[UPDATED] Highway construction downs L.A. Eruv for Sabbath

The Los Angeles Community Eruv, which allows observant Jews to carry items within its restricted boundaries on the Sabbath, will not be in operation on the Shabbat that starts at sundown today, June 15 due to a break caused by construction on the 405 Freeway, according to a posting on the eruv’s website.

A rabbinic work-around to the prohibition of carrying in public spaces on the Sabbath, an eruv symbolically transforms the area it encloses into a space where carrying is permitted, allowing parents to push children in strollers, synagogue-goers to carry prayer shawls and youth to play basketball in a public park, if they so choose.

While many such enclosures are often simple constructions of fishing line or wire, Los Angeles’s eruv, which has a circumference of about 40 miles, uses a 10-mile section of the 405 as its Western boundary. With construction on parts of the 405 ongoing for the past three years, the fences and guardrails that make up parts of Los Angeles’s eruv have occasionally been altered in ways that have put the entire eruv out of commission for a Sabbath on a few occasions.

Highway construction last downed the eruv for one Shabbat in late-October 2011, according to the Los Angeles Eruv Facebook page. In that case, though eruv administrators had thought the boundary might stay down into November, the eruv was back up and running again the following week.

Signs have been posted around the heavily Orthodox Hancock Park community – including at La Brea Kosher Market in Hancock Park and at synagogues Bais Yehuda and Kehilas Yaakov – that read, “Due to the ongoing construction on the 405 freeway, the eruv is down. Please spread the word.”

Community members, shopping for Shabbat groceries at La Brea Market, expressed frustration.

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“My friend is making [her son’s] bar mitzvah this Shabbos, so I know she has a lot of friends coming in from of town with babies, and it’s going to be complicated,” said Faigie Brecher, who was shopping with her 18-month-year-old son and lives around the corner from the market. “All of us would like to go…and we’re going to be stuck at home having to make arrangements to watch our children.”

Adinah Mahfouda, a cashier at the La Brea market, sent text messages to her friends to notify them.  She said she also her rebbetzin whether a certain stoller could be used by a friend, and was told it wasn’t kosher.

Elly Rubin, 57, a member of Congregation Or Hachaim, had a different take on the situation. “It’s actually a good thing occasionally when the eruv is down,” he said, “so people remember the rules and how it works.”

Eruv adminstrators could not be reached for comment on Friday.


Bucking the tattoo taboo

Two years ago, Andy Abrams was startled to notice a 20-something colleague tattooed with the Hebrew word, shechina. The woman hadn’t been raised in an observant household, like Abrams: “Yet she not only chose a word heavy with religious meaning, she chose a style of script only found in the Torah,” he said. Her intention wasn’t to show off a hipper-than-thou take on Judaism, a la Heeb magazine, or the kind of in-your-face ethnicity popularized by films such as “The Hebrew Hammer.”

“It was her identification with Jewish feminism and with some sense of the divine,” Abrams said. “And the word meant so much to her that she was willing to permanently ink it on her body.”

Abrams — 34 and uninked — was so intrigued that he embarked upon a book, movie and photography project, “Tattoo Jew,” with photographer Justin Dawson, and images now at Gallery Zel. By interviewing more than 30 subjects, they hoped to discover why young Jews tattooed themselves, despite the prohibitions: The Torah forbids marking the body; concentration camp tattoos have scarred the Jewish psyche and even secular parents feel, “We eat pork, but we don’t get tattoos because we’re Jewish,” Abrams said. (Although 15 percent of Americans over 18 have at least one tattoo, Abrams hasn’t encountered statistics on how many are Jews.)

He did encounter interviewees who wore their Judaism, literally, on their sleeves as “a profound metaphorical act with deep resonance.”

For Todd Barman, a San Francisco yeshiva alumnus, the word emes (truth) on his forearm is as much a reminder of God as wearing a yarmulke. For Los Angeles performance artist Marina Vainshtein, covering her body with Holocaust imagery, such as a burning synagogue, is her walking billboard for “Never Again.” Orian Livnat, meanwhile, honors his parents with the words “ema” and “aba” emblazoned against cherubs, a Jewish play on traditional tattoo iconography.

The project has been receiving national attention, with articles in publications such as Skin & Ink magazine, because it explores “a new way of revitalizing Judaism that doesn’t often get talked about in a serious way,” Abrams said. “Jews with tattoos aren’t simply identifying with a cool, hip trend and not doing the spiritual work. They’re often cementing their relationship with their roots, their culture and spirituality.”

Viewers can see the exhibit through Aug. 13, byappointment only. (310) 613-9170. The Aug. 14 closing reception is open to thepublic. For more information about the book and movie project, visit www.tattoojewmovie.com .