the place as a Jewish area”.
High Barnet councillor David Longstaff, cabinet member for safety and resident engagement, challenged the proposal at a planning sub-committee meeting at the town hall on Monday.
Councillor Longstaff — who is not a planning committee member — said: “It is possible that [the eruv] would attract people into the area, but it’s also possible that these poles are going up as marketing.”
He quoted actress Dame Janet Suzman as saying: “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.”
Councillor Longstaff said that her view “is pretty much the feeling of the residents of High Barnet,” but neglected to mention that it was lifted from a letter from Dame Janet — who describes herself as a secular Jew — to the Ham & High opposing a Hampstead eruv.
Barnet Synagogue’s Rabbi Barry Lerer told the hearing that the eruv would meet the “religious needs of the residents” who would otherwise be prohibited from, for example, pushing wheelchairs or buggies on Shabbat.
The synagogue will be at the centre of the eruv, comprising 18 poles connected by translucent wire. Councillor Longstaff argued that residents would “notice the poles whether you paint them in camouflage”.
Jewish Tory councillor Daniel Seal said afterwards: “It would be unfair of me to comment on what Councillor Longstaff said as I was not there in person. But I’m 100 per cent pro-eruv and will make sure all councillors know how important they are.”