Residents in Manchester have given the thumbs up to the city’s eruv, after it went live last weekend.
The largest such project in the country with a perimeter of 13 miles, it had attracted criticism when it was first mooted, with some Mancunians questioning its halachic credentials.
But after just one Shabbat in operation, locals could clearly see its benefits.
Mother-of-three Martine Weizman said the arrival of the eruv meant she would now be able to reconnect with members of the community on Shabbat.
“This is life-changing for me and particularly my three sons, Bobby, Jack and 18-month old Eli,” she said.
“We’ve been shomer Shabbat for three years now and where we live is pretty remote. On foot on Shabbat it’s a long walk to anywhere.”
“The eruv comes perfectly timed. Just a week before it was launched, Bobby told me that he really loves Friday nights but doesn’t like Shabbat so much because he gets bored and has no friends to play with.”
This coming weekend, grandfather Ian Oster, 58, from Prestwich, will be hosting a Shabbat birthday party for his two grandsons, who turn three and one, with their birthdays just four days apart.
He said: “The eruv means my children and grandchildren can come to us without packing up all the paraphernalia they need to stay over.”
He added: “I think young families will rethink moving away to London now there is an eruv. They can have a big detached house in Manchester for the same money as a small house down south, and have their parents living just around the corner. We can be quite useful, us grandparents.”
Rob Kanter, 34, a father of two young children, said: “In our last home we were stuck in a two-bedroom flat on Shabbat and couldn’t go out with our baby. It can be very hard for young families who appreciate what Shabbat is about and want to keep it.
“Many people, including some of my family, think the eruv is a loophole but they don’t realise that the laws of eruvim make up an entire tractate of Talmud. The eruv is an intrinsic part of allowing a community to enjoy Shabbat to the fullest.”
Some strictly Orthodox rabbis have advised members of their synagogues not to use the eruv. They say the halachah does not permit eruvim which, like Manchester’s, cover an entire city.
But resident Yitzchok Davies, who agrees with the rabbis, said he knows families who are not using the eruv, but will still make a regular donation to its upkeep.
He said: “Personally they want to keep Shabbat to the highest degree of halachah where no mistakes can occur, but they feel that it’s not a reflection on the kashrus of the eruv.
“I can only say that I’ve heard a rabbi praising the community who want to be strict in their mitzvah observance, but are not being disparaging of people who use the eruv.”