Two Brooklyn men were arrested last week and charged with a hate crime for cutting the thin wires that form a ritual boundary used by Orthodox Jews in Crown Heights.
Yosef Kratz, 36, and Yosef Doron, 21, were each charged with two counts of attempted criminal mischief as a hate crime. Although the eruv was vandalized three times in three weeks in July, so far, the men have only been charged in one incident, which took place on July 7, police said.
Kratz, who lives on Maple Street in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, and Doron, who lives on Union Street in Crown Heights, were both born in Israel.
The eruv, which was built with private funds, greatly benefits members of Congregation Kol Israel, a largely Modern Orthodox shul founded on St. Johns Place in 1924. It increases by six-fold the area in which observant Jews can carry items and, most importantly, push strollers, during Shabbat.
“As president of the shul it saddens me that zealotry led individuals to go out of their way to break laws,” Kol Israel’s president, Fred Polaniecki, said in an e-mail. “We haven’t had any incidents in several weeks and hope that we all can continue use of our eruv and be able to enjoy Shabbat in harmony with all of our neighbors.”
Acoording to Jewish law, the eruv symbolically extends the boundaries of Jewish homes, allowing Orthodox Jews to carry items and push strollers on Shabbat within eruv’s enclosure. Eruvs are usually made of fishing wire connected to the tops of lampposts. The goal is to encompass an entire Jewish community, allowing congregants to carry such items as food, books and babies to synagogue and homes of friends on Shabbat.
As more Modern Orthodox Jews move into the traditionally chasidic community, the eruv battle has become more heated. As word of the Kol Israel eruv got out, opposition from a contingent of influential Lubavitch rabbis, including several members of the Crown Heights Beit Din (religious court), intensified because in the Lubavitch community the eruv is not valid.
Lubavitch Jews’ guidelines include requiring the lamp poles to be closer together in order to hold the fish wire closer. They oppose large public areas, such as Eastern Parkway, to be included in the eruv.