Eruv ‘would change lives of Jews living in Camden’, says Rabbi Shlomo Levin
Published: 29 March, 2012
by GEORGIA GRAHAM
A RELIGIOUS boundary that would encompass most of Camden is being planned by a group of Jewish residents in a move they say would “transform” the lives of thousands of followers.
The boundary marks out an area known as an “eruv” inside which orthodox Jews are able to carry out restricted activities outside their homes during the hours of the Sabbath – from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday – without breaking strict Jewish law.
Around 98 per cent of the area will be marked out by natural objects that already exist – from hedges to railway lines – but a small portion of the boundary will be created by 40 pairs of poles with a thin, strong wire “enclosing” the area.
Stretching from Chalk Farm in the south to Child’s Hill in the north the new area will meet up with the existing North West eruv boundary at Brent Cross.
Camden planners have the final say on whether the poles can go up.
Rabbi Shlomo Levin, of the South Hampstead synagogue, is part of the group of residents lobbying for the boundary.
He said: “When the first eruvs were brought up in north-west London there was a huge amount of worry, of frustration and objections – people even worried that birds would get decapitated, although as far as we know no birds have been hurt due to any eruv – and once it was in place those objections and concerns fell away.
“Some of the concerns that people raise are that this can cause ghettoisation – that Jewish people will stay within that area, keeping outside the general population, but the opposite happens.
"The more eruvs there are the easier for people to interact and for orthodox Jewish people to move to different areas of London.
“Even young Jewish couples who are not necessarily that observant would be happier moving to an area within Camden that is marked out by an eruv because they feel that it displays a tolerant attitude to Jewish observance.”
He added: “We want to make it clear that this doesn’t have to be a divisive issue.
"We want to make it clear that we are consulting on this, that we are open and that people can talk about their concerns.”
The first eruv in north London was created in February 2003 enclosing the seven square miles around the Golders Green and Hampstead Garden Suburb.
Inside this boundary orthodox Jews are allowed to use pushchairs or wheelchairs outside their own homes, and carry prayer books and essential medicines such as insulin.
The new boundary would create a passage for residents of Barnet to carry things and push wheelchairs to the Royal Free – the main hospital for many people in the area.
Charles Sonabend, an observant orthodox Jew who lives inside the proposed area, relies on a wheelchair to get around, making it impossible for him to get to the synagogue.
He said that the new boundary would transform his life.
“The construction of an eruv in the borough of Camden will allow me the freedom to enjoy a conventional Shabbat each week and socialise with loved ones,” he added.
“Ultimately, an eruv enables me to leave my home in situations where at present I cannot.
"It will change my life.”