Eruv ‘friends’ go on glossy PR offensive
SUPPORTERS OF the North-West London eruv have mounted an expensive public-relations exercise in a bid to demonstrate to local strictly Orthodox residents that it is usable.
Thousands of copies of an lavishly produced 160-page booklet have been delivered to Jewish homes in Hendon and Golders Green, containing endorsements for the Sabbath boundary from across the Orthodox rabbinic world.
Although the North-West London eruv became operational five years ago, under the supervision of the London Beth Din, it has been consistently opposed by the rabbinate of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, which questions its validity under Jewish law.
Within the eruv’s 11-mile perimeter, the usual Shabbat restrictions against carrying outside the home do not apply and therefore Jews who recognise it may push prams or wheelchairs.
Since its establishment, some Union congregants have defied fulminations from the pulpit and joined eruv-using congregations instead.
The brochure — which at first glance resembles a glossy sales brochure — appears in Hebrew and English and is packed with colour photographs of influential rabbis along with a pullout map of the eruv zone. It describes the eruv as mehudar — a term denoting that it is of “excellent” kosher quality.
But the Union opponents are sticking to their rabbinic guns and say the eruv remains “of doubtful validity”.
A public notice, newly issued by, among others, Rabbi Ephraim Padwa, head of the Union Beth Din, and its president, Rabbi Elchonon Halpern, warns: “It is our considered judgment… that as hitherto, carrying within the area of the eruv amounts to a chillul Shabbos [desecration] and is forbidden, even in trying circumstances.”
The brochure, distributed to 4,000 homes and said by one observer to have cost tens of thousands of pounds to produce, was sponsored by an anonymous group calling itself “Friends of the North-West London Eruv”.
A spokesman for the Friends said that they consist “predominantly of members of the Charedi community”, who reflect “a huge and growing amount of support for the eruv”.
He added that it was not the intention to challenge the Union rabbinate.
“It is gratifying that so many of the world’s leading halachic authorities have endorsed the north-west London eruv and we very much hope that more rabbis will add their endorsement. People who felt they needed wider rabbinic endorsement to use the eruv now have it.”
In particular, the booklet quotes a letter from three strictly Orthodox eruv experts from Jerusalem who subjected the London facility to rigorous inspection a year and a half ago and recommended improvements.
“We can therefore pronounce with clarity and certainty that this London eruv is kosher lechatchilla [ a priori],” they wrote.
One of the trio in particular, Rabbi Moshe Berlin, is, according to a local strictly Orthodox activist in London, “the bee’s knees on eruvs”.
The activist added that supporters of the eruv had originally hoped that the visit of the three experts would have been enough to dampen down controversy over the eruv’s use among the strictly Orthodox community. “They were hoping not to have had to publish something,” he said.
But critics protest that the experts were asked to address only particular details of the eruv construction, not the main halachic queries against it.
The cover of the lavishly produced colour booklet, full of Orthodox backing for the London eruv