Atlanta Jewish Times
Virginia Highland shul erects area’s fourth ‘doorpost of wires’ to attract the observant
By Suzi Brozman
In an effort to attract young, observant families to a once Jewish neighborhood that has become one of the city’s most popular residential areas, Anshi S’fard, a small, eclectic congregation of 40 families in the Virginia Highland area, has constructed the metro area’s fourth eruv, a “doorpost of wires” strung along telephone poles to enclose a neighborhood.
An eruv is a necessity for Orthodox Jews seeking to build a community within walking distance of a synagogue. It allows them to push a stroller and carry items such as a jacket or house key to shul on the Sabbath without breaking the prohibition of work, which includes carrying items from a private to public space.
“My hope is [the eruv] will spur people to look here, to move to this wonderful area,” said Rabbi Chaim Lindenblatt, spiritual leader of the 90-year-old synagogue since 2001. “This was the old Jewish neighborhood. It would be a wonderful opportunity to build it up again as an observant Jewish neighborhood.”
Atlanta’s first eruv was erected in 1992 to accommodate observant Jews in Toco Hills, the neighborhood north of Virginia Highland that is home to several Orthodox synagogues and schools.
The Virginia Highland eruv encompasses not only Anshi S’fard, a two-story building at the corner of North Highland Avenue and Morningside Drive, but also Chabad Intown, which is located along Ponce de Leon Avenue. Conservative Congregation Shearith Israel, which is located on University Drive, is also within the eruv.
It was built with the cooperation of Georgia Power, which routinely allows Jewish groups to use its poles to construct eruvim, with the help of an electrical contractor, and under the supervision of Memphis, Tenn., Rabbi Nathan Greenblatt.
Despite the proximity of the neighborhoods, the Virginia Highland eruv does not intersect with the one in Toco Hills due to geographical obstacles.
To be official, eruv users must seek permission to use it from the land owner, in this case the City of Atlanta and DeKalb County. With the help of Sherry Frank, regional director of the American Jewish Committee, Anshi S’fard will soon receive permission in the form of a proclamation from the local governments.
“I was so pleased to be asked to help,” said Frank, who added that she expects Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones to “respond favorably” to the request to use the eruv.
The new eruv also has a personal meaning for Frank.
“It’s the neighborhood I grew up in,” she said. “I walked to shul at Shearith Israel on holidays. It’s nice to see renewed Jewish life in my old home area.”
Atlanta is home to two other eruvs as well — in Dunwoody and in Sandy Springs. The Dunwoody eruv extends about two miles around Congregation Ariel’s Tilly Mill Road location.
Within a month of its construction in the late 1990s, the Dunwoody eruv was felled by a devastating tornado that touched down just two days before Passover. It took the synagogue many weeks to gain access to the telephone poles to rebuild it.
But the effort was worth it, says Congregation Ariel’s Rabbi Binyomin Friedman. “The impact of an eruv is great. It is an amenity offered by an Orthodox community that is essential. Without it, you are not a community in consideration. It alters lifestyles, makes us a viable community for people considering moving to the area.”
Friedman says his shul’s next project will be a mikvah, or ritual bath. “It’s on our agenda.”
Congregation Beth Tefillah erected an eruv in Sandy Springs because its leaders believed that it would ensure the growth of their community.
“It is extremely important because it allows congregants to bring their children to synagogue, exposing them to the synagogue environment,” said Beth Tefillah’s Rabbi Yossi Lew. He said many people, including newcomers, have committed to the shul “because of the eruv.”