After 20 years Arthur Smith will retire from overseeing the Stamford eruv. The community’s eruv has been in operation since 1984, as a communitywide project of both the Young Israel of Stamford and Congregation Agudath Sholom.
Smith originally became involved in the eruv as an opportunity to serve and build up the community. “I started out as one of many people who checked a portion of the eruv every six months; I think Bennett Kfare was the president at that time,” he said. “Then Bennett got a job in NYC and could no longer do the job on Fridays. The board asked me to take over and I accepted.”
The original eruv project was overseen by Bob Lansey, with Rabbi Herschel Schachter of Yeshiva University as its original Rav Hamachshir. More recently, Rabbi Haim Jachter of Teaneck has been overseeing halachic issues. Over time, the eruv was expanded to include Stamford’s Chabad Center once the organization completed its new building. Other small modifications have been made, but the general boundaries have pretty much remained the same for the last 35 years. Lansey was succeeded by several other chairs, including David Cohen, Michael Feldstein and Bennet Kfare. However, none served as long as Smith’s two decades.
“There are some interesting quirks to the Stamford eruv,” explained former chair Michael Feldstein. “Most of the eruv utilizes the telephone wires and poles, which require “lechis” to be posted on the telephone wire poles in order to create ‘doorposts.’ However, some of the eruv’s boundaries run along the railroad tracks, or along walls which also are able to be used as part of an eruv boundary.”
“Generally the outside community does not notice the eruv,” explained Smith. “There was a time when a string was required between a telephone pole and a fence; the string crossed the sidewalk and was about eight feet above the ground. Neighborhood boys thought it was great fun to ride their bikes on the sidewalk standing up and grabbing the string. After a few times repairing the string, we rerouted the eruv. Twice, in different locations, the power company replaced poles and eliminated some nearby poles. During routine weekly inspections of the eruv, we looked for the poles that had been removed. In both cases we had to reroute the eruv to eliminate the problems.”
“In the 35 years the eruv has existed, I can only remember a couple of times that it was ruled ‘down’ because of problems,” said Feldstein. “Even after major snowstorms on Fridays, the eruv checkers virtually always were able to make any necessary repairs before Shabbat to ensure a halachically valid eruv.”
Following in Smith’s footsteps, Michael Warmflash, along with Steven Adelman and Eliaz Niedober will now serve as the eruv committee. “I was approached by Michael Feldstein and was asked if I would be interested in joining the eruv committee. I was interested, since an eruv is something we as a community often take for granted. I still remember the day the eruv was put up in my childhood community of San Diego. It was unbelievable how, overnight, the eruv was able to strengthen the community and bring each family closer to one another,” recounted Adelman. “Here in Stamford, with the previous generation getting ready to hand over responsibility to the next generation, I felt it was the perfect time to become more involved.”
“There was a need as the first generation with the eruv was looking to pass on the responsibility,” added Niedober. “Being able to help out in an area that doesn’t get much coverage but has a big impact on the Jewish community is very fulfilling.”
By Judy Berger