November 3, 2011
Highway construction downs L.A. eruv
The Los Angeles Community Eruv, the boundary that enables observant Jews to carry objects in public spaces on Shabbat, was not in operation last Shabbat, Oct. 28-29, and might not be up by sundown on Friday, Nov. 4, according to an email circulated on the eruv’s listserv.
“We have lost several hundred yards of eruv boundary to construction along the 405, and do not have the appropriate permission to replace it in a workable fashion,” Howard Witkin, the eruv’s volunteer administrator, wrote in an email to the eruv-related mailing list on Oct. 27.
Mostly of concern to observant Jews, the L.A. eruv was the subject of an article in the Los Angeles Times in July. Part of the full-scale media coverage of the impending weekend-long closure of the 405 in July known as “Carmageddon,” the article said that Witkin had “nothing but praise for the contractor and government agencies for their sensitivity” to this little-known religious matter affecting somewhere between 40,000 and 50,000 people.
Witkin could not be reached for comment on the recent downing of the eruv, but in an email sent on Nov. 2 to the listserv, he wrote that the eruv administrators were unsure whether repairs would be completed in time for the coming Sabbath.
The temporary downing L.A. eruv comes at a time when at least a few other eruvs nationwide are out of commission as well, most of them in the East coast communities struck by an early autumn snowstorm on Saturday, Oct. 29.
“Our eruv relies almost exclusively—99 percent—on existing telephone poles,” said Rabbi Yossi Pollak of Beit Chaverim, a Modern Orthodox synagogue in Westport, Conn. “So when there’s a storm that brings down telephone poles, as this storm did, it means we have to repair the eruv.”
Pollak said that he expected the repairs to the Norwalk/Westport eruv to take between three or four weeks.
In all communities, life without an eruv changes the experience of Shabbat.
Rabbi Aaron Alexander, associate dean at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, a Conservative rabbinical school in Los Angeles, recently posted a sum-up of a conversation that took place on Facebook just before last Shabbat, an event he and others are calling “eruv-mageddon.”
Part of the conversation centered on the way an eruv—or the lack thereof—can impact men and women differently. Without an eruv, observant Jews are not allowed to push their children in strollers. “Sadly,” Alexander wrote, “for the most part, women and small children who can’t walk on their own are most likely confined to the home.” You can read his whole post here.
It’s unclear when Los Angeles’s eruv will be back in operation. While the message on the Los Angeles Community Eruv hotline recorded on Friday, Oct. 28, said that the eruv might not be up for the Shabbat of Nov. 4, but would “most likely be up” by Nov. 11, a more recent communication from the eruv administrators painted a more dire picture.
In an “Important note” included in the Nov. 3 edition of the Hillygram, a daily email newsletter that covers the Orthodox Jewish community of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Community Eruv had this to say (reproduced as written, with all emphases from the original post):