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Orthodox Jews seek support for controversial boundary line around Hampstead

PUBLISHED: 13:45 29 March 2012

Rabbi Shlomo Levin pointing at barely visible eruv wire on lamp posts in Hampstead Garden Suburb. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Rabbi Shlomo Levin pointing at barely visible eruv wire on lamp posts in Hampstead Garden Suburb. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

The Jewish community is seeking wider backing in Hampstead to cordon off half the borough to allow Orthodox Jews to move around more freely on the Sabbath.

Rabbi Shlomo Levin, of South Hampstead Synagogue, is leading plans to set up a special boundary line – known as an eruv – formed by a very thin wire which will ring Hampstead, West Hampstead, South Hampstead, Belsize Park and Gospel Oak.

The enclosed area would allow Orthodox Jews to carry out simple tasks on the Sabbath – such as carrying and pushing, which would otherwise be deemed as work.

But the scheme must first win community support and be approved by Camden Council.

Rabbi Levin said the plans would have a “life changing” effect for observant Jews between sundown on Friday and dusk on Saturday. “It will make a very, very big difference to people’s quality of life,” he said.

“For parents with small children or people who need to use a wheelchair it can be very isolating if they are stuck in a small flat all day in a cosmopolitan area – that’s very, very limiting.”

Holocaust survivor Charles Sonabend, who has lived in Swiss Cottage since the Second World War, suffers from Parkinson’s disease and needs a wheelchair to make the journey to a synagogue.

“Jewish religion prohibits me from using the wheelchair outside of my home or a private area on the Sabbath, or the Day of Atonement,” said Mr Sonabend, who is in his 80s.

“Ultimately, an eruv enables me to leave my home in situations where at present I cannot. It will change my life.”

Rabbi Levin explained that 98 per cent of the suggested boundary is marked out by existing landmarks, such as railway lines and lampposts.

But the plans will entail erecting 26 pairs of six metre high poles with a wire hanging between them.

Although the plans are supported by the Village Shul in Hampstead, West Hampstead Synagogue and Shomrei Hadas in Finchley Road, the proposals have not won universal support from the broader Jewish community.

One member of the Belsize Square Synagogue said: “Orthodox Jews should not rely on an eruv for how they live their lives. It’s just not right.”

The country’s first eruv was built in Golders Green in 2003. The new plans would join up with the north west London eruv which trails around Hampstead Heath.

The Jewish community is seeking the views of the wider community before plans are submitted to the council.

Representations can be made until April 14.


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