An outspoken critic of the newly-approved Bushey eruv has been accused of adopting “deplorable anti-Semitic overtones” by warning of a “Jewish lobby” and attempts to “socially engineer” the 24,000 resident area. By Jack Mendel
Gay Butler of Bushey Residents Group, formed two years ago to protest the eruv, told the Watford Observer that the religious boundary, which got the go-ahead last month, was an “appalling abuse of ordinary law-abiding residents”.
Butler said: [Bushey Synagogue] have manipulated and misled the people of Bushey as to the true reason for the eruv i.e. to socially engineer and substantially grow the Jewish community, thereby identifying Bushey, like Golders Green, as a Jewish area.”
An eruv is an area linked by small stretches of fishing wire, in which activities otherwise prevented in public on Shabbat under Jewish law – such as pushing wheelchairs or carrying bags – are permitted. The eruv therefore turns a public space into a private space, shared by the community.
Butler said it was “an appalling abuse” and that “religious dogma” would now be imposed, adding that Jewish law was “discriminatory” and was “greatly incompatible with true democratic hard-fought freedom and equality”.
Her comments conclude by stating a “thirst to redress the powerful Jewish lobby in Hertsmere” and asking: “Why are Jews exempt from the law?”
Stephen Roston, chairman of Bushey & District Synagogue, said the comments “contained profoundly unpleasant anti-Semitic themes,” painting “Jewish involvement as surreptitious and subverting the democratic process.”
He added: “She claims that we have been manipulative and misled the local community. It has never been our intention to ‘socially engineer’ Bushey so it could be labelled as a Jewish area.”
Pater Hammond, another member of the Bushey Residents Group, spoke to Jonathan Vernon-Smith’s radio show on BBC Three Counties, addressing the Jewish community’s “shock and concern” as a result of the comments.
Hammond said he did not oppose the eruv itself but the lack of consultation surrounding it, adding: “It’s put forward as something to make it easier for Orthodox Jews to live on the Sabbath, but Jewish leaders often say, after the creation of an eruv, that they look forward to a ‘substantial growth in our community,’ and there’s something undemocratic about that.”
Asked to explain the use of the term “social engineering,” Hammond said: “Between 2001 and 2011, the Jewish population of Barnet increased by 14,500, and that is where this term ‘social engineering’ has come from.”