By Deborah Vietor
Editor’s Note: Chabad of University City recently erected an Eruv in their neighborhood, a boon for any of the areas Jews. Here, we discuss what an Eruv is, and how the new construction will affect the Jewish community nearby. Information regarding the Eruv project was shared with L’Chaim Magazine and appeared in the Chabad UC Newsletter.
An Eruv is described as an urban area enclosed by a wire boundary symbolically extending the private domain of Jewish households into public areas. This permits activities within the Eruv which are normally forbidden in public and on the Sabbath. The literal meaning is “blending” or “intermingling,” allowing Jews to carry in public on Shabbat. (Under Jewish law on the Sabbath, it is forbidden to carry anything from a “private” domain into a “public” one or vice versa.) Private and public do not refer to ownership, rather to the nature of the area. For the purposes of these laws, an enclosed area is considered a private domain, whereas an open area is considered public.
Whether in ancient or modern times, people want to carry items such as their babies, items supporting their babies or prayer books. Whether on the Sabbath or other days throughout the year, an Eruv allows for the carrying of these items and allows individuals with wheelchairs and canes to leave their homes. Many years ago, some communities, neighborhoods and cities were walled. Since the entire area was considered “private,” carrying was allowed. Today, the walling of a city would be totally impractical and local laws would likely prohibit building walls through portions of cities, crossing over or through streets and walkways.
A modern answer to this challenge is a technical enclosure surrounding private and public domains, creating a large private domain in which carrying is permitted on the Sabbath. Coloquially this is known as an Eruv.
The neighborhood around the Chabad Center in university City is surrounded by steep slopes and creates a 99% natural boundary. Existing fences are currently being utilized and “doorways” are being constructed in the four areas where the natural boundary is interrupted by roads. Poles have been placed on each side of the street and a thin cable connecting the poles has been constructed overhead. The combination of the “doorways,” steep slopes and some fences completes the technical enclosure.
Upon submission, this project was reviewed and fully approved by the City of San Diego and also approved by the University Community Planning Group. Designed to be unobtrusive, the original design did not include the reflective tape attached to the cables. The safety of local birds was raised by the UCPG and a revision to the plans was recommended.
Two other Eruvin, (plural for Eruv) exist in San Diego, one is in La Jolla at Adat Yeshurun and the other is at Beth Jacob Synagogue, near the SDSU campus. On a spiritual level, the Eruv unifies the Jewish community and makes it stronger. Young people, families and seniors can walk together to and from the synagogue, creating friendships and bonds.
The Chabad Center of UC is excited about the Eruv project as this has been planned for 14 years. Without an Eruv, some Jewish families or individuals may not have been able to attend services in the past and so the Eruv is a welcome change. The synagogue includes Jewish individuals and families of all levels of religious observance and does not require membership to attend services.
For more information regarding services and programs for families through Chabad UC, please contact Associate Rabbi Yudell Reiz at (858) 4555-1670 or visit ChabadUC.org. Chabad UC is located at 3813 Governor Drive., San Diego, Ca., 92122.
Deborah Vietor is a freelance writer and poet, recently published in the San Diego Poetry Annual. Formerly the Art Director for the La Jolla Art and Wine Festival, she lives in Carlsbad with her husband Jon Vietor, who is an abstract modern artist.