College Park eruv set for
The rumors are
true. You can throw out those odd-looking “Shabbos belts” and carry
whatever you want on the day of rest.
much-anticipated eruv is finally going up.
After years of
discussion and debate over the complicated and time-consuming process of
erecting an eruv, the religiously motivated structure of interconnected
telephone wires and poles is expected to be complete by Rosh Hashanah.
“Even when I
entered as a freshman four years ago, people had been talking about
building an eruv,” said senior government and politics major Harris
Cohen. “But not until last year was any progress made.”
Cohen, the leader
of the newly-established University of Maryland Eruv Committee, has been
working on the eruv project with sophomore computer engineering major
Michael Mintz and recent graduate Benji Englehart for close to 18 months
hoping to create a more close-knit community for the expanding base of
Orthodox Jewish students.
traditional Jewish law, carrying objects in a public domain violates the
biblical Sabbath. However, if the entire area is enclosed by a wall or
gate-like structure, known as an eruv, then that area is considered a
private domain, thereby allowing Jews to carry without violating the
“As complicated as
it sounds, it’s one of the saving graces of contemporary Judaism,” said
Rabbi Elli Fischer, the coordinator of the Jewish Learning Initiative.
“It actually enables Jews to live within an urban setting while allowing
them to create their own social enclaves.”
Until recently, the
University of Maryland campus fit the rabbinic description of a
“semi-public” domain, preventing many religiously observant students
from enjoying the Sabbath due to the rabbinic restraints of carrying and
transferring objects from place to place.
Instead of merely
discussing the possibility of erecting an eruv, as had been the routine
tradition of years past, Cohen and his Eruv Committee proactively
started laying the groundwork for the $2,000 project.
“There was a lot of
work involved in the whole process,” Cohen said. “In addition to
familiarizing ourselves with the Halachot (Jewish Laws) of building an
eruv, we were busy contacting local officials in order to get their
Over the summer,
Cohen met with representatives of Pepco, the electric company, as well
as executives from Prince George’s County, in order to rent the
necessary space required to construct an encompassing eruv . The eruv
includes the University’s campus, the Knox boxes, the College Park
Towers and parts of Hyattsville.
For many students,
the construction of the Eruv is a giant step toward a positive future
for Jewish life on campus.
Ely Cole, president
of Kedma, the Orthodox group on campus, believes that the eruv is a sign
of a growing Jewish community. “What we’re doing by constructing this
eruv is strengthening and unifying our own community. And so, when other
prospective students come to check us out, they will automatically
realize that this is a community on the verge of great things.”