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Baltimore officials declare downtown eruv — a zone with special Sabbath rules for Jews

Baltimore officials declare downtown eruv — a zone with special Sabbath rules for Jews
B'nai Israel has spearheaded the effort to create an eruv in downtown Baltimore, allowing for some relaxed rules on Shabbat. (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun)

Acting Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young proclaimed on Wednesday the creation of an eruv in downtown Baltimore, a special area where some of the rules followed by observant Jews on the Sabbath are altered.

The project has been in the works for five years, spearheaded by Rabbi Etan Mintz of the B’nai Israel congregation on Lloyd Street.

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Mintz said at a City Hall ceremony Wednesday that the new zone will make Baltimore more appealing to observant Jewish residents and visitors — including patients and their families at the Johns Hopkins Hospital.

“We’re really, really excited for this to come to fruition,” Mintz said.

Typically, Shabbat rules in effect from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday bar most kinds of work — that includes carrying keys or pushing a baby in a stroller. But the area inside an eruv, the boundaries of which are marked by string or wire, is treated like an extension of the private home allowing some kinds of otherwise prohibited activity.

Before the ceremony, Baltimore’s Board of Estimates voted to approve the creation of the zone. That approval is needed because the boundary markers are often hung from city infrastructure.

B’nai Israel is the only synagogue left downtown, but it sits at the old heart of Baltimore’s Jewish community before families began moving to Northwest Baltimore and nearby suburbs.

There has been an eruv in Northwest Baltimore since 1979 and another at the Johns Hopkins University’s Homewood campus since 2008.

Mintz said the creation of the new zone was especially meaningful in a week after the deadly shooting at a synagogue in San Diego and showed the how Baltimore is a welcoming place for Jews.

“We’re tremendously grateful to the city and mayor young for making this a place for all people,” he said.

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