The board of Beth Jacob Synagogue in Kitchener is hopeful that the recent construction of an eruv will convince observant Jews from big cities that it is possible to live a fulfilling, Orthodox lifestyle in a smaller community.
As of last month, Kitchener became the latest Canadian city to boast an eruv, a formalized demarcation between private and public areas that allows strictly observant Jews to carry things from home to home and to shul and back.
The eruv allows young families to push a stroller on Shabbat, which would not otherwise be halachically permissible. It was constructed under the supervision of Beth Jacob Rabbi Nevo Zuckerman and Los Angeles-based Rabbi David Rue.
“Our aim is to ensure that we have a fully kosher and halachah-compliant eruv meeting the most exacting standards,” Rabbi Zuckerman said in a statement.
The shul’s religious chair, Simon Adler, told The CJN the idea came from Beth Jacob’s board of directors.
“We’ve got a young rabbi with a young family and we could clearly see how inconvenient it was not to have one,” Adler said.
Rabbi Zuckerman, a 34-year-old father of six, has also been very active in working with the local Sobey’s grocery store to increase the availability of kosher meats, fish, and cheese.
While there isn’t a high percentage of the 100-family membership that currently uses the eruv, “we’re trying to create the conditions for people who are observant who might want to move here,” Adler said.
“That is why we are scrupulous about our services, kosher kitchen, mechitzah, and now our eruv,” Beth Jacob president Howard Dolman said.
“We particularly want young Orthodox couples facing unsustainable housing prices in Toronto to know that they can find a religious life in Kitchener along with an affordable home.”
Adler described the eruv as “a very large, irregular circle surrounding the shul. I would guess, from the shul to the furthest point, it’s maybe two kilometres.”
He added that it was constructed with the co-operation of the owners of the hydro poles, Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro Inc.
“They gave us permission to attach the lechies [wires] to the poles,” which are at ground level, he said.
The Kitchener-Waterloo area, which boasts a Jewish community of about 2,500, has been home to the Orthodox congregation for the past 103 years. The synagogue on Stirling Avenue was built in 1963.
“We’d like people to think about Kitchener-Waterloo because we’re close to Toronto, but we do have an Orthodox shul and we now have an eruv and you can have an observant lifestyle here,” Alder said.
“The rabbi mentioned that at least one person had called him and said he didn’t even know there were Jews in Kitchener. So, this is a way of trying to make it known as much as we can. We’ve been here for over 100 years now, but we’re just kind of refreshing ourselves.”