A new eruv that is going up in the North Shore will ease Shabbat restrictions for Orthodox Jews – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Posted By on August 22, 2020

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A wall is being built aroundShorewood, Whitefish Bay and the east side of Milwaukeebut most people will never see it or even realize it's there.

The wall is formed by the Lake Michigan bluff, combined with utility poles and steel wire atop streetlights, to form an eruv, a symbolic enclosure that allows Orthodox Jews to carry items outside of their home during the weekly Shabbat observance, which begins at sundown on Fridays and lasts through nightfall on Saturdays.

The eruv allows them to bypass traditional Shabbat restrictions because the new contiguous wall of utility lines, overhead wires and Lake Michigan bluff creates a new public-private space that acts as an extension of the home under Torah law.

With the eruv, Orthodox Jews will be able to push baby strollers to synagogue service and bring casserole dishes to potluck Shabbat dinners.

Eruvs, or eruvin, already exist in Mequon, Bayside, Glendale and Milwaukees Sherman Park neighborhood.

But Shabbat-observant Jews living in Shorewood, Whitefish Bay and the east side of Milwaukee have never had an eruv until now.

Construction on the eruv began Aug. 11.The work is expected to take two weeks.

Orthodox Jewish communities in the area have wanted an eruv for nearly 30 years, but the plansfaltered due to the labor and expense involved, as well as a disagreement aboutwhether the cliff along Lake Michigan could count as a natural eruv boundary.

When Rabbi Joel Dinin joined Lake Park Synagogue nearly three years ago, he made it his mission to build upon the work of his predecessorsand finish the eruv project.

Although Lake Park Synagogueled the eruv effort, other Orthodox communities have also contributed years of planning.

Rabbi Micah Shotkin of New Jersey secures a wire to the Wilson Drive streetlights in Shorewood on Aug. 11. The wire will help form the boundaries of an eruv, which is a symbolic enclosure that allows Shabbat-observant Jews to carry items outside of their home during Shabbat. The eruv will encompass the east side of Milwaukee, Shorewood and part of Whitefish Bay.(Photo: Scott Ash/Now News Group)

The eruv will roughly encompass the area east of the Milwaukee River from North Avenue in Milwaukee to Silver Spring Drive in Whitefish Bay.

With the eastern boundary defined by the Lake Michigan bluff, the rest of the enclosure will be formed with a network of utility poles, wire erected from streetlights on Wilson Drive and the Oak Leaf Trail Bridge that runs over Capitol Drive.

The section of the eruv made of utilitypoles and streetlightsis actually meant to function less like a wall and morelike a series of doors, Dinin explained.

"Were essentially making a giant house out of doorways," Dinin said.

Each doorway requires a top beam that is directly above the two side posts. When a wire runs off to the side of a pole, as it often does, a small plastic tubeis attached to the pole so that the beam runs flush with the tube.

We Energies approved and installed the plastic tubing along the utility poles. The project also required permission from village officials in Shorewood and Whitefish Bay, which granted approval for New Jersey Rabbi Micha Shotkin tostring wire between thestreetlights on Wilson Drive.

Shotkin will also have to install a piece of wood underthe Oak Leaf Trail Bridge over Capitol Drive.

In planning the project, Dinin worked with Rabbi Mendel Senderovic, a local expert in Jewish law, to inspect the perimeter of the eruv,identifyany obstacles and figure out ways to preserve a continuous boundary.

When theres no buildings or electrical lines, you have these gaps, Dinin said. So you have to be creative.

At one point, Dinin found himself rooting around in the bushes behind the Shorewood Police Department when he realized he shouldnotify the police about what he was doing.

The police officer he spoke with was initially caught off guard by the request, which Dinin said is a typical reaction.

"It's not necessarily out of anti-Semitism, but because it strikes them as weird," he said. "Once people actually learn more about what we want to do, they say, 'Of course. No problem.' Everyone has been very supportive."

Although Dinin and others have worked hard on the project, many laypeople will probably never notice the small changes to the utility poles and bridges.

From Dinin's perspective, that's a good thing.

"With a good eruv, no one knows its there," Dinin said. "The hope with this is that it helps the community, but no one ever sees it."

The eruv will also benefit residents affiliated with Chabad-Lubavitch, a Hasidic sect of Orthodox Judaism.

Chabad of the East Side Rabbi Yisroel Lein said the lack of an eruv in the area caused many new families to live elsewhere.

This opens up a lot of doors for a lot of people, Lein said.

ContactJeff Rumage at (262) 446-6616or jeff.rumage@jrn.com. Followhim on Twitter at @JeffRumage orFacebook atwww.facebook.com/northshorenow.

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A new eruv that is going up in the North Shore will ease Shabbat restrictions for Orthodox Jews - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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