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Meeting held to find 'reconciliation' over Bushey eruv poles
More than 70 people attended a public meeting about the controversial eruv in Bushey.
Last August plans to erect a Jewish eruv, which will consist predominantly of 5.5 metre-high steel poles in 25 locations across Bushey, were approved by Hertsmere Borough Council.
However, the application, lodged on behalf of Bushey United Synagogue, met with opposition and a meeting was held at the synagogue on Thursday of last week to try to "bring the community together".
However, several residents did not attend due to the presence of security.
Gay Butler did not attend but spoke against the application in August.
The 67-year-old Chiltern Avenue resident said: "The meeting was perceived as offensive by some residents. To expose members of the community to a security search was hardly conducive to a community building meeting.
"To try and resolve the turmoil that the poles and wires have caused did not need a meeting in the synagogue, but on neutral ground."
The retired teacher continued: "While the Rabbi said the Eruv was on the agenda, it was clear that it was not to reconsider the proposed poles and wires or to discuss it in relation to the planning application that the majority of the community found so upsetting. This is why I did not attend and probably accounts for the poor attendance."
The religious boundary around Bushey will turn the town into an area where strict Sabbath rules are relaxed for orthodox Jews, such as carrying or transporting items like wheelchairs, pushchairs and handkerchiefs.
Councillor Carey Keates, a Conservative representative for the Bushey St James ward spoke against the application in August.
He attended the meeting along with other councillors and it was said it was "generally very good-natured".
He said: "While clearly some tensions remain between the communities, it was clear that those were considerably reduced by the meeting.
"The tensions are clearly not yet over for everybody, but I feel we may have turned a corner on the road to reconciliation."
James Haftel, a member of the synagogue who is in a wheelchair, said at the meeting: "I have been disabled all my life. This is not about exclusion, it is about inclusion.
"The laws of an eruv mean I can’t obligate someone to push me to a synagogue.
"That is why we need an eruv. It is not so that I can suddenly force my religion on people. It is so I can keep my religion and feel part of a community and not feel bad if someone wants to push me."
Resident Tony Breslin said he did not think the proposals should go ahead without "significantly more support from the community".
The 51-year-old who lives in Herkomer Road, said: "I thought the meeting was worthwhile and was conducted in good spirit, even though it came quite late.
"We need to find reconciliation between those who want the eruv and those who don’t.
"Bushey has always been a diverse community. A place where people get on well. What matters most is that the sense of community is retained.
"Silence is not an option. We are unfortunate to have got to where we are but there is a way forward if there is a sustained effort by the synagogue to win the hearts of the wider community."
Stephen Roston, chairman of Bushey United Synagogue, said: "The evening went very well. We aimed to bring the community together, and I think that has been achieved.
"Everyone from the Bushey area was invited so for those that didn’t come it was their choice not to attend, but we are always open for dialogue."
Mr Roston, who has been at the synagogue for almost 30 years, said in hindsight the meeting could have been held sooner.
He continued: "We probably could have had bigger discussions before the planning permission had been granted, to clear up misunderstandings. However, we have held the meeting now and we are not looking backwards only forwards."
With regards to security, Mr Roston added: "Security was necessary because of threats made everywhere around the world.
"We have security for the protection of our guests as if something was to happen and one was injured in any way then we would be accused of not worrying."
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