Eruv ‘friends’ go on glossy PR of­fen­sive

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY SI­MON ROCKER

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

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