Arts & Culture

License to Carry: The State of Eruvim in America Today

San Francisco now has its first eruv thanks to congregation Adath Israel. Eruvs are important to observant Jews who adhere to the halakhic prohibition against the 39 acts of work on Shabbat, which prevents them from being able to carry anything outside … Read More

By / June 25, 2009

San Francisco now has its first eruv thanks to congregation Adath Israel. Eruvs are important to observant Jews who adhere to the halakhic prohibition against the 39 acts of work on Shabbat, which prevents them from being able to carry anything outside of their homes. The eruv allows those Jews to carry within its boundaries (roughly 20 square blocks), enabling them to wheel strollers, carry purses, and ultimately allow Jewish families to attend Shabbat services together, with the little ones in tow.

Gone are the days when ensuring the eruv was still kosher meant tracking your rabbi down–the eruv has its own Twitter account and will tweet any necessary updates. Fabulous. 

Several dozen eruvs exist across the country, in places one might expect, like New York City and Boca Raton, Florida, but also places you might not, like Mequon, Wisconsin and Overland Park, Kansas. In fact, eruvim exist in 25 states and the District of Columbia. I’ll admit I got that information from Wikipediaeruv.org hasn’t published their complete directory yet.

There are also a handful of college campuses enclosed by eruvim, including nine of the fifteen participant universities of Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (JLIC), as well as Harvard University and, of course, Yeshiva University.

Debate over the construction of an eruv even played a role in the election of trustees on Long Island recently. 

Stamford, Connecticut and Norfolk, Virginia are among the "emerging Orthodox communities" enticing families relocating from more quintessentially Orthodox neighborhoods in the greater New York area and beyond. Even my home state of Pennsylvania features two "emerging communities," including Allentown and its capital, Harrisburg.

Personally, in my own learning and adapting process of finding exactly where I fit in the Jewish community, I’ve toyed with a lot of ideas and observances falling into the "conservadox" gray area. I’m okay with no tweeting on Shabbos and I’ve toyed with the idea of shutting my Blackberry off completely in favor of peace, quiet, and reading books. Prohibitions against toting my matching Coach bag along with me when I (drive) to synagogue, however, have not quite made it into my personal level of observance. Still, though, I think it’s important to take note that eruvim are continuing to pop up in observant Jewish communities across the country and around the world. Whether it’s a growing trend is difficult to say, as is whether their appearance means a rise in Orthodox Judaism or so-called "liberal Jews" of other movements adopting some of the more traditional observances, but it’s something to think about nonetheless. Jews are staking their claim in cities and towns across the country and we’re here to stay, eruv and all.

 

On a somewhat unrelated note, anybody interested in Mikvah shopping should check out Lakewood, New Jersey–by some odd anomaly, the town has ten mikvahs. That’s more than even Manhattan. The only single location in the country with more? Jewcy’s hometown, Brooklyn.