[UPDATED] Minus the eruv, no excuses

UPDATE: According to the Web site laeruv.com, the Los Angeles eruv is down again for Shabbat, beginning June 22 and continuing June 23.

UPDATE: As of 1:30 p.m. Friday, June 22, the Web site laeruv.com is now reporting, the Los Angeles eruv is back up, in time for Shabbat.

When construction for the widening of the 405 Freeway put the Los Angeles Community Eruv out of operation for Shabbat on June 15, it added some complications to the Sabbath plans of some observant Jewish Angelenos. But probably few more so than Elliot Katzovitz, who was among those involved in designing the eruv about a decade ago.

An eruv defines a specific area and allows a rabbinic work-around to the prohibition of carrying in public spaces on the Sabbath.

“There was an old eruv that covered the greater Pico neighborhood, which not everybody found amenable,” Katzovitz said, explaining that it, like most such enclosures, was constructed from posts and strings.

“The current eruv” — whose 40-mile circumference is composed primarily of freeway fencing, the walls of mountain passes and large buildings — “is acceptable to all the different viewpoints of Orthodox Judaism, from the black hats in La Brea to the Modern Orthodox at B’nai David-Judea,” Katzovitz said.

Eruv administrators knew by June 12 that, because paving on a stretch of freeway wouldn’t be dry in time to replace a stretch of fencing, the eruv would be out of operation for Shabbat, for only the second time in as many years of construction. For most of the estimated 40,000 to 50,000 observant Jews who live within the eruv’s perimeter, this meant making sure their Shabbat plans didn’t include pushing children in strollers or carrying a prayer shawl to synagogue.

But for Katzovitz, whose youngest son was becoming bar mitzvah on Saturday morning at B’nai David-Judea, the absence of an eruv didn’t just mean that some guests with small children wouldn’t make it to synagogue, nor were the logistics — making sure the text of his son’s speech was in the synagogue before sundown on Friday, for one — the most significant hardship.

Katzovitz, who lives in Pico-Robertson, about a mile from B’nai David-Judea, suffers from psoriatic arthritis, a condition that doesn’t always afflict him. But last weekend, he suffered a spell that made walking painful.

“Normally, I would’ve used a cane or a wheelchair,” Katzovitz said, and had his condition been one that required him to use a cane or wheelchair all the time, Katzovitz explained, he would have done so, even without an eruv.

But because he is not permanently disabled and would have been using a wheelchair as “a temporary convenience,” Katzovitz said, it was off-limits without an eruv.

“Because I could theoretically walk, I can’t use that wheelchair,” he said, “which is going to sound crazy to anyone who isn’t an Orthodox Jew.”

Katzovitz made it to his son’s bar mitzvah on foot, and even walked back to the synagogue again on Saturday afternoon.

“God granted me the freedom and the lack of pain to be able to do it,” he said.

As of press time on June 19, administrators expected to have the eruv back in operation in time for the Sabbath beginning on June 22.