Drexel Student Group Works to Expand Eruv

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Students involved with Drexel’s Orthodox community | Photos provided

If Charlotte Guedalia, a product design sophomore at Drexel University, wants to go to the Chabad serving Drexel on Shabbat, she has to figure out a way to finagle a key necklace.

Sabbath-observant Jews like Guedalia, who served as the vice president of education at the Orthodox Minyan Group (OMG) at Drexel Hillel, do not carry things, such as keys, water bottles or even babies, in public during Shabbat. Many areas of Philadelphia, like other cities with large Jewish communities, are enclosed within an eruv, a symbolic boundary that allows those keeping Shabbat to carry certain objects within that space.

The current University City eruv, which was instituted in 2002 following an effort led primarily by University of Pennsylvania students, does not encompass the entirety of the Drexel University community. In recent years, the Jewish community there has grown, leading to interest in expanding the eruv.

In particular, the community wants the expansion to include the Chabad serving Drexel, which is located on Baring Street, just north of the eruv’s current border on Powelton Avenue.

“The eruv as it was, as it is now, doesn’t reach Chabad, which creates this awkward dynamic [that] students, especially Orthodox ones who are conscious of the need of an eruv, didn’t have a way to carry their key to Chabad on Shabbat or carry their IDs or anything like that,” said Guedalia, who considers herself modern Orthodox. “It was always one of those things where, if it became a possibility, it was always something that we wanted.”

In April, David Lifschutz, a parent of a Drexel student, visited his daughter at the university. While at Chabad, he learned that it was not located inside of the eruv. He wanted to help expand it, putting this project into motion.

Lifschutz and his wife, Tammy, have pledged to match donations up to $5,000, with students from OMG raising the other $5,000. This would add up to the $10,000 needed for the expansion. Lifschutz initially declined to comment on the project.

A map showing the current eruv in blue and the expanded border in purple.

“The eruv expanding now is kind of marking the fact that the Orthodox community [at Drexel] is growing, and there’s more of a need for it,” Guedalia said. “In previous years, even if there was sort of a need for it, there wasn’t enough of an Orthodox voice at Drexel that would lead for the eruv to grow.

“Right now, this coming year, we’re expecting a lot more Orthodox kids and kosher students in general to be coming in,” Guedalia added. “My freshman year, last year, a lot came in, so the community is expanding, and through the expansion, it’s going to allow a lot more people to come.”

OMG wants to move the northern border of the eruv from Powelton Avenue to Haverford Avenue and Spring Garden Street. To do this, the group is hoping to raise the money through a crowdfund at drexeleruv.raisegiving.com.

The drive’s initial run, which ended July 1, did not raise the necessary funds, so the group has extended the timeframe. Guedalia said that by increasing the advertising around the campaign, the group hopes to be more successful this time around.

Rabbi Chaim Goldstein, co-director of the Chabad serving Drexel, said that the eruv was already in place when he opened the Chabad near the campus. At the time, he said, the eruv wasn’t much of a priority; they were just trying to find a space near the university that would meet their needs.

“When we came here, we got a house, and it was right outside the eruv,” he said. “People have always been talking about [expanding it] but it was never done because it was a big project, lots of money.”

Goldstein said that while he doesn’t have exact numbers, he has noticed both the Orthodox and non-Orthodox communities at Drexel growing steadily over the years. This has led to the Drexel Hillel getting its own building, as well as a Torah scroll being commissioned for the Chabad.

“There are little things where an eruv feels intangible, an intangible boundary around what constitutes as a community,” Guedalia said. “For me, it was nice feeling like this was an opportunity for the community to grow as the eruv grows.” 

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