|Eruv committee member Stuart Scheer of Cresskill assisting in the attachment of a lechi on one of the borough’s utility poles during construction of the new eruv on Nov. 10. Courtesy Lubavitch on the Palisades|
After the sun sets Friday on the Borough of Cresskill, Shabbat-observant Jews can walk to shul carrying their tallit bags and pushing their baby strollers, thanks to the town’s newly constructed eruv.
Literally, an eruv is a small piece of black plastic or rubber over the town’s telephone poles. Figuratively, it is symbolic fence that encloses a safe space for observant Jews to carry items such as keys or tallit bags or push baby strollers on Shabbat and holidays, when they are forbidden from carrying anything in public spaces. On Nov. 10, Cresskill put up an eruv, thrilling the local Jewish community, according to Rabbi Mordechai Shain, director of Tenafly’s Lubavitch on the Palisades, which spearheaded the effort to create the eruv.
“People were singing and dancing,” said Shain. “They were so excited because the town gave it to them in a very respectful way.”
Cresskill resident Sofia Sasouness is grateful for the new addition. Although she drives to shul, her children, who often visit and attend Shabbat services with her and her husband, are observant of Shabbat restrictions.
“My daughter wouldn’t even carry a bottle of water with her to shul,” said Sasouness. “We’ve got to respect the people who believe in it.”
The eruv covers at least half of Cresskill. The boundaries run from Knickerbocker Road at the Tenafly-Cresskill border, follow Madison Avenue through Cresskill, continue down Engle Street, and reconnect with the Tenafly eruv on Knoll Road.
The eruv is not particularly visible; many in Cresskill are not even aware of it.
“It doesn’t really interfere with anyone’s life,” said borough councilmember Hector Olmo. “If the people that need it are using it, and it benefits them, then it’s fine.”
Chabad submitted a written request for the eruv at a Sept. 1 council meeting, which was quickly approved. Chabad provided a diagram of areas the eruv would cover and agreed to pay all costs of its establishment and maintenance, Olmo said.
After receiving permission from Cresskill, Orange and Rockland Utilities, and Verizon, Chabad was free to start construction. The installation of the lechis, the black rubber strips that form the symbolic doorway, cost $1,200, according to Lawrence Blenden, who spearheaded the project for Chabad. Blenden said that the total cost was less than $5,000.
The eruv costs very little to maintain. Unless the lechis break, the only additional cost is for the time spent checking it every week before Shabbat, he said. That fee is still being negotiated.
Cresskill was not responsible for any of the finances and Chabad reimbursed the police officer who directed traffic during the almost four-hour construction period for his time.
For neighboring towns, getting an eruv approved has not been such an easy task. Tenafly spent six years engaged in a legal battle. In 1999, when the eruv was first proposed at a council meeting, many residents opposed the idea, fearing that Orthodox Jews would overpopulate the town. Council members did not want to put an eruv on public telephone poles because they thought it was giving special treatment to one group. After a lengthy legal battle in federal court, Tenafly finally resolved the issue and put up an eruv in 2005.
Nearby towns of Englewood and Teaneck have also created eruvs.
“Having an eruv in the town enhances the community,” said Shain. He added that one of the biggest advantages is that families will be able to bring their children to services.
Olmo and Sasouness also said that the installation of the eruv will eventually bring more Orthodox Jews to the area.