Aspen Hill poised for increased eruv use

The Aspen Hill eruv, in blue

Kate Jennes-Kahn is a longtime member of Tikvat Israel Congregation in Rockville. She keeps kosher and is comfortable with having raised her three children in the Conservative synagogue.

Her hope is that all Jews of any denomination feel just as welcome. And that’s why Jennes-Kahn is happy that Tikvat Israel is now part of the eruv that also includes Orthodox Kehilat Pardes – The Rock Creek Synagogue.

An eruv is a boundary made of wires strung along telephone poles that allow Shabbat observant Jews within that area to carry items as they would at home, but not in public.

“I am a believer that where you can maximize opportunities for people across the spectrum,” you should, she said.

The two synagogues already have joined together for educational classes, social justice trips and projects during Good Deeds Day. But with the expansion of the eruv, the two Aspen Hill area synagogues have enhanced Jewish community in the area, said Rabbi Uri Topolosky of Kehilat Pardes.

While eruvs are commonplace around Orthodox synagogues such as Kehilat Pardes, it is unusual for a Conservative synagogue to construct one. It also is rare for synagogues of different denominations to build one that encompasses both their surroundings.

The newly expanded eruv now includes homes in the areas of Rock Creek Park, Aspen Hill Park, Tikvat Israel Congregation and Rockville High School. It is about 25 percent larger now.

Jennes-Kahn’s house in Aspen Hill lies within the confines of the eruv. She hasn’t taken advantage of it yet, but it brings back memories of her life in Jerusalem, where she attended a Conservative yeshivah.

“I appreciated being able to walk with my tallit and not be questioned,” she said, adding, “I certainly enjoyed that.”

Rabbi Marc Israel, of Tikvat Israel, also views the eruv expansion as an opportunity to welcome Sabbath-observant Jews to his synagogue’s programming during Shabbat.

“In general, I want the synagogue to be a place where all Jews feel comfortable coming” and where “all traditions are honored and observed,” he said.

“I wanted to be able to bring in families who may be looking for that in between, where they could be observant but more egalitarian,” Israel said.

“The eruv expansion is just a beautiful addition to our community. It incorporates many more households,” said Rabbi Topolosky. He called it “just a really profound statement for our community. It is a statement about the intersection of our communities.”

He added that the eruv helps “recognize we are part of a larger Jewish family.”

On May 14, the two rabbis joined to bless the new eruv, which their respective synagogue members helped raise funds, plan the route and complete the work. They also received funding from other donors.

As Montgomery County continues to relax some of its stay at home rules, “We hope to have a more formal celebration together,” the two rabbis said in a joint news release.

Suzanne Pollak is a Washington-area writer.

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