Georgetown synagogue considers expanding ritual boundary


Kesher Israel, an Orthodox congregation in Washington, is exploring the possibility of expanding its eruv, a ritual enclosure that allows observant Jews certain activities otherwise prohibited on Shabbat. The area under consideration is Rosslyn, a part of Northern Virginia within walking distance to the Georgetown synagogue.

Forty-one percent of the Washington area’s Jewish population lives in Northern Virginia, according to a demographic survey released last month. The synagogue starting looking into expanding its eruv last year at the request of a handful of members, said the congregation’s president, Elanit Jakabovics.

“We’re looking into it, but we’re really far from any concrete action being taken or decision being made,” she said.

An eruv is a technical boundary that allows observant Jews inside it to carry in public areas on Shabbat.

Kesher Israel’s eruv encloses all of downtown, including The Mall, Smithsonian museums and memorials, and extends north of Columbia Heights and toward Friendship Heights. This would be the first change to the eruv since it was created in the 1990s, Jakabovics said.

Any change is a matter of logistics, labor and funding, she said. The congregation is looking at what infrastructure and natural boundaries already exist, but a larger eruv would also require more money for its upkeep and more volunteers to ensure that the eruv is intact to prevent Shabbat violations.

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