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Designating the Import of a 'Little String'
Four years ago, Kelly Galfand couldn't take her kids to synagogue on Shabbat.
That's because doing so would render Galfand, an observant Jew in Lower Merion, at odds with Jewish law.
Halachah prescribes that only Jews living within a certain designated zone -- called an eruv -- can perform certain tasks on Shabbat.
For those living outside the zone, activities like carrying a tallit or even a cane -- or as was the case with Galfand, pushing a stroller -- are considered work, and therefore forbidden.
That's why last week, when Galfand watched the neighborhood eruv expand over her property, the first word she used to describe the scene was "beautiful."
"Before, we were limited in terms of what we could do," she said. "This grew out of a personal need of wanting to join the prayer community. This will give us a real sense of community."
To the casual passerby, however, the eruv may seem barely visible.
Constructed out of an uninterrupted line of fence, wall, power line and string, the eruv now stretches from Ardmore to Overbrook, and includes parts of Merion, Wynnewood and Narberth.
Spearheading the expansion project was a nonprofit organization called the Keruv, formed by neighbors specifically to enlarge the existing Main Line eruv.
Galfand, who is president of that group, said it's comprised of about 25 families dedicated to fundraising for the project. She said that between tree-trimming, repairs and weekly inspections, the expansion project cost roughly $25,000. She projected that another $5,000 per year will be necessary to maintain it.
The Keruv's efforts have nearly tripled the size of the original eruv, set up in 1995, and have involved the cooperation of several neighborhood institutions whose property intersected its path.
Consent, for example, had to be granted by the Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary before wires could run across school grounds. Similar arrangements had to be worked out with Lankenau Hospital, PECO and Lower Merion Township.
Addressing a crowd of rabbis, neighbors and seminarians last week, Keruv liaison Mark Solomon praised how easily these collaborations fell into place.
"I was a little surprised by all the cooperation," he stated. "You don't know how hard it is to pick up the phone and try to explain to someone the importance of a little string."
But Tom Coyne, director of the seminary's legal-services office, said that the rector and cardinal -- both of whom signed off on the land-sharing agreement -- were only too eager to help.
"They could appreciate what the eruv symbolized," he said.
What's more, the end product may even benefit the larger community.
Lower Merion resident Mindy Oppenheimer pointed out that the eruv will help local businesses attract Jewish customers and could bring Jewish buyers to the local real estate market.
Said Oppenheimer: "It's a win-win situation."