Sunday, September 19, 2010

Antisemitic, or just concerned about preservation?

I can see both sides of the issue in a long-ongoing standoff in Litchfield, Conn.

It's a complicated issue. Having seen communities try to preserve historic districts, I can appreciate Litchfield's stance. And, a swimming pool certainly doesn't fit the idea of "historic preservation."
The group's plans included a synagogue, living space for Rabbi Joseph Eisenbach and his large family and a swimming pool for the Chabad group's popular summer camp.

"This case is not about the construction of a synagogue," (Borough of Litchfield historic district commission attorney James) Stedronsky said recently. "It's about the construction of a personal palace for Rabbi Eisenbach, complete with a 4,500-square-foot apartment and an indoor swimming pool big enough to serve a summer camp."

At the same time, rich, WASPy Connecticut communities have some history of being antisemitic sundown towns. Including Litchfield. As the Hartford Courant notes, a Willson Whitman, visiting in 1943, discovered Jews were not allowed to own property there.

That said, on the next page of the Courant story, we find that Jews do live in Litchfield today, and at least some of them oppose the Lubavitcher Chabad project on grounds similar to the historic commission: it's too big and unfitting.

From what I read, I'd say the commission isn't being antisemitic. That said, I don't know if either side has discussed or offered compromises, or not. Unfortunately, a judge and court is not an arbitrator. All the judge can do is rule for either the commission or Chabad; he or she can't craft a compromise. (I wonder if in Continental European jurisprudence, as opposed to the Anglo-American model, judges can do that.)

No comments: