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Page last updated at 12:29 GMT, Wednesday, 25 August 2010 13:29 UK
Making life easier for orthodox Jews in Whitefield
Photo of Metrolink tram (c) David Dixon
The Metrolink link in Whitefield forms part of the eruv perimeter

The areas of Whitefield and Prestwich have long been home to Greater Manchester's Jewish community.

According to Jewish law, followers cannot push or carry everyday objects like a baby buggy or even their house keys on their holy day, the Sabbath.

But once inside a religious zone known as an 'eruv', they are able to continue their lives with fewer restrictions.

Now, the Jewish community in Whitefield is hoping to establish the first eruv outside London.

Sabbath

For centuries, orthodox Jews have observed the Sabbath - the Jewish day of rest - which requires them not to perform any 'work' from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday.

However, those restrictions have been interpreted in orthodox Judaism to prohibit certain everyday tasks which involve "carrying or pushing" in public.

But, in a small area of Whitefield, that could be about to change.

WHAT AN ERUV ALLOWS
to carry items outside the home eg. keys, reading glasses, handkerchief
to push wheelchairs or baby buggies
to carry essential medicines
to carry food or drink
to carry prayer shawls or prayer books
an eruv does NOT permit driving, using mobile phones, shopping, swimming, riding a bicycle, playing football or gardening

Rabbi Jonathan Guttentag - who describes himself as "strictly orthodox" - has been working for years to lift those restrictions for his congregation by establishing an eruv.

"Under Jewish law, the Sabbath is a beautiful day, a day of tranquility," he said.

"But during Shabbat, Jews are not supposed to carry objects out into the street, such as house keys or even a prayer book.

"They cannot push wheeled objects such as baby buggies or wheelchairs which means that some people cannot leave the home," he added.

"So by establishing an eruv, what we're doing is making it easier for young mothers with babies to visit friends or encourage disabled people to go to the synagogue."

But is it, as some have claimed, a bending of the rules?

"On the contrary," he said. "When you go to Israel, you will find every town, every city has got an eruv.

"What I'm doing is simply implementing the rules to allow people to move around their community.

"And that's why Jewish communities around the world have always made eruvim."

Opposed

As Rabbi Guttentag pointed out "an eruv doesn't permit everything," so that observant Jews in Whitefield will still have to refrain from driving or using a mobile phone.

Rabbi Jonathan Guttentag
What I'm doing is simply implementing the rules to allow people to move around their community
Rabbi Jonathan Guttentag

And while he admitted that some people in the community opposed the plans, he insisted that "a vast consensus" were in favour of an eruv which he believes could appeal to other Jewish communities.

"Usually, when you got one eruv, more follow," he said. "In London, it started with two, now there are more."

An eruv works by designating a symbolic area within which observant Jews can treat "public" spaces in the same way as "private" space at home.

Establishing the eruv is the first step.

Firstly, a largely invisible boundary is identified using certain local features such as railway lines, walls or lampposts as points on its perimeter.

Gaps in this perimeter can be connected using thin filament line to join the circle.

In the case of the Whitefield eruv, the proposed area is on the southern edge of Bury, centred on Philips Park.

The four mile perimeter is roughly bordered by the Metrolink line to the east, Old Hall Lane to the west, the Polyflor factory at Leicester Road to the North and the M60 motorway to the south.

Plans for a number of one-metre high posts to help to define the eruv have been submitted to Bury Council.

A decision is expected by October.




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