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Long Beach eruv rebounds from superstorm Sandy

Rabbi Chaim Wakslak, of Young Israel of Long

Rabbi Chaim Wakslak, of Young Israel of Long Beach, stands in front of the Long Beach eruv on March 26, 2014. Credit: Newsday / Jessica Rotkiewicz

Long Beach's Orthodox Jewish community again has full use of its eruv -- a religious zone that was disrupted for about a year by superstorm Sandy.

The eruv, one of about 20 on Long Island, is a demarcated area in which Orthodox Jews can wheel strollers and use wheelchairs within its boundaries on the Sabbath. The eruv encircles the city and is marked by things such as walls, wire strung on utility poles and bulkheading.

The eruv's border was shifted a block north by Sandy when the Oct. 29, 2012, storm destroyed the city's oceanfront boardwalk.

The rebuilt boardwalk restored the eruv's original boundaries, said Rabbi Chaim Wakslak, the authority on the eruv for Long Beach's Jewish community. The boardwalk includes a railing that constitutes a wall under religious law, Wakslak said.

The eruv has been fully restored since December, he said. "This is a good thing for the Jewish community in Long Beach," Wakslak said. "It's huge."

Long Beach's $42.7 million boardwalk was rebuilt in October. The project was paid for with federal and state money, officials have said.

Long Beach city officials said before construction began that the eruv would be welcomed on the new boardwalk, as it had been on the old boardwalk.

City spokesman Gordon Tepper said the city considers the situation "resolved." City Council President Scott Mandel added Long Beach has a "history of working cooperatively with all of the congregations."

The southern border of the eruv was formerly a raised wire along the boardwalk. After Sandy destroyed it, volunteers from different synagogues relocated the border a block north, to utility poles on Broadway and Shore Road.

The restored boundaries brought about 50 of the city's roughly 250 Orthodox Jewish families back into the eruv, Wakslak said.

The change had left dozens of families unable to attend synagogue, or in some cases leave their homes at all, on Saturdays if they wanted to comply with Jewish law.

Rabbi Eli Goodman of the BACH Jewish Center in Long Beach said the boundary shift meant two of his four children were temporarily unable to attend synagogue, because they could not make the 20-minute walk on their own, and he could not carry them under Jewish law. Attendance at services has increased since the boundary was restored, he said.

"Now the entire community is able to come to services and programs more often than they had been," Goodman said.

Jeff Rosner, who attends BACH, said the loss of the eruv was a "major disruption" for the city's Jewish community, and its restoration has brought the community together.

"It promotes neighborliness," Rosner said. "That way, you can bring a gift of food to someone's house on the Sabbath."

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