A new eruv for the Milwaukee area could be completed soon, bringing to fruition a project that has been about 30 years in the making.
The new eruv will serve the east side of the Milwaukee region; it is primarily in Shorewood but will also cover portions of Milwaukee and Whitefish Bay. It generally will be bounded by the cliffside along Lake Michigan, North Avenue, Silver Spring Drive and Port Washington Road.
Leaders behind the project look forward to the impact the eruv will have on the current Orthodox residents, as well as the enclosure’s potential to attract new residents to the area.
Eruvim are symbolically enclosed areas that are seen as extending the private domain of a Jewish home into public areas, creating a collective, shared home. They utilize existing infrastructure like power lines; gaps can be filled with fishing line, which can be difficult for the casual observer to see. Within the perimeter of an eruv, Jews are permitted to take part in activities — like carrying — that are otherwise prohibited outside the home during Shabbat.
Rabbi Joel Dinin, of modern Orthodox congregation Lake Park Synagogue, said the project would address issues for Shabbat- observant community members such as transporting their house key from home to synagogue and back. Residents would also be able to bring a Shabbat meal to another person’s home. Such activities may be far less likely during the coronavirus outbreak, but it’s something to look forward to.
Pushing strollers is also forbidden during Shabbat. In families with young children, Dinin said mothers typically stay home.
“We will be doing away with that,” Dinin said. “For hosting meals on Shabbat, it’ll be easier for people to go in between houses. They can bring their kids, can bring diaper bags, strollers, food, games, all kinds of things.”
For Ellis Avner, the president of Lake Park Synagogue, the eruv also represents a chance to grow the east side. Avner said congregants are excited about the project because some have been uncomfortable attending synagogue on Saturdays without the eruv established.
In addition, Avner said he has heard from graduates of the Wisconsin Institute for Torah Study and former students at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Hillel who have said the eruv will enable them to return to the east side.
Further, he said, Ascension Columbia-St. Mary’s hospital is the southern border of the enclosure.
“That is really wonderful, because it means that congregants on the east side who are admitted to the hospital for some problem, you will be able to visit them on the Sabbath if all goes up well,” Avner said.
As the synagogue sought permission from parties like the village of Shorewood to fill in gaps in the eruv’s boundaries, the congregation emphasized that the enclosure does not promote any religious views or discriminate against any religious groups.
Rather, Avner said, the idea is to help Shabbat-observant Jews as they meld traditional beliefs with modern-day society. Although he lives outside the boundaries of the eruv, Avner said he is excited about the potential impact.
As of early March, he said all the necessary approvals to construct the eruv had been granted. Rabbi Micah Shotkin, of New Jersey, was expected to visit in the next four to six weeks to construct the eruv, filling in gaps that aren’t covered by nature or existing infrastructure. The coronavirus could change those plans.
Construction, estimated to cost $40,000, takes about two weeks, he said.
Once the eruv is built, Avner said, the enclosure would be the subject of a final inspection, then approval, before weekly monitoring would begin. Upkeep and repair are expected to cost $10,000 each year.
Lake Park Synagogue set aside $25,000 for the eruv, and it received a $50,000, three-year grant from Bader Philanthropies to support the project.
The enclosure joins other eruvim that cover portions of Bayside, Glendale, Mequon and Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood.
To Dinin, Shorewood has been “behind the curve” in offering an eruv. In his estimation, the new east side eruv would, for the most part, close the gap in need.
“The majority of the observant Jewish community who cares about using an eruv, and will use it, will be included in one,” Dinin said