Opposed: Rabbi Pinchas Lipner

Opposed: Rabbi Pinchas Lipner

Jewish holiday intensifies AT&T antenna dispute in San Francisco

When Rabbi Pinchas Lipner learned a neighbor to his Orthodox Jewish school wanted to put AT&T Wireless antennas on its roof and that the public hearing on the matter was scheduled on a Jewish holiday, he sounded the alarm.

The hearing was originally scheduled for Thursday, the first day of Sukkot, an eight-day holiday during which Orthodox Jews do not drive or ride in vehicles.

“It’s like setting up a meeting on Christmas,” said Lipner, dean of the Lisa Kampner Hebrew Academy. “They’re taking away due process from us.”

AT&T is proposing to replace two existing antennas with up to six new antennas atop the Bureau of Jewish Education, the Kampner Hebrew Academy’s neighbor.

Lipner said he suspected the Bureau of Jewish Education was trying to pull a fast one so he and representatives of the school wouldn’t turn out to the hearing and voice their opposition.

But that’s not the case, according to the leadership of the Bureau of Jewish Education. In fact, they agreed that the scheduled hearing date will not work. The bureau will be closed Thursday and Friday for Sukkot and staff observing the holiday will not be able to attend the hearing either, said David Waksberg, the organization’s chief executive officer. The bureau had no hand in setting the hearing date and asked the Planning Commission to reschedule as soon as leadership became aware of the conflict, Waksberg said.

“I don’t think it was any kind of conspiracy on anybody’s part,” Waksberg said.

Late last week, word about the antenna plan circulated among school parents, who threatened to pull their children from school if the antennas went up. Lipner took action, emailing the Planning Commission and media outlets Friday and writing a letter to the bureau Monday.

After all the commotion, the Planning Commission will now vote on whether to postpone the hearing to a later date, Planning Director John Rahaim said Tuesday Waksberg said he had not anticipated the uproar about the AT&T proposal because the building has hosted antennas since 1997. He was surprised by Lipner’s reaction and is interested in meeting with school representatives and parents about their concerns, Waksberg said.

“They’re our neighbors,” he said. “We don’t want to destroy our relationship with our neighbors.”

sgantz@sfexaminer.com

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