Eruvim Protect Boundaries And Traditions For Local Jews (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Eruvim Protect Boundaries and Traditions for Local Jews

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:02
Before we say goodbye today and get on with our Memorial Day weekend, many know that with the weekend comes the Jewish Sabbath. A day of rest when, according to Jewish law, certain kinds of work are forbidden. An example is carrying things. Jews who observe the Sabbath are only allowed to carry things, such as keys or a baby's stroller inside their homes, which brings us to the topic of our last story today, the Eruv.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:28
It's kind of a symbolic boundary, often marked by a wire the runs along telephone poles. Inside this boundary, members of the Jewish community are considered to be at home and therefore are allowed to carry out certain kinds of work. But as Lauren Landau tells us, the Eruv we're talking about here doesn't cover all of D.C., which has led to some pretty interesting challenges and creative solutions.

MS. LAUREN LANDAU

00:00:52
Carol Cowan is a member of Kesher Israel, a modern orthodox synagogue in Georgetown. For 10 years she volunteered to check the Eruv on Friday mornings. Today she tracing her old route at the intersection of Idaho and Macomb (sp?) Streets in Tenleytown.

MS. CAROL COWAN

00:01:06
There is a wire here that goes to that street light. That wire is just part of the Eruv, it's not a utility wire. And from that light pole, you can see there's another wire that goes across Wisconsin Avenue diagonally and then another wire from there to the next utility pole. Those three wires are part of Eruv. They don't have anything to do with telephones or electricity.

LANDAU

00:01:32
Cowan says most Washingtonians never notice this nearly invisible boundary running right above their heads.

COWAN

00:01:38
Had you ever noticed it? How far from here do you live?

LANDAU

00:01:42
About two blocks.

COWAN

00:01:42
Okay.

LANDAU

00:01:43
Rabbi Barry Freundel of Kesher Israel says an Eruv isn't always a wire running between telephone poles. Sometimes the natural environment becomes part of an Eruv.

RABBI BARRY FREUNDEL

00:01:53
There are sea walls all along the Potomac River. We didn't have to do anything. Those walls constitute walls that demarcate an area on that border. There are fences on the Langston Golf Course or the National Arboretum or the metro. Those fences are there, we don't have to do anything to them and so we sort of, in effect, adopt them and say that's part of our structure.

COWAN

00:02:11
Even a steep hill can be part of the boundary.

FREUNDEL

00:02:14
There are places Rock Creek where you have a slope, a natural slope of the creek. That can count, depending on how steep the slope and how far the slope extends.

COWAN

00:02:21
And if that all sounds complicated, consider this. It’s not enough to know where the boundaries are. Carol Cowan says it's also important to know which side is inside the Eruv.

COWAN

00:02:32
We're at Wisconsin and Macomb and right now we're inside the Eruv or at least I am. But if we step over here on the other side of the wire, we are now outside. You have to be aware of which side of the boundary you're on.

LANDAU

00:02:45
In addition to the Eruv that Cowan used to monitor, there are two others in D.C. Altogether they encircle large swaths of the city, but not all of it. Rabbi Freundel says it's a matter of practically.

FREUNDEL

00:02:57
Basically, this is something only particularly observant Jewish care about. We have no particular reason to incorporate areas where there's no Jewish community or nobody's interested because it costs more money the further you go.

LANDAU

00:03:07
The American University campus is one spots that lies outside of the Eruv. But unlike other parts of D.C. it has a large Jewish population. AU says about 20 percent of its undergrads are Jewish and for observant students like senior Orly Treitman, living outside the Eruv creates a weekly dilemma.

MS. ORLY TREITMAN

00:03:25
Not being in the Eruv means that technically I'm not allowed to carry anything unless I'm wearing it. and that means little things like if I want to have a sweater for my walk back, if I know it'll be cold I have to wear it over even though if it's warm outside. And I can't carry a lot of other things that I would normally have with me.

LANDAU

00:03:39
During the school year, Treitman attends services at Helell (sp?) which also hosts a Friday night dinner to celebrate Shabbat or the Sabbath. AU student, Zach Belinsky, at these dinners.

MR. ZACH BELINSKY

00:03:49
There's always a ton of food that we end up just throwing out because of the students who might want to take it home, myself included, a lot of them keep Shabbat and can't carry. And free food too, good food, that college students would love to take home, but they can't because there's no Eruv.

LANDAU

00:04:03
Treitman says she never had to worry about these issues before coming to D.C. She grew up in the Washington Heights of New York City.

TREITMAN

00:04:11
We never really had to worry about carrying things and you would see women pushing baby strollers around to the park and we could bring our balls and our toys to synagogue and I could take a bag if I wanted, I could take books with me.

LANDAU

00:04:21
When Treitman lived in the dorms, she pretended there was an Eruv around AU. But Belinsky says he never felt comfortable doing the same.

BELINSKY

00:04:29
Walking from your dorm room to Helell, it doesn't feel emotionally like you're traveling or you're going outside into a public space to your home, you know. A campus is your home, but (word?) legally, it doesn't count.

LANDAU

00:04:40
Both Treitman and Belinsky say they'd like to see the Eruv extended to include AU. Rabbi Freundel says it could be done, but it wouldn't be easy.

FREUNDEL

00:04:49
American University is the one area we're frustrated about. We really wanted to enclose it because we have students who walk to here and there are Jews in that area. But there were no physical structures up there that we could use and no telephone wires behind American University that would work. To go ahead and try to string wire, which you can do, in that area would have cost us an extra $10 or $15,000 dollars, and frankly we just didn't have the money to spend.

LANDAU

00:05:09
If somebody wants to finance the project, Rabbi Freundel says he'd be glad to work with them. But until then, observant Jews like Treitman and Belinsky will technically be stepping outside the boundaries of their faith every time they leave home on the Sabbath. I'm Lauren Landau.

SHEIR

00:05:31
Lauren is a recent graduate of American University and congrats Lauren, we are so proud of you, which holds the license to WAMU 88.5. You can find a map showing where the Eruv runs in Washington D.C. on our website, metroconnection.org.

SHEIR

00:06:15
And that's "Metro's Connection" for this week. We heard from WAMU's Jessica Gould, Martin DiCaro, Emily Friedman, Bryan Russo and Lauren Landau. Our acting news director is Meymo Lyons. Our managing producer is Tara Boyle. Lauren Landau is our editorial assistant. Jonna McKone, Lauren Landau, and Heather Taylor produce "Door to Door." Thanks, as always, to the WAMU engineering and digital media teams for their help with production and the "Metro Connection" website.

SHEIR

00:06:40
Our theme song, ''Every Little Bit Hurts" and our "Door to Door" theme, "No, Girl," and "Turn Your Face," our theme for "The Location," are all from the album "Title Tracks" by John Davis and used with permission of the Ernest Jennings Record Company. You can see all the music we use on our website, metroconnection.org. Just click on an individual story and you'll find information about its accompanying song.

SHEIR

00:06:58
Also on metroconnection.org you can find our Twitter and Facebook link, you can read free transcripts of stories and if you missed part of today's show or want to listen to any of our recent shows, click the podcast link up at the top of the page. We also have our podcasts available on iTunes. We hope you can join us next week, not too long after Memorial Day when we'll be remembering and forgetting. We'll remember Georgetown's history as construction crews unearth artifacts. And we'll remember the onset of the AIDS crisis through a play written by a D.C. native.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE ONE

00:07:29
It's true that it's got, at its heart, a political focus, but it's not a story that needs to stop being told and Larry really tells the story in a very affecting way.

SHEIR

00:07:39
Plus, we'll hang out with an archeologist turned architect who's on a mission to recreate images of long-gone and sometimes forgotten District buildings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE TWO

00:07:49
To take a building that's no longer there and actually create, you know, a 3-D model as near photo-realistic as we can, just really brings life to something that's no longer there.

SHEIR

00:08:02
I'm Rebecca Sheir and thanks for listening to "Metro Connection," a production of WAMU 88.5 news.
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