A furious councillor has hit out at ‘disgusting and downright anti-semitic’ comments made about plans to create a Jewish enclosure known as an ‘eruv’.
Coun David Meller told of his anger over remarks which said proposals to create a ‘symbolic boundary’ in Stockport would ‘ghettoise’ Gatley and were tantamount to the Jewish community ‘marking their territory’.
Speaking at a meeting of Cheadle Area Committee he said such views were ‘completely unacceptable’ and deserved to be called out.
An eruv is a boundary recognised in Jewish law that allows activities to be carried out on the Sabbath – sunset on Friday till nightfall on Saturday – that would otherwise be restricted.
This includes carrying keys or medicine, or pushing wheelchairs or prams.
While a ‘natural eruv’ exists in Cheadle and Gatley, made up of existing walls and fences, there are gaps across some roads and footpaths that require symbolic bridging to complete it.
In order to do this a planning application has been made by the Cheadle and Gatley Eruv Committee, established by members of the Yeshurun Hebrew Congregation in Cheadle.
It requests permission to erect pairs of six metre high poles strung with transparent nylon wire at 35 points around Cheadle and Gatley. The poles are said to be ‘virtually imperceptible’ once in place.
The proposals went before Cheadle area committee last night (Tuesday) ahead of going to the council’s planning and licensing committee for a decision.
Coun Meller spoke in support of the application, adding that diversity was one of Cheadle’s ‘amazing selling points’ and the eruv would ensure better integration of the Jewish community.
“This will support a community that has been in Cheadle now for decades, we have done a lot of work with the Asian community and it’s time, I would argue, to support the Jewish community here as well,” he said.
However, he then turned his attention to objections that had been lodged with the council and other comments he had seen online.
He said: “I have got to say, some of them are absolutely disgusting. Some of the comments I have seen are an absolute disgrace.
“I’m going to read them out now because I think they need to be aired and they need to be called out. One comment said it would ghettoise Gatley – absolutely disgusting – (another) that it was the Jewish community marking their territory. Downright anti-semitism, absolutely unacceptable.
“The comments I have seen online coupled with the comments made in terms of the objection need to be called out. They are absolutely not right and I hope as a committee we can call them out.”
Coun Meller, who represents Cheadle Hulme North, called on the committee to join him in condemning the remarks.
“We have a duty to speak against those objections which have come through, which, in my view, are plainly anti-semitic, as well as the comments which have been made online as well,” he said.
Members of the committee echoed Coun Meller’s remarks, including Coun Tom Morrison who said the comment about ghettoisation ‘turned his blood cold’, while chair Coun Anna Charles-Jones said, though not all objections were anti-semitic, some ‘truly disgusting’ representations had been made.
Earlier in the meeting the committee heard from eruv project manager Martin Katz.
He said the boundary would have no impact on others but allow observant Jews with mobility issues – including the elderly, very young and infirm – to take part in activities on the Sabbath from which they were currently excluded.
Coun Keith Holloway questioned how effective the eruv would be, as those living at the furthest points from the synagogue would still have to be pushed ‘a huge distance’ of around two miles.
Mr Katz said that, while very important, benefits for wheelchair users were only one aspect of the boundary’s purpose.
“It’s not just wheelchair users the eruv benefits,” he said. “The eruv benefits young families with pushchairs, it allows people to socialise and carry goods from one house to another and it allows the carrying of medication and other important things that a person might need on the Sabbath.”
And responding to objectors’ suggestions there could be a rise in anti-semitism, he said his experience was that eruvs ‘greatly increase social cohesion’ between the Jewish and non-Jewish community.
The committee also heard from Gatley resident Sajad Akbar, who spoke against the application.
He said his biggest concern was the eruv’s ‘impact on the street scene’, adding that he ‘didn’t really buy’ claims there would be limited visual intrusion.
The Firs Road resident added that there must be a ‘less intrusive system’ that could be deployed and offered to share potential ‘technological solutions’ at a later date.
However, the committee agreed with Coun Adrian Nottingham who said it would be ‘ludicrous’ to refuse a development that appeared to protect religious freedoms while having ‘no real impact’ on the rights of others.
It unanimously supported the planning officer’s recommendation to grant planning permission.
The application will also be discussed by the Bramhall and Cheadle Hulme South area committee on Thursday.
A decision will then be made by the council’s planning and highways committee on September 10.