US Centre News

Eruvim in the news!
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Thursday 2nd June 2016

Once again a technical planning application for the erection of eruv poles, this time in the Camden area by South Hampstead Synagogue, has been picked up by the media and prompted a flurry of comments and concerns. 

It is important to realise that the eruv poles are designed to be as unobtrusive as possible and are generally indistinguishable amongst the thousands of lampposts, traffic signs and other pieces of street furniture. The "wire" itself - a stretch of 0.5mm translucent fishing line - is virtually invisible. 

It is no doubt for this reason, that all councils to whom an eruv application has been submitted have granted planning permission, even in environmentally sensitive areas such as Hampstead Garden Suburb, Mill Hill and Bushey. 

According to Jewish law, carrying or pushing buggies or wheelchairs is not permitted on the Sabbath, outside an enclosed residential area. However, where areas of residence are enclosed, as most modern urban areas are, (by fences, hedges, houses), and the roads entering and leaving the area are spanned by a “tsurat hapetach” – a nominal gateway formed by two poles topped by a fine nylon line - , carrying is permitted. This minor adjustment is of huge benefit to religious Jews, and is detrimental to no-one. 

Communal life is hugely enhanced enabling young and old to play a full part in synagogal life and other communal activities, and as a result of establishing eruvim several quiescent communities have taken on a new lease of life. 

Thus eruvim have in fact had a central role in Jewish life from the time of the Mishna some 2000 years ago - which has an entire Tractate devoted solely to this topic- until the present day. Before WW11, every major European city with a substantial Jewish community had an eruv, Bratislava (Pressburg), Warsaw, Odessa, Vilna to name but a few. Today, across the world there are 100s if not 1000s of eruvim in towns and cities large and small in America, Canada and Israel, South Africa, Australia and elsewhere. 

There are eruvim in New York and LA, Sydney, Melbourne, Johannesburg, Amsterdam and Vienna. The White House in Washington is enclosed within an eruv, as is the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. 

In recent years the UK Jewish community has grown in knowledge and self-confidence and very often has experienced Jewish life in other parts of the world. Thus we now have five active eruvim in London, two in Manchester and several more in advanced planning stages. 

Whilst undoubtedly we must be sensitive to the multicultural nature of modern Britain, we should also use the opportunities presented by that ethos to help our communities grow and thrive as never before. 

In conclusion, it is perhaps worth pointing out that the US centrally does not initiate or instigate eruv projects. It is up to local communities to decide what is appropriate for their area and their members. Where communities feel an eruv is right for them, we will give them all the halachic and technical support they require.