Having and maintaining an eruv is a crucial element of a community: it represents unification. There are a number of people involved to ensure the Fair Lawn eruv is kosher. However, one person has been intimately involved with the eruv for over 25 years: Marc Nash.
Marc grew up in Fair Lawn and became a baal teshuva when he was 16. He was seeking a communal responsibility as a way of thanking those who worked with and guided him when he was going through his religious development. Shortly thereafter, the Fair Lawn eruv checker needed to step down. While Marc was just 18 at the time, he saw this as an opportunity to contribute to the town, and so he applied for the job. That was 28 years ago.
The Fair Lawn eruv (it also includes parts of Glen Rock, Saddle Brook and Elmwood Park) is 4 square miles. It includes 300 utility poles—200 of which actually have a lechi (a strip used to represent a doorpost) affixed to them to demarcate them as part of the eruv. Marc says that checking the eruv takes approximately 2.5 hours. He typically checks on Friday mornings. However, during the winter, Marc checks on Thursdays. “It requires a trained eye so as to not miss anything,” said Marc.
With his years of experience, one would think that Marc is an expert in the ways of an eruv. And while Marc concedes “I know it so well and can answer questions on it,” he also adds he is not a rabbi, and when he is not 100 percent sure of something there are a number of local authorities to make the halachic decisions. One of those authorities is Rabbi Eli Belizon of The Young Israel of Fair Lawn. Rabbi Belizon said of Marc, “He’s meticulous and dedicated to the community. He’s also a God-fearing Jew and a pleasure to work with.”
What makes Marc’s dedication to the Fair Lawn community even more impressive is that he is not even a member of it. Marc and his family live in Passaic. When Marc made the move, he stepped away from his position as eruv checker. However, when the position was open again two years later, Marc once again stepped up. “I was born and raised in Fair Lawn and still feel a connection. So, I know the eruv and the community very well.”
PSE&G and the Eruv
PSE&G has been putting in new utility poles in Fair Lawn. The new poles are wider and taller than the previous poles. The installation is part of a statewide initiative in order for PSE&G to meet existing electric needs and be better prepared for Sandy-like storms. It will increase system capacity, enhance system reliability and provide greater system redundancy for its customers. PSE&G is replacing and/or supplementing its 50-plus-year-old 26kV lines to bring 69kV power throughout the state. It’s expected that the work in the Fair Lawn area will run through the fourth quarter of 2016.
Rabbi Belizon grew concerned when he saw that PSE&G was going to be in the area around his shul. “So I walked up to one of the workers and asked some questions and explained some of the facts regarding an Eruv. I asked if I could speak to the man in charge and was introduced to Jason Sperry, a construction supervisor.” Rabbi Belizon, Jason and the PSE&G crew had multiple meetings including one that took place on an off ramp of Route 4. The meetings served to explain the purpose of an eruv and to clarify what area was covered. The rabbi originally had concerns about reaching out to PSE&G. After all, Rabbi Belizon reasoned, they have a job and might not recognize the community’s concerns. He found the exact opposite to be the case. “They were all so sensitive and such a pleasure to work with.”
After the meeting with Rabbi Belizon, Jason and his crew gathered. “We talked internally about how to not interrupt the eruv. We wanted to make sure we scheduled the work early in the week so that when the eruv was checked, it would be intact.” Jason and the crew have managed to get their work done without disrupting the eruv.
Nash says the changing of the poles has actually made it easier to check the eruv. While poles used for the eruv are being changed, the eruv has remained functional throughout the installation. Because of Rabbi Belizon, the eruv committee, PSE&G and Marc Nash, Fair Lawn residents can remain as confident as ever in their eruv.
Larry Bernstein and his family are Bergen County residents. Larry is a freelance writer and educator.To read more of his work, visit larrydbernstein.com.
By Larry Bernstein