December 2006

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An interesting gathering of Catholic and Jewish leaders witnessed the completion of the expansion of the Main Line Eruv, with the last piece of the Eruv's being attached to a stone fencepost at the entrance to St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. Witnessing the inspection of the final section of the Eruv are (left to right) David Eckman, M.D., of Wynnewood, president of Congregation Beth Hamedrosh; Cardinal Rigali; and Mark Zohar, of Wynnewood, head of the Main Line Eruv Committee. (Bonnie Squires)

Ribbon Tying
Completion of the Main Line Eruv.

-- Bonnie Squires

The expansion of the Main Line Eruv, which is now twelve square miles, was officially completed on Friday, November 10 with a small ceremony at the entrance to St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood. The ceremony included members of the Orthodox and Conservative Jewish communities, Cardinal Rigali, and other priests. The final section of the Eruv is attached to a stone fencepost at a gated entrance to the seminary. The expansion, as David Eckman, M.D., the president of Congregation Beth Hamedrosh, explained, was to include, not exclude, and to allow passage in and out of the community. Observant Conservative members of Temple Beth Hillel, as well as members of the Orthodox community, will benefit from the Eruv expansion by being able to push strollers or carry their children to Shabbat services, activities previously prohibited because of violations of Shabbat. The Eruv now includes the areas in which a number of observant families live, allowing them to consider the area between their house and their synagogue as part of their "home," thus allowing activities which were previously categorized as "work."

As the route for the expanded Main Line Eruv was outlined, it became clear that a link from the R-5 train line to the intersection of City and Lancaster Avenues needed to be created. Unfortunately, there are no telephone poles along City Ave from the R-5 to Lancaster, so alternative routes were discussed. It appeared that using the St. Charles Seminary fence line would help tremendously in this effort.

Cardinal Rigali accepts a certificate of gratitude from Mark Solomon, representing the Main Line Eruv Committee. (Bonnie Squires) 
In June, Rabbi Szmerla, builder of the Eruv, Mark Zohar, leader of Main Line Eruv, and David Oppenheimer, one of the organizers of the expansion, met with the Director of the Office of Legal Service for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Timothy Coyne, to explain the purpose of an Eruv and to request permission to use the Seminary fence line as part of the project. In explaining about the historical roots and laws of Eruvs, Rabbi Szmerla told a fascinating historical story of how when Jesus died, Mary waited to prepare his body for burial because it was Shabbat and without an Eruv she could not carry the water and other items she would need to prepare the body. This historical context certainly seemed to peak the interest of Mr. Coyne.

Rigali and the Catholic Archdiocese gave their permission for the Eruv to be attached to the property belonging to the Catholic Seminary, allowing for the final section of the Main Line Eruv to be completed. Cardinal Rigali spoke at the ceremony, expressing his pleasure in this interfaith cooperative venture. As a tribute to this ecumenical attitude, a certificate of appreciation was presented to Cardinal Rigali by Mark Solomon, a member of the Main Line Eruv Committee.

Mark Zohar and Cardinal Rigali discuss the significance of the completion of the Eruv at the St. Charles Borromeo Seminary ceremony. (Bonnie Squires)
The rewards associated with this project were plentiful. According to David Oppenheimer, “Our primary goal was the completion of the Eruv itself. However, it was especially gratifying to complete this project through the cooperation of the local Orthodox and Conservative communities as well as through the interfaith cooperation with the Archdiocese.”

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