Definition of Concept: An “eruv” (“eruvin” pl.) is the ceremonial demarcation of the area within which Orthodox Jews may engage in certain activities on the Sabbath which would otherwise be prohibited. These activities include lifting, carrying, or pushing objects; thus, carrying a young child, or pushing a wheelchair for an elderly or handicapped person en route to religious services, for example, would otherwise be precluded. Typically, an eruv is put in place by using existing horizontal wires strung on utility poles together with vertical wooden strips, called lechis, forming a symbolic "doorway." The practice has been used by Orthodox Jews for 2,000 years, based on principles derived from the Bible, developed in the Talmud and codified in Jewish Law.
They are generally established by means of a ceremonial proclamation issued by municipal authorities, as has been done in such cities as Washington, DC, Baltimore, MD, Cincinnati, OH, Charleston, SC, and Jacksonville, FL. Indeed, even the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, DC sits within the boundaries of an eruv.
Locally there are existing eruvin in Riverdale, New Rochelle, and Mount Vernon. The Riverdale eruv presently extends into the southernmost parts of Yonkers and incorporates Congregation Sons of Israel on Radford Street. The proposed Yonkers eruv would create this symbolic demarcation around a large part of the southeastern quadrant of Yonkers.
The southern boundary would run along Van Cortlandt Park to McLean Avenue and then eastward until it meets the Bronx River Parkway, which would constitute the eastern boundary. The northern demarcation would be the Cross County Expressway to Rumsey Road, and the western boundary would run along Rumsey Road to Spruce Street, then south at Van Cortlandt Avenue to the park boundary.
Method of erection of the eruv: The traditional eruv is created by erecting poles around the selected area and attaching a wire to the tops of the poles, surrounding the area completely, as if by a fence. This is called a “tzurat hapetach” or “shape of a door”. Other “walls” can be created by means of natural barriers, like the slope of the Bronx River Parkway, or by actual walls, such as the structures of the Cross County Parkway. Since the electrical poles around our area already provide poles and wires, no adjustment to them would be needed except placement of an occasional 1” x 2” x 50” wooden pole at the base of the pole directly under the wire where it runs along the side of the pole.
The added poles would be painted dark brown to preserve them and to make them virtually unnoticeable to pedestrians. They would not interfere with the flow of traffic or with the function of the pole. The southern boundary would rely on the slopes and fencing around Van Cortlandt Park, except where it ends near Alexander Avenue and 242 Street, where we would use the electrical poles and wires along Marta Avenue and the northern side of McLean Avenue. A series of poles would be marked along Bronx River Road to create the wire and pole demarcation (tzurat hapetach) all the way to the Cross County. Here, the walls of the Cross County and existing fencing would create the boundary. No changes would have to be made. The western boundary would begin at Rumsey Road. The western side of the street would be used by marking the electrical poles with the strips of wood, making a wire-and-pole boundary. It would turn onto Spruce Street and then head south along Van Cortlandt Park Avenue, ending at the park boundary.
Rationale for Creation of an Eruv: The Lincoln Park Jewish Center, located at 311 Central Park Avenue, Yonkers, New York 10704, was established in the Lincoln Park area of Yonkers more than 65 years ago. For most of its existence it had a very large membership. During the late 1980’s, however, there was a dramatic shift of the Jewish population away from Yonkers and toward northern Westchester County. This caused many Jewish congregations to close; others are currently faced with that prospect. Until very recently the Lincoln Park Jewish Center was facing just such a crisis. Its population was aging and dwindling. In April of 2003, its rabbi, Rabbi Solomon Sternstein, retired after 53 years of service. At the time of Rabbi Sternstein’s retirement, the congregation, hoping to attract new members, hired a dynamic new rabbi (Rabbi Rigoberto E. Viñas). The congregation approved a denominational shift from traditional Conservative to Modern Orthodox at Rabbi Viñas’ direction.
This attracted sixteen new families in the first year alone. At present three more young Modern Orthodox families are seeking housing in the Lincoln Park area. If we succeed in attracting young Modern Orthodox families it will mean that the congregation has a strong future. Since Jewish law strictly prohibits carrying or pushing strollers in a public street lacking the demarcation of an eruv, these families would not be attracted to an area without an eruv. The existence of an eruv provides a signal to new families that this is an established community, and that both the Jewish and secular communities welcome them. LPJC would like to use the eruv to attract families to the area. We believe this will be mutually beneficial to our congregation and to the City of Yonkers. A growing number of young, affluent families currently occupying apartments in the Riverdale section of the Bronx have been drawn to that area by the expansion of its Modern Orthodox congregations. Some of them might be interested in buying houses to enjoy a higher quality of life than apartment living offers. We believe Yonkers presents a very attractive alternative to apartment living. The Stein Yeshiva of Lincoln Park, an Orthodox Day School, will be cooperating with the creation of the eruv because they also see the value of attracting new families into the area.
Mayor’s Office Involvement: We are seeking approval to proceed with the final stages of the creation of the Yonkers eruv. We would also like to engage with the mayor in a ritual called a “sechirat reshut” (“permission granting”) which, by a symbolic handshake and the gift of a small sum - which he could then give to charity - would grant us his permission to create this “private domain”. This symbolic ritual would allow the creation of the “private area” according to ancient Jewish law and would let the Modern Orthodox community know that Mayor Spano is also involved and interested in welcoming them to the area.
Maintenance and Upkeep: Since the majority of the eruv will be constructed using existing structures and electrical wires we expect very little upkeep and maintenance. The Lincoln Park Jewish Center will serve as the primary organizer of the eruv and will assume responsibility for its upkeep. This will include replacing the lechis (vertical poles) whenever necessary and providing public information regarding the eruv.
Final Steps in Implementation: We are exploring uniting the Yonkers eruv with the present Riverdale eruv (to our west) and possibly with the Mount Vernon eruv (to our east). There are some gaps in the boundaries. We are seeking a means to close the gap at the intersection of Central Park Avenue on both sides of the Thruway; a small gap in the power lines on VanCortlandt Avenue would need to be filled in as well.