Symbolic wire allows residents to move about during Shabbos
By Michele Derus
of the Journal Sentinel staff
September 15, 1996
Congregation Beth Jehudah last week completed a west side neighborhood wiring
project that will allow its Orthodox members greater freedom of movement among
their homes and the synagogue on Shabbos, the Jewish Sabbath.
A non-visible wire fence called an Eruv connects a 144-square-block area that
encompasses the temple, 2700 N. 54th St., its Yeshiva Elementary and Milwaukee
Hillel Schools, 3447 N. 51st Blvd., with congregants’ homes, mostly north of
W. Burleigh St.
“The Eruv uses present telephone cable and electric wiring, religiously
forming a system of doorways that demark the boundaries of this community,”
explained Benzion Twerski, Beth Jehudah’s assistant rabbi and project supervisor.
The Eruv creates an official community and an accompanying travel freedom that
until now, the Orthodox congregation didn’t have on Shabbos, the Jewish period of
rest that runs from sundown Fridays to sundown Saturdays.
During that time, congregants are not allowed to carry anything, including
children, except what is defined by religious law as a “private domain.”
This often results in men walking to temple and social functions, while women
with young children remain home.
Beth Jehudah’s Eruv creates a community-wide private domain. Other American
cities, including Chicago, Cleveland and Baltimore, have Eruvs, but Beth Jehudah’s
is the first in metropolitan Milwaukee, congregation members say. Orthodox Jews
in Glendale and Milwaukee’s East Side have discussed installing an Eruv.
“The social aspect of Sabbath is one of the most critical elements in
creating community bonding; this will greatly enhance that,” the assistant
rabbi explained. “Families with children who don’t walk will now have the
ability to socialize. The same with the wheelchair bound.”
The project, financed by donors, entailed four years of planning and fund-raising,
five weeks of construction to plan and design and “thousands of details that
needed to be tended to because of religious restrictions and laws,” Twerski
It cost “many thousands of dollars,” he said. “I’m not sure it’s
wise to give a figure,” nor construction details, as a precaution against
M&I Northern Bank and congregant Suzanne Zigun’s family were major donors,
The line runs from N. 45th to N. 60th Sts. between W. Capitol Drive and W.
Burleigh St. and from N. 48th to N. 54th Sts. from Burleigh to W. Center St.,
he said. Those boundaries allow inclusion of St. Joseph’s Hospital, he noted.
No public celebration is planned. But, as project completion came just before the
Sept. 13-23 High Holiday Days, which includes the Jewish New Year, Twerski said
“every family is going to be celebrating its own freedom, being able to go
out to each others’ homes.”