When news of the eruv in Boulder hit the local paper earlier this month, it sparked four days worth of comments on the Daily Cameras Web site. And while a few of the anonymous notes were supportive, most were not.
It is disturbing to me to see, not necessarily anti-Jewish but anti-religion sentiment online. There is a lot of ignorance, a lot of judgment, said Rabbi Gavriel Goldfeder of Aish Kodesh, Boulders Orthodox synagogue.
The comments indicate an amount of intolerance for a city that prides itself on tolerance.
People in Boulder are supposed to be open minded and accepting, remarked Rachel Sacks, an Orthodox mother of two and an Israeli native who moved to Boulder when she was 10 years old.
I guess organized religion is not under that category.
Members of Aish Kodesh worked hard to raise money and get approval from the city of Boulder for a right of way to build the eruv, a symbolic fence made of wire connected to the utility poles that encircles an area in which Jews can carry items (food, children, toys) on the Sabbath.
This month’s article was not the first about the eruv, nor was it the first to trigger public comments in the newspaper.
Last December, an article about the eruv’s approval by city council appeared shortly before the Christmas holiday. Comments posted in response to that story were overtly anti-Semitic so much so that the Daily Camera removed them from its web site, but not before the ADL’s Amy Stein read them.
“That’s what prompted me to write the op-ed,” said Stein of last years article. ”They weren’t just hurtful things but hateful things said.”
Her words may have had some impact because, as she noted, this time around, the comments were not as hateful.
”With my current read on it,” said Stein, ”I don’t fortunately see anything of the ilk we did in December. Still, we are disheartened to see a mocking of the religion and a lack of understanding becoming a mockery of Judaism.”
Many of the recent comments posted in response to the eruv derided religion from G-d cares about string? One mans religion is another mans belly laugh, to Good thing theyve fooled god so far into thinking they are at home because of an arbitrary boundary line.
“I’m generally tolerant, but I’m not tolerant of ignorance and superstition in the public sphere. . . ”
”Maybe this case is benign, but it just reminds me why religion kills so many. . . ”
”More religious whack-jobbery in the name of political correctness. . . This law was most likely pushed through by the ancient, Orthodox strong lobby. . .”
A few defended the eruv, such as this comment:
”Why don’t we all show some restraint and respect to things that we are unfamiliar with, even if we don’t fully understand or agree with the traditions. I guarantee well all move a little closer to ending hatred violence in this world!”
Other comments claimed that allowing a Jewish organization to lease space to post an eruv was a slippery slope into changing the laws to cater to the religious sect, an idea that is nothing short of ridiculous to Rabbi Goldfeder.
“What are these people afraid of? To isolate one persons personality based on religion is foolish, he said.
”We’re not going to ask to change the laws. There’s a city council and lawyers who will make sure that doesn’t happen. It’s shocking to me that people would think this would happen.”
Sacks said after reading these comments she felt as if people were judging her.
”I know it’s easy for people to write on the Internet, but I wonder if they would really be that critical to my face.”
Perhaps. Perhaps not. What matters here, according to the ADL’s Stein, is that some people in the Boulder community show a lack of acceptance of diversity.
But, she was quick to point out, people seem to be coming around as several comments supported the eruv, even though the people writing those comments admitted to not understanding the tenets of observant Judaism.
In Hebrew, eruv means to come together, explained Stein. “It’s not about pulling people apart. It’s a tool of creating a community. It’s about choice and enabling choice and about people being able to exercise freedom of religion to its fullest extent.”
Having an eruv in Boulder is the beginning of the next phase of the Orthodox community for Rabbi Goldfeder.
”We hope to gain some national attention to provide what Jews need in Boulder: a mikvah, open space, the mountains, yoga.
“Jews,” he explained, ”are looking at a new model of Orthodoxy, one that encompasses spiritual, mental and physical health. Orthodoxy will change and we want to be a part of it.”