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Manhattan Beach Jewish residents say they can't cross Oriental Boulevard on the sabbath

Civic leaders: Give us a real stoplight at Oriental Boulevard and Ocean Avenue

Brooklyn Daily
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Oriental Boulevard’s pedestrian-activated stoplight at Ocean Avenue is designed to slow down cars, but it’s also bringing religious Jews trying to cross the Manhattan Beach thoroughfare to a complete halt on the Sabbath, residents claim.

Manhattan Beach residents say religious Jews who go to synagogue each weekend are forbidden by Jewish law to press the button that would turn the flashing yellow signal to a red light — leaving them with only two options: crossing the street against the light or going four blocks out of their way for a stoplight that turns red at regular intervals.

“There are quite a few religious Jews who live in Manhattan Beach who wouldn’t have to desecrate the Sabbath if the light was automatic,” said Rabbi Abrohom Winner of the Chabad Lubavitch synagogue in Manhattan Beach, who said that lighting a spark — which also means flipping a switch — is forbidden during the sabbath, according to Jewish law

“By turning on a light switch, we’re creating a current flow of electricity, which is considered a fire,” Rabbi Winner said. “So it’s forbidden.”

This paper asked the Department of Transportation if the agency considers religious laws, Jewish or otherwise, when deciding what type of street lights are installed in a neighborhood. The Department of Transportation responded, but wouldn’t address the issue of religion.

“The Department of Transportation is currently re-evaluating this intersection to see if it meets the criteria for a traffic signal,” an agency spokesman said. “That study is expected to be completed next month.”

The agency said it has not received any complaints against the pedestrian-activated streetlight since it was installed in 2005. The Department of Transportation also went over the button’s operation with community members prior to its installation, but no concerns were raised, according to the Department of Transportation spokesman.

But community leaders dispute the city’s claims.

“Saying that this problem has been never discussed is not true,” said Community Board 15 chairwoman Teresa Scavo. “We were in the commissioner’s office several months ago and it was discussed again.”

Scavo says CB15 routinely demand traffic signal studies to see if the intersection warrants a traditional signal. The Board, she said, was led to understand that the flashing light could be removed if residents didn’t like it.

“It was supposed to be a test, and if the community didn’t think it was good, we were under the impression that it would be turned into a traditional traffic light, but that never happened,” Scavo said.

Even local legislators are calling for a traditional red, yellow, and green stoplight at the intersection.

“The city must reexamine the boulevard to ensure everyone gets the opportunity to cross safely, without exception,” said Chaim Deutsch, a spokesman for Councilman Michael Nelson (D–Sheepshead Bay). “Having the red light button is crucial for pedestrian safety, but it needs be replaced with a steady signal to allow people of the Jewish faith to travel safely, without having to desecrate the Sabbath.”

Yet some say all the fuss is unwarranted since Oriental Boulevard is not Brooklyn’s version of Queens Boulevard, where several people have been killed by speeding cars.

“It’s not such a busy street,” resident Stan Ulis said.

Reach reporter Colin MIxson at or by calling (718) 260-4514.

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Reader Feedback

Homey from Crooklyn says:
Aug. 28, 2012, 10:21 am
williaml from texas says:
A Sabbath's days journey is about 3/10 of a mile.

If they have traveled a greater disance than that, they have broken the law of the Sabbath anyway.

They worship the law instead of worshipping The Lord.

(Mark 2:27 KJV) And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:
Aug. 28, 2012, 4:51 pm
Laura Childs from Denver, CO says:
If the city decides that your intersection does not warrant a full light, I have a solution for you. Ask for help.

If I lived in your neighborhood, I would gladly get pairs of friends to sit on either side of the street and push the button for you. We would ask you for your peak times and be there for you.

Think of it as a ferry.

I am not Jewish but there are many of us who honor your devotion.
Aug. 28, 2012, 6:26 pm
nancy from coney says:
williaml amen brother i hear evverything your saying
give me a stinking brake
its been said that these guys dont follow a religion they follow a cult electricty is a currant not a fire

i do all the things i do normally on my sabbath that i fo during the week
but here in bklyn if your jewish they kiss your ass and bend over backwards 4 you it makes me sick
hey ever hear of going another route or asking someone 2 push the button for you
Aug. 28, 2012, 11:36 pm
Understanding from Heaven says:
Mt 12:12 How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.

Some days, I do wonder at our lack of empathy.
Aug. 29, 2012, 9:58 am
dave from ps says:
Why quote the new testament (Mark, KJV) when referring to Orthodox Jews who do not view that work?
Aug. 29, 2012, 11:04 am
John from London says:
The Sabbath Goy is widely employed to turn on lights for religious Jews. The DoT will have to employ non-Jews to operate the buttons when Jews need to cross the road.
Aug. 29, 2012, 3:07 pm
Rabbi Winner from Manhattan Beach says:
“Mr William from texas” the law of not walking a certain distance which u mentioned, excusing the city of NY from changing that light from blinking yellow to a regular auto changing light is simply your misguided understanding of the jewish law and some simple lack of empathy.
1. The Law is one may walk up to 3000 amot (aprox 4000 ft). that is ONLY OUTSIDE OF A CITY. Within a city as long as there are homes one may walk much more.
The issue here is NOT about this law. Its about making it easier and SAFER for residents of a neighborhood. Isn't that why we live in a specific place, to raise and educate our children here in a SAFE environment?! As good citizens who pay taxes we are entitled to have what is best for our community that is OUR RIGHT and responsibility as an AMERICAN.
2. Where is your empathy? You want to make little children walk and extra four blocks in the opposite direction of the park to then cross and walk back on the other side of the street to then reach the same crossing from the other side and again have the problem of crossing the intersection from the opposite side without the ability to push the crossing light switch. The crossing is not only from north to south its from west to east as well. It makes no diff if coming from the north side or the south side of the street one must still cross the west to east side of the street to reach the playground.
Aug. 30, 2012, 6:19 pm
Rabbi Winner from Manhattan Beach says:
my dear "ms nancy from coney" have you ever heard of an electrical fire??? that's caused by a spark in the "current" of the electricity!!
if the electric "current" was not flowing then there would be no electric fire!

If you are a Jew and decide to break the Jewish law that is your decision but dont ridicule those that are more devoted then yourself to the torah law. Everyone has their freedom of religion isn't that what America is built on?
Aug. 30, 2012, 6:25 pm

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