By Deb Silverthorn
Special to the TJP
“If you build it, they will come,” is the mantra from Field of Dreams. It could likely be the impetus for the dream of Shirley Rovinsky, the lead behind the recent completion of the South of Forest Eruv (SFE).
“What a great feeling as I recorded the message ‘Today is Thursday, Jan. 7 and the South of Forest Eruv is up,’” said Rovinsky, truly a one-woman advocate who doesn’t understand “no,” “can’t” or even “maybe,” inspired to push through the SFE so that her husband Erv could walk to Congregation Tiferet Israel on Shabbat.
Previously, the Rovinskys and others in the community were unable to carry, push or move items such as strollers, wheelchairs and walkers from sundown Fridays through the close of Shabbat on Saturday (and on Yom Kippur). Within the eruv, Sabbath-observant Jews can take their children by stroller, and the elderly or infirm may use wheelchairs, walkers and canes to get to and from their destinations. The eruv doesn’t give license to act in any way that could break the laws of the Sabbath, and items such as money or writing utensils that cannot be used on the Sabbath may not be carried.
The perimeter of the SFE covers approximately 5.4 miles, from the northeast corner of Forest Lane to Valleydale, to Central Expressway then Stone Canyon, to Meadow Road, Lakehurst and Preston, then to Meadowcrest, where it meets the South Eruv. It includes the Aaron Family JCC and the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, both in an eruv for the first time. The SFE and the South Eruv intersect at the northeast corner of Forest Lane and Hillcrest Road. The South Eruv, first created in 1991, on its own is roughly bordered by LBJ Freeway to the north, Dallas North Tollway to the west, Hillcrest to the east and parts of Northaven and Forest to the south. There are also eruvs in Far North Dallas and Plano.
Determined to complete plan
“As quickly as I’d give Shirley a task, it was done and she was back for more — nothing swayed her determination and it has been an honor and pleasure to work with her,” said Rabbi Sholey Klein, kashruth administrator of Dallas Kosher, who worked with Rovinsky, texting or speaking daily. “She has put 100 percent of her heart, soul, and body — literally — into making this work for her community. I’ve never worked with anyone like her and we’re blessed to have her on our side.”
In addition to Rovinsky and Rabbi Klein, Rabbi Aharon Sorscher, an eruv expert associated with the Kollel Institute of Greater Detroit and Willbros T&D Services, referred by Oncor Electric, made the SFE a reality.
“Meeting the halachic standards is a must and I was very happy to come to Dallas and provide my expertise,” said Rabbi Sorscher, who walked with Rabbi Klein for 45 minutes in the stream from Boedeker to Central Expressway as bodies of water have their own regulations for inclusion. This is just one of 12 bodies of water and streams within the SFE that are not clearly visible from the street. “The rules of eruv construction, and bringing the instructions from the Talmud and the Shulchan Aruch to practical application, are complex.”
The eruv is created of telephone poles, materials, permanent walls or fences that “connect” the eruv perimeters. The eruv must be inspected each week — to ensure that all parts are still connected — in order for it to be “up,” or acceptable. There must be no broken connections, no weather-related or other natural or man-made problems making it dysfunctional. Each Friday there is a recorded message with updates.
Not an overnight success, for more than 20 years the concept of such an expansion has been discussed, manpower and money always reasons to table the conversation. Last year, Rovinsky took the matter into her own hands, hands that have fingerprints on Jewish organizations from throughout the Metroplex as president of the board of directors and the Parent Teacher Association of Akiba Academy, B’nai B’rith Women, and Jewish Family Service. She has held the positions of executive director of Akiba Academy, Temple Shalom, and Tiferet Israel.
Rovinsky is currently the administrator for the Rabbinic Association of Greater Dallas. She is vice president of Building and Grounds at Tiferet Israel and she serves on their Chevra Kadisha. Honored with many leadership awards throughout the years, she has served on the boards of the Jewish Community Center, Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, Congregation Shearith Israel, Israel Bonds; on regional boards of the Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith Youth Organization, B’nai B’rith Women; and as Hillel commissioner.
“The challenge to find a perimeter of connecting telephone poles and/or fences was met by my spending countless hours riding streets and alleys,” said Rovinsky, who learned to map the length and width of the lakes via Google Earth, and who met with Rabbi Bentzi Epstein of Dallas Area Torah Association (DATA) and Rabbi Klein, never swayed by the issues that had previously discouraged others.
“A half-mile of telephone poles would suddenly stop and we’d backtrack. Expected one-hour rides turned into two and three hours. Once the perimeter was finalized, Rabbi Klein agreed it was doable and we worked together to finalize the plans and get started. For me, it was never ‘if’; I knew I had to provide the ‘how.’”
Rabbi Nasanya Zakon, also of DATA, who had worked on the North Eruv, recommended that Rovinsky identify each pole by its numbers determined by Oncor Electric. In the upper 90-degree Texas weather, the Rovinskys spent many hours writing the numbers of each of the 210 poles and street locations. Rovinsky created a database with all of the information and then she and Rabbi Klein walked the route over and over again, creating specific instructions for the utility company to follow, before Rabbi Klein again reviewed it to be sure the instructions were followed.
Building the SFE took time, convincing, research — and the raising of the $40,000 for the actual placement of the SFE, which will also require $5,200 each year to maintain. Many in the community stepped forth when Rovinsky called.
“The eruv is a great pedagogical tool to teach about something as ‘subtle’ as the eruv, and the opportunities because it exists,” said Jaynie Schultz, who lives within the new eruv borders. “The eruv, in this heavily Jewish neighborhood, will enhance the experience for all of us as it extends a hand to all Jews with the value of creating an inclusive community. Shirley and Erv have done so much, for so many, and it was never a question but to help.”
“What Shirley has done, no group could do,” said Joram Wolanow, also a SFE-area resident, who also championed for an eruv. “She pushed through despite the naysayers. Because of her there’s sure to be new light; seniors who couldn’t get to shul before can now be transported and I believe people will find reason to move closer to us. Only greatness will come from her success.”
“I’m grateful to so many who contributed their time and their money, and to Rabbi Klein, who was a delight to work with and to whom I owe so much,” said Rovinsky, “and to my wonderful Erv, who has supported me throughout the process — sharing every bump in the road, literally and figuratively. Most of all I am thankful to HaShem for giving me strength and guidance to complete the South of Forest Eruv.”
To check on the weekly status of the Eruv, call 214-691-3611, extension 7.
For an inclusive map of the SFE, email firstname.lastname@example.org and to support the upkeep of the SFE, which is a 501(c)(3), send tax-deductible donations to: Eruv of Dallas, Inc. c/o Shirley Rovinsky, 7023 Northaven, Dallas, TX 75230-3504.