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Eruv Vandalism Investigated as a Hate Crime in Crown Heights, NYPD Says

 Flyers posted along Kingston Avenue in Crown Heights after the new
Flyers posted along Kingston Avenue in Crown Heights after the new "Greater Crown Heights" eruv was erected explain "there is no eruv in our community."
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Andrea Karshan

CROWN HEIGHTS — Repeated vandalism to a newly built eruv in the neighborhood is being investigated by the NYPD’s Hate Crime Task Force, the NYPD said Wednesday.

The eruv, a religious enclosure made of string hung between light poles and walls, was cut multiple times in Crown Heights following an uproar over the symbolic boundary between the Lubavitch Jewish community — which traditionally does not use eruvs — and a Modern Orthodox synagogue who pushed to build the structure.

Hate crime investigators took over the case this week from detectives at the 77th Precinct, sources said.

Following its official opening in mid-June by Congregation Kol Israel, the Modern Orthodox synagogue located at 603 St. Johns Pl., vandals destroyed the eruv's lines, which symbolizes the area where observant Jews may carry or move items outside the home on the Sabbath.

The destruction of the spiritual border took place in multiple locations on July 8 and 14 inside the borders of the new Greater Crown Heights Eruv, stretching from Pacific Street to Clarkson Avenue from north to south and from Prospect Park and Washington Avenue to Buffalo Avenue from west to east.

The above map, created by the Congregation Kol Israel, shows where the Greater Crown Heights eruv (in grey) has been erected. Two smaller eruvs built previously by the synagogue are depicted in blue and purple.

As of Wednesday, no suspects have been identified in the case, police said.

The pushback against the ritual enclosure included strongly worded letters from Lubavitch rabbis condemning the eruv, flyers posted in the neighborhood forbidding its use and harassment of Lubavitchers who supported its construction, those familiar with the project said.

Eruvs have been built elsewhere in the city, country and around the world; with them, controversy often follows.

But in the Modern Orthodox tradition, eruvs have become “standard,” said a trustee at Kol Israel, Naftali Hanau.

“Modern Orthodox people who are growing up today and now starting families, nearly all of them grew up in communities with eruvs," he said. “They're all over the place. It’s not controversial. Young people are not going to move to a community without one.”

In the absence of an eruv, observant Jews are forbidden from picking up or moving anything outside of their homes on Saturdays, including strollers — a challenge for mothers of young children who are “stuck in the home” on the Sabbath until their kids can walk to synagogue, Hanau said.

But people on both sides of the debate suspect the culprits are those who feel strongly that the eruv shouldn’t exist in the neighborhood.

That includes one prominent Lubavitch rabbi who said the “residents who were pained by the eruv destroyed it on their own,” according to a translation of a letter posted recently on a Hebrew website, adding that he understands “the hearts of these residents.”