Opinion: ‘Why the Eruv Matters’

An eruv on the Lower East Side, Manhattan (Photo by Ella, Creative Commons license)

Earlier this year, a Jewish group based in Monsey, New York, home to a large Orthodox community, received approval to construct an eruv that would span 26 miles and extend into the township of Mahwah, just across the border in northeastern New Jersey, according to The Forward. It would primarily serve the New York population. An eruv is a spiritual enclosure that allows observant Jews to do what they otherwise wouldn’t be able to do on Shabbat, such as push strollers or wheelchairs, or carry keys or ID.

However, opposition to the eruv emerged in Mahwah, fueled by fears of an increase of ultra-Orthodox Jewish residents in the township. Mahwah went on to issue two ordinances, one of which bans the materials used to establish an eruv’s boundaries. Last week, the state of New Jersey sued the township over the ordinances, describing them as “unlawful and discriminatory (…) against the rights of Orthodox Jews to visit the Township and to construct an eruv within it” and compared the conduct to that of “1950s-era ‘white flight’ suburbanites who sought to keep African-Americans from moving into their neighborhoods.”

Following news of the lawsuit, commentary that appeared in The Bukharian Times explains “why the eruv matters.” Sergey Kadinsky writes:

Commonly it is a barely visible border delineated by fishing poles attached to lampposts with thin strings and existing telephone wires hanging between the posts as a symbolic wall. One would not see an eruv unless knowing about its materials.

But for observant Jews, the boundaries of the eruv are more than a Shabbat convenience. It is as much a part of the Jewish infrastructure as the mikvah, yeshiva, and kosher supermarket.

In that regard, “the rejection of an eruv is no different than a rejection of a building application for a synagogue or yeshiva.”

Kadinsky describes how the Bukharian Jewish community in Queens can understand what supporters of the eruv are going through, as its own construction efforts received much pushback from locals. Read more about that, and what the Mahwah eruv would mean for the Bukharian Jewish community, in his full commentary at The Bukharian Times.

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