Two new eruvim debut this month
in Glendale, Mequon can enjoy Shabbat even more
By Leon Cohen
of The Chronicle staff
It is a commandment to enjoy the happy Jewish holidays and
particularly the Sabbath. But beginning with April 6-7, Sabbaths became even
more enjoyable for members of modern Orthodox synagogue Anshe Sfard Kehillat
Torah and other observant Jews in Glendale.
“People are able to bring small children into the
synagogue,” said Dr. Arnold Slyper in a telephone interview. “And we don’t have
to think about bringing our prayer things to shul. In the past, we had to bring
them before Shabbat.”
Social lives of synagogue members also are different on the
Sabbath, Slyper said. Before, “if you were invited for Shabbat to somebody’s
house, you couldn’t carry gifts or dishes.... Now, we can do this.”
What made the difference? The Jewish community in Glendale
now has a functioning eruv.
And this is not the only new eruv in the area. According to
Rabbi Moshe Rapoport, program director of Congregation Agudas Achim Chabad, an
eruv for Mequon is scheduled to be operational beginning with the Sabbath of
April 27-28. (The Orthodox community on Milwaukee’s west side has had a
functioning eruv since 1995, according to Miriam Lapping, administrator at Congregation
But what is an eruv? This is not an easy concept to
understand or apply. The Talmud devotes an entire tractate to the subject. But
with help from several area rabbis and the Encyclopedia Judaica, its basics
become more clear.
Activities Jews are not supposed to do on the Sabbath and
Yom Kippur include carrying objects from a private domain (e.g., one’s home)
into a public domain (the street, a park, etc.) or for certain distances within
a public domain. This can make Sabbath observance more of a hardship than a
pleasure for some.
“[T]he prohibition against carrying, because of its
concomitant restrictions on pushing baby carriages or strollers, using canes,
walkers or wheelchairs, constrains severely the mobility and activities of many
in our community to the confines of their homes,” states a pamphlet on the
subject by ASKT spiritual leader Rabbi Nachman Levine. “These constraints often
negate the very Oneg Shabbos [enjoyment of the Sabbath] that we as a community
should strive to foster.”
The Encyclopedia Judaica states, “The literal meaning of
eruv is ‘mixing’ and it probably connotes the insertion of the forbidden into
the sphere of the permissible.” An eruv is therefore a device that mixes
private and public domains in a way to permit observant Jews to carry at least
Making an eruv requires setting up a “courtyard” that
surrounds a designated area. According to Rabbi Mendel Senderovic, dean of the
Milwaukee Kollel Center for Jewish Studies and consultant to both eruvim,
making such a courtyard requires two components: partitions and gateways.
A partition can be virtually any kind of man-made structure,
like a fence or a wall. The Glendale eruv uses the fence along the west side of
Interstate 43 between Mill Rd. and Brown Deer Rd. as a large part of the
eastern border of its eruv.
A gateway can be made of any structure that has two vertical
posts (l’chiayim; lechi singular) linked by a “lintel” that can be a beam, wire
or rope extending from the top of one to the top of the other. In Mequon, most
of the telephone poles along such main streets as Port Washington Rd. have
wires connecting the tops of the poles and therefore can be included in the
eruv as a long series of “gateways.”
If the “lintel” is not located directly over the top of a
pole or pillar (i.e., is on the side), some construction is required. A u-guard
can be put on the side of a telephone pole directly underneath the line. Or a
barrel or post can be set up directly under the “lintel” within a certain
distance of the lintel’s support, which in effect amalgamates them into a
Quality of life
It is possible to construct an eruv to cover a small area.
CAAC has one that covers just the synagogue’s grounds. Many Jews have them
covering their homes.
But a large-scale community eruv is an important “quality of
life” component for observant Jews, especially younger families. To attract
such families was one of the reasons that about six years ago, observant Jews
in these communities decided they wanted an eruv.
Slyper, who said he initiated the project in Glendale,
explained, “It’s important for an Orthodox community to have an eruv. It
enhances the communal spirit, especially on Shabbat.”
The Mequon project has an organizational wrinkle. Though
most of those pushing for an eruv were members of CAAC, most members of the
Chabad Lubavitch Hasidic movement, like Rapoport, and some other groups of
Orthodox Jews will not take advantage of a community eruv.
They do this not because an eruv is some kind of “loophole”
in Jewish law, but because “some try not to get used to carrying on Shabbat,”
said Rapoport. Rapoport himself said he will use it “only if I’m stuck.”
Partly for this reason, but also to emphasize that the eruv
is available to the whole community, CAAC itself is not sponsoring the eruv,
which is under the control of a separate group called Mequon Eruv.
Even so, Rapoport is helping with the project because “it
makes the community complete” by enabling it to provide a full package of
services — a synagogue, a mikvah and an eruv — for area Orthodox Jews.
The projects took so long to realize for several reasons.
Initially, the planners thought of constructing an eruv just around homes
within their communities. Dr. Lewis Chamoy, co-president of CAAC and a prime
mover of the Mequon eruv along with Dr. Dennis Maiman, told The Chronicle that
he suggested it would be easier to cover a large area by using the pre-existing
The chief problem was working with various private companies
— Wisconsin Electric Power Co., Ameritech, railroad firms, etc. — to get
permission to use their structures and do the construction.
Attorney Bruce Peckerman spoke to representatives of these
firms for ASKT. He told The Chronicle that the process took a long time partly
because the railroad company involved got sold at least twice; because he had
to deal with different departments — real estate, legal, licensing; and because
he had to explain to many puzzled non-Jews what this was all about.
Chamoy said it took more than two years for electric company
officials in Mequon to grant permission to use its structures and do
construction for the eruv. “There was no anti-Semitism in this, not even a
hint,” he said; rather “the engineers were too busy” and others didn’t see what
benefit the eruv would bring to the company.
necessary permissions were obtained, actual construction took about a month for
both. Real estate developer Larry Appel oversaw the work in Glendale as a
volunteer. The Mequon group employed Midwestern Electric Co., which had worked
on the Milwaukee west side eruv.
Glendale eruv covers close to seven square miles between Brown Deer and Mill
Rds. (north to south) and Interstate 43 and the railroad east of Teutonia Ave.
The Mequon eruv covers about 24 square miles between Highland and Brown Deer
Rds. (north to south) and Port Washington and Cedarburg Rds.
projects cost in the low tens of thousands of dollars and funds were raised
largely, though not solely, within the communities that will use them. ASKT
also made a special payment of one silver dollar to the Milwaukee county
government, in a ceremony on April 5 involving County Executive Thomas Ament,
to fulfill a halachic requirement to pay a rent to the non-Jewish owners of any
land used for an eruv.
will be inspected carefully before every Sabbath to make sure they are intact.
Glendale residents should call ASKT, Mequon residents 262-242-8913 on Friday
afternoons for an eruv report.