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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Rabbi Shestack leading a bike tour of the newly expanded Fair Lawn eruv.

Map of expanded Fair Lawn eruv.

The Fair Lawn eruv was expanded earlier this summer.

It’s easy to take an eruv for granted—kind of like there being a minyan at your local minyan factory or leftover cholent—yet living without or outside of an eruv makes Shabbat and Yom Tov more challenging in countless ways.

While the four-mile long expansion of the Fair Lawn eruv benefits the entire town, it primarily impacts the Young Israel of Fair Lawn and Congregation Ahavat Achim. With the expansion of the eruv, residential areas just north and east of Ahavat Achim are now included.

According to Ahavat Achim’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Eli Shestack, the previous eruv boundary came right up to the shul. “Having the boundary so close to the shul caused some people who were not familiar with the eruv to unknowingly walk outside of it.”

With the expansion, the eruv now includes Dunkerhook Park, which is part of Saddle River County Park. Betsy Sonnenblick, a long-time Fair Lawn resident, said, “Putting the park in the eruv is huge. It’s so nice to be able to take a walk in the park on Shabbos.”

The Hyatt Hotel, located on Route 4, is also now within the eruv. Larry Kraut was excited about the hotel’s inclusion. “It will provide families the opportunity to have relatives and friends stay at the Hyatt Hotel when celebrating smachot, as well as benefiting the many guests that come from out of town and stay at the Hyatt for Shabbos.”

While many of us take the eruv for granted, the halachot related to it are far from simple. Expanding the eruv in Fair Lawn brought up complications. “The rabbis of Fair Lawn worked together on this project and, ultimately, everyone in town felt comfortable with the eruv expansion,” said Rabbi Shestack. The eruv also received approval from the Fair Lawn Eruv Association and from Rabbi Haim Jachter, the dayan beit din of Elizabeth.

Recognizing the challenges felt by some with the previous eruv’s boundaries, Rabbi Shestack investigated to see if an expansion was possible. A drive around Fair Lawn convinced him that the eruv could be expanded. “It was perfectly aligned for an eruv. Telephone poles needed little work to accommodate the expansion.”

After receiving approval from all of the rabbis in Fair Lawn and the Fair Lawn Eruv Association, Rabbi Shestack reached out to Micah Shotkin of Passaic who builds and maintains eruvim for a living. After discussing the eruv with him, Rabbi Shestack and Shotkin built the eruv.

To celebrate the eruv’s expansion, Rabbi Shestack led a bike tour of the expanded eruv. The two-hour tour covered seven miles and was a way to introduce the community to the eruv’s new parameters. Rabbi Shestack saw the bike tour as a way to do something educationally valuable, as people could learn about a topic while seeing it in person. “As we went around the eruv, we stopped a dozen or so times and discussed the intricacies of how an eruv works.”

Ben Wechsler, a 10th grader at The Frisch School joined his dad on the tour. He did so because he enjoys biking and thought the tour would be fun and good exercise. Wechsler gained much more than a good workout: “I learned a lot about the halachah related to an eruv, including what is and what is not allowed.”

Sonnenblick, who also enjoys bike riding, went on the tour as she was curious to see what was done. The lifelong Fair Lawn resident noted that she never knew where the eruv went. “I learned a lot about what’s involved in building an eruv,” she said after the tour. “I appreciate the commitment that was put in to get the expansion done.”

The tour was popular with other attendees as well. “People came over and said it was the perfect way to spend a beautiful morning, and they asked if we could do it again sometime,” said Rabbi Shestack. People who didn’t participate in the bike tour reached out to the rabbi as well. They had heard great things and were hoping he would do it again.

With the expansion, the Fair Lawn community has an opportunity to continue to grow. The added housing options within the eruv are crucially important, according to Rabbi Shestack. “There’s no hindrance for those looking to move to the community as the expanded eruv will accommodate further growth.”

The expanded eruv is already being appreciated for the benefits it’s bringing to Fair Lawn. Those young families with strollers who call Fair Lawn home, both now and in the future, can enjoy Shabbat with the community and not have to think twice.

By Larry Bernstein


Larry Bernstein is a Bergen County resident and freelance writer for hire. To see samples of his work or contact him, visit http://larrydbernstein.com.