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City Council gives green light to symbolic Jewish barrier

The City Council hearing, which was necessary after the La Jolla Shores Association appealed the city Planning Commission’s earlier approval of the project, ended with council members disagreeing about whether anti-Semitism was behind the protracted debate over the symbolic boundary. Council member Jim Madaffer noted that two other eruvs have been approved in San Diego with little to no opposition in their respective neighborhoods.

“The Chabad eruv (in University City), there was no incident, no complaints,” Madaffer said. “Then again, we’re talking about La Jolla here.”

Madaffer said he believed the actual impacts of an eruv on a community were negligible and that opponents of the plan had other motivations to oppose the project.

“This appeal and debate totally amazed me,” Madaffer said. “I’m sorry, but I think there are still folks in La Jolla who simply don’t like folks of the Jewish faith. This is strictly a public-use issue. This is poles and a line, and all I can say is, ‘Get over it.’ ”

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The Adat Yeshurun eruv will encircle about eight square miles of La Jolla and University City and will be bordered roughly by Torrey Pines Road on the west, La Jolla Village Drive on the north, Interstate 5 on the east and La Jolla Parkway on the south.

The symbolic boundary, which by Jewish law exempts Orthodox Jews from rules against carrying anything outside their homes on the Sabbath, is comprised mostly of natural barriers such as steep hills. But the synagogue needed to use about 4,800 feet of monofilament line strung from light posts 20 feet above the ground to complete the circuit of the barrier in certain places in La Jolla and University City.

Most of the lines would be in the University Community Plan area, where the local planning group voted unanimously to approve the project last December. The project met much stiffer oppostion in La Jolla, where opponents argued that the line would create visual clutter and create dangerous conditions should the lines break and fall, and that the public right of way should not be used for the purposes of a private religious organization.

The La Jolla Shores Association voted to deny the project. The La Jolla Community Planning Association, which is the city-recognized advisory group for the community, voted unanimously to deny it in March. The Community Planning Association’s vote, along with the approval vote from University City, served to advise the city Planning Commission when it voted to approve the project in June.

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The Adat Yeshurun eruv will be the third in San Diego. Congregation Beth Jacob built one about two years ago in the San Diego State University neighborhood, and Chabad of University City received approval for an eruv in June but has yet to construct it. Both of those proposals met considerably less opposition than the Adat Yeshurun eruv, but City Council President Scott Peters, who represents La Jolla, said he didn’t believe anti-Semitism was the cause of the debate.

“It’s not fair to say nothing’s changed in La Jolla,” Peters said. “If you look at the list of community leaders in La Jolla, Jewish leaders are prominent on that list. I can’t say that in any deliberation of a public issue there’s not some prejudice, but I think that was not the motivation.”

Council member Donna Frye also disagreed with Madaffer’s statements.

“A lot of the people who spoke (in opposition) today, I know very well,” she said. “It’s hurtful to hear these things said about them not liking Jewish people.”

La Jolla resident Annette Ritchie-Buis, who came to the City Council hearing in opposition to the proposal, said that she was not motivated by anti-Semitism, adding that she was a member of Congregation Beth El and that she was supportive when her daughter considered converting to Judaism.

“I was concerned that isolation would contribute to a rise in anti-Semitism,” she said.

Former Adat Yeshurun President David Kupferberg said the eruv would improve the lives of his congregation in ways he could not articulate. Throughout the debate over the project, the synagogue argued that the eruv would most benefit families with young children, who would be allowed to carry or push their children in strollers, and the elderly, who could walk with a cane or who use a wheelchair. Those activities are forbidden on the Sabbath outside of one’s home or an eruv.

Kupferberg said construction of the eruv would begin soon.

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“This is a wonderful day for the synagogue and the community and democracy,” Kupferberg said. “This is wonderful