Sunday, August 12, 2007

Eruvin in the News: New York City

Want to Set Up an Eruv? First, Call the D.O.T.

By Jake Mooney

If you’re an Orthodox Jew and you want to put up an eruv, a zone where rules against carrying things in public on the Sabbath are relaxed, you might be wise to consult a panel of scholars and experts to help keep you on the right side of thousands of years of Jewish law and tradition.

Rabbi Yonah Levant, the spiritual leader of the Young Israel of Sunnyside synagogue in Queens, did just that during the months of planning for his congregation’s new eruv, going up any day now, that I wrote about for this Sunday’s City section.But if, like Rabbi Levant, you want an eruv within the five boroughs, the city’s Department of Transportation has some rules of its own. You’ve seen the Hebrew National hot dog commercials: “We answer to a higher authority”? This is sort of like the opposite. The department is less concerned with your moral good standing than with protecting the city from liability, and its residents and light poles from errant wires.

“Coordinating the eruv application process allows us to ensure that any future construction projects take into account the existence of the eruv’s wires,” said Ted Timbers, a spokesman for hte department. He said it also gives the city “the ability to inform the community that they may have to be temporarily moved during the construction.”

The department sends interested parties a packet of paperwork that includes two-and-a-half single-spaced pages of eruv regulations and a self-certification letter in which applicants promise to pay all costs and expenses associated with the eruv, absolve the city from any legal responsibility for it, and concede that the City can take it down at any time. Read on...