Friday, October 19, 2012

The Eruv Has Been Approved

I think it's the 3rd one from the bottom.
...I think.
You may be surprised to know that there is a continuous unbroken wire that surrounds roughly a three square mile area around most of the Cincinnati community of Amberley Village and portions of Roselawn and Golf Manor. This wire is attached to utility poles but it does not carry electricity, voice or data of any kind. If at any time you were wondering if the wire has become severed, you can call a telephone hotline to check the status. This type of thing is not unique to Cincinnati. Most major cities have one. In fact, some cities have several. I just found out I drive by one, or through one really, nearly every day on my work commute.

This cable enclosed section of town is called the Eruv District. It's pronounced Air-oov and it is part of the Jewish religion. Now I am not Jewish and I have never heard of such a thing. I first learned of this in a book called "Amberley Village, Its History And Its People" by Richard S. Kerstine.

Orthodox Jews have strict laws they must follow including what they can and cannot do on the Sabbath Holy Day. One thing an Orthodox Jew can't do is carry things from one domain to another. Or in other terms, a private property to a public property. So, if you were living in Roselawn for example, it would be against Mosaic Law to drive to Kroger and pick up some kosher groceries and bring them home unless you did it within the territory of the established and approved eruv.
In the very very long ago past, cities and neighborhoods had walls that grouped a community together and this constituted a private domain so this wasn't a problem as long as you stayed within the walls. As Orthodox Jewish communities settled in newer predominantly non-Jewish urban and suburban areas this made it hard for them to do pretty much anything on the Sabbath. The eruv concept came along to define the boundaries of a designated area within which Orthodox Jews can treat public spaces, shared by all the community, in the same way as private space at home. And it can just be a wire on utility poles. Apparently, the rules and exceptions as well the acceptance of the idea of the eruv itself is a bit complicated and not even accepted by all people of the Jewish faith. I won't go into all that here. If you want more details I would suggest this site it or perhaps read the Wikipedia article. Or call up a rabbi if you'd like. Your choice.

since 1987, the Cincinnati Eruv District
The concept of an eruv dates back 2000 years but in the late 1890s Orthodox Jews in St. Louis, Missouri, constructed the first documented Eruv in the United States. The Cincinnati Eruv District has been in effect since 1987 and cost private donors $5000. Natural barriers can form part of the border, such as a river or a lake. In the case of Cincinnati eruv, I-75 was considered acceptable as a natural barrier and is used as one part of the boundaries  It is important that the eruv stay intact so every Friday it is someone's job to check on the continuity of the wire. According to the Cincinnati Shuls website, it is "always to be presumed that the eruv is not up". To check, you can call their eruv hotline at 513-351-ERUV. I called and the eruv is up at the time of this writing. I've also learned that another eruv is under construction just north of the recently closed Blue Ash Airport property. Cincinnati will soon be a two eruv town!


  1. I know that I have recused myself from this sort of thing, but, nonetheless, Oh My!

  2. Thanks, for sharing the information, it’s very informative post!
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