Yale “eruv” creates Shabbat community

NEW HAVEN — Thanks to the construction of a new eruv (fence), life just got better for Jews at Yale.

The eruv, which is attached to the eruv which already serves Westville and several other New Haven neighborhoods, will enable Sabbath observers on the Yale undergraduate and graduate campuses and in surrounding neighborhoods to push strollers to synagogue, carry food to friends’ homes, and otherwise enjoy Shabbat with children and friends.

Rachel Novick, a Yale PhD student in ecology and evolutionary biology, said there were “a lot of kids and a very festive atmosphere” at the Slifka Center on Feb. 3, the first Shabbat the eruv was in place. Novick, husband Tzvi (also a Yale graduate student) and six month old son, Aiden, residents of the East Rock neighborhood, were able to be, in Rachel’s words, “part of a social community again.”

“For the last six months, we had been taking turns going to shul – this was our first Shabbat at shul together, as a family – and we went out to lunch at a friends’ house.”

After the second Shabbat of the eruv being in place, Rabbi Jason Rappoport, associate rabbi of the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale, co-director (with wife, Meira) of the Jewish Learning Initiative at Yale, and himself a Yale PhD student in philosophy, received a letter of praise from a community member: “For the first time since we arrived in New Haven the whole family went to shul and went out to a Friday night meal. Thank you so much for your hard work getting the eruv up.” Sabbath observers will now be able to bring food to people in the hospital, and they can enjoy a picnic on the Yale campus.

Rappoport is also the Rav MaMachsir for the eruv’s halachic committee. In this capacity, he coordinates such halachic matters as arranging consultations and visits with rabbinic eruv experts, training and hiring weekly eruv checkers and contractors (who can fix problems, even at the last minute), and he notifies the community (via hotline and website) of the eruv’s status.

Rachel Novick hopes that having an eruv will encourage people to remain in the community even after their graduate training. Many have left the Yale/New Haven community, or moved to the Westville neighborhood.

Joseph Bartel, a Yale Law School graduate who now lives in Florida but wanted to be a member of the eruv committee and contributor, cautioned, “Now that the eruv is up, and the task of construction is completed, there is still plenty of work to be done raising money to ensure that the eruv is self-sustaining.” Rappoport added, “We need to raise $250,000 to endow the eruv.”

To learn more, view the eruv map, and check on eruv status each week, visit http://www.jli.co.il To contribute to the eruv and to learn about naming/sponsorship opportunities, contact Rabbi Rappoport at jason.rappoport@yale.edu

To check if the eruv is up each week, call 203-387-3897.

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