If you happened to notice a rabbi checking 11 miles worth of telephone poles around town in the wake of last week’s snowstorm, here’s what he was up to: Making sure that religiously observant New Haven Jews can stroll babies and carry prayer books when Sabbath rolls around.
The rabbi was on weekly rounds checking New Haven’s “eruv” — a largely invisible “wall” of telephone wires, pieces of plastic, and string that forms a boundary around neighborhoods where Jews live.
Under Jewish law, people can’t do “work” that involves, say, carrying objects or playing ballgames or pushing strollers on the Sabbath unless they’re within such an eruv. New Haven has had an eruv on the west side of town since 1989; the eruv now extends through downtown and much of East Rock.
Last week’s snowstorm, which dropped 14 inches on the city, rendered the eruv non-operational. This week it’s expected to be back up, thanks to the work of a not-for-profit organization that maintains it.
Miriam Sandman, who heads the group’s Board of Directors, and Westville Synagogue Rabbi Fred Hyman, who heads the group’s halakha (Jewish law) committee and sometimes climbs up on ladders to make repairs, spoke about their work and about the spiritual and community-building aspects of the eruv on the latest episode of WNHH radio’s “Chai Haven” program.
Pull up a chair and click on or download the above audio file to hear the full episode, which also touched on the recent growth of the Chabad community in the Beaver Hills neighborhood.
And click here to learn more about the eruv and to contribute financially to the organization.
Click on the above video to watch Rabbi Dov Greer explain the eruv to a civil engineer working to accommodate it during reconstruction of Route 34 in 2012. (And read about that here.)