Palo Alto eruv approved -- after eight years

Orthodox Jewish boundary will be strung around Palo Alto

A 13-mile-long eruv, a border that will allow Orthodox Jews to carry objects from home to their synagogue on the Sabbath, will be constructed around Palo Alto after eight years of attempts to gain city approval.

"I'm looking forward to exhaling," said Rabbi Yitzchok Feldman, of Congregation Emek Beracha, who spearheaded the Palo Alto eruv effort in 1999.

"It is a real enhancement for the traditional Jewish community in terms of how they can observe the Jewish Sabbath," Eliot Klugman, 30-year Palo Altan and member of Congregation Emek Beracha, said of the clear twine that will be strung around the city to create the eruv.

For observers of Orthodox Judaism, an eruv extends the private domain from individual homes to all land within its boundaries. From sundown on Friday night to sundown on Saturday night when restrictions for carrying objects into public domains would otherwise apply, Orthodox Jews may carry things from their homes to synagogue or to friends' houses.

"It just makes everybody's life a lot easier," said Yvonne Boxerman, who belongs to Congregation Kol Emeth in Palo Alto and walks two miles from Barron Park to services so she does not have to use her car on the Sabbath.

Without an eruv in place, Boxerman explained, "People with small children can't push a stroller. One parent ends up staying home with the children and not ... able to go to service on Saturday."

When the eruv effort began in 1999, debate erupted in Palo Alto over whether an eruv would breach the U.S. Constitution's required separation between church and state.

City Attorney Gary Baum said Monday it did not. The city attorney's report stated that Palo Alto is "legally compelled" to allow the eruv. Palo Alto was expected to issue a permit for its construction on Tuesday, after the Weekly's press deadline.

"It's not like erecting a cross or a Star of David or any symbol of any religion because all it is is a fishing line," he said.

"It's not symbolic in any way, which is why it's not a mixture of church and state."

Cities such as Berkeley, Beverly Hills and Los Angeles already have eruvs, and "I know they're quite common back east," Baum said.

Klugman added that the barely visible eruv would only affect those who do not currently carry objects outside of their homes on the Sabbath.

"For a segment of the Jewish community, it's very important. It's not intrusive upon anyone else," he said.

Feldman would not specify exactly where twine would be installed, though he said creek beds would also be considered part of the eruv, thus not requiring the twine to be continuous. He said the eruv would encompass "where people live" in Palo Alto and Stanford.

His original proposal in 1999 raised safety concerns because it suggested stringing twine along some of the city's utility poles.

Through "a lot of persistent work on its behalf," Klugman said, Feldman and Palo Alto Community Eruv, Inc. (PACE) submitted a new plan in 2004 that would not need to use city utility poles for twine to be linked around Palo Alto, according to a staff report.

It took nearly three more years for the group to satisfy Palo Alto's remaining conditions for the project, including providing a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week contact for an eruv maintenance contractor and insurance for the eruv.

In addition to obtaining an encroachment permit from the City of Palo Alto, proponents secured permission from Stanford University, Caltrans, Santa Clara Valley Water District, Santa Clara County and the Peninsula Joint Powers Board for the eruv to cross their lands, according to the city attorney report.

PACE will pay for and maintain the eruv, and Feldman said he hopes that construction will be complete by the end of the summer.

Klugman estimated that the eruv would positively impact 300 to 400 families in Palo Alto.


Like this comment
Posted by RLeeSmith
a resident of another community
on Jun 28, 2007 at 4:29 am

Congratulations to the Palo Alto community for making this step forward.
As an observant Jew who identifies with the Conservative approach I just wanted to point out that many Conservative Jews also appreciate the benefits of an Eruv since we also consider carrying in public on Shabbat to be a violation of Halacha. (Interestingly, those who wrote the infamous Conservative tshuva on driving on Shabbat didn’t seem to deal with the issue of carrying but who says one has to be consistent?) In any case, I’m always disturbed when articles about the many eruvim being erected around the country ignore the existence of Conservative Judaism and just talk about Orthodox Jews.

Like this comment
Posted by SR
a resident of The Greenhouse
on Jun 28, 2007 at 7:54 am


This is the third posting for E-RUV didn't you read the previous ones?

Like this comment
Posted by Just wondering
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 28, 2007 at 8:43 am

Should we expect the "Editor" to restart this thread a third time if the comments posted aren't entirely favorable or in good taste? I thought good questions were raised and discussed in the identical previous thread, although some comments revealed some ugly biases and prejudices on both sides of this issue.

Like this comment
Posted by W. McMillan
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 6, 2007 at 12:02 pm

The ERUV is the designation of the limits of a spiritual community. The Jewish community believes that an eruv allows spiritual actions be taken within the eruv which would be not allowed if the eruv was not present. The spiritual actions are in observance of religious directions of the spiritual books of the Isrealites in this, and other, countries; especially the State of Isreal.

We look upon the eruv as a violation of our right to live in a spiritual environment of our own choice. The eruv forces upon us the necessity to live in a community devoted to the worship of a god foreign to our understanding and devotion. We should not be required to live in a spiritual community which has habitually turned its back on the sacred and sublime for thousands of years.

Like this comment
Posted by An out of towner
a resident of another community
on Jul 24, 2007 at 7:02 pm

McMillan's comment is as startling as it is wrong. He is at least honest in not wishing to hide his flagrant antisemitism, albeit incorrect in his understanding not only of Jewish spirituality (the Eruv is a ritual, not a spiritual construct) but also in his spelling (Israel, not Isreal).
May I make a suggestion to him? Perhaps if he feels the need to protest so strongly against a near invisible wire delineating a boundary permitting Jews to carry on the Sabbath, he should protest by refusing to carry anything himself on Saturday , once the Eruv is up.A ludicrous idea? No more ludicrous than his bigoted opposition.

From: A supportive out of towner from a community that has an Eruv (as do many others, including one that encompasses the White House in Washington DC)

Like this comment
Posted by R Lee Smith
a resident of another community
on Jul 25, 2007 at 7:05 pm

McMillan's sensitivity to the presence of the Eruv is amazing! In reality the Eruv has no meaning to anyone but a Jew and particularly to an Observant Jews. I only wish more Jews had a portion of McMillan's apparent awareness of the Eruv. Next thing you know he won't want to allow Jews to pray or blow the Shofar on Rosh Hashana or any such things because he will fear that the Jewish radiations will contaminate him. Certainly he doesn't want to live near or walk near or touch Jews for fear of contamination. Does he know his name has appeared in a Jewish newspaper, The Forward? That in inself is probably equivalent to sticking pins in a McMillan shaped voodoo doll.

Like this comment
Posted by Rodney Falk
a resident of another community
on Jul 25, 2007 at 8:15 pm

Re R. Lee Smith's comment:
You beat me too it! Little more I can say, as I couldn't have said it better. If McMillan's views represent the "sacred and sublime" that his demonic Jews "habitually shun" give me the profane and mundane any day!!

Like this comment
Posted by spike
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Aug 29, 2007 at 12:05 pm

My only complaint is the barely visible wire that crosses the street in front of my house. I bought here partly because there were no overhead wires. Please put the wire underground, with all the other utilities. At least in front of my house, anyway.

Like this comment
Posted by Shannon E. Wells
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 29, 2007 at 7:15 pm


a) Who's "we"?

b) What "spiritual environment" do you "live in" that a Jewish demarcation line has any effect on you whatsoever?

c) The US Supreme Court has ruled that there are limits to free practice of religion. Certain rights trump it; for example, one can't marry multiple wives, withhold medical care for one's child, marry or copulate with minors, nor engage in human sacrifice even if one's religion commands it. I seriously doubt your feelings of entitlement to any vaguely defined "spiritual environment," would override observant Jews' right to be able to get to their houses of worship on Saturdays without clearly violating their religious law.

d) Human beings of all religions have "habitually turned [their] back[s] on the sacred and sublime," and still are. This is human nature plain and simple. Besides being irrelevant, your last comment is an obvious potshot.

Like this comment
Posted by Elizabeth Levinson
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 4, 2007 at 5:55 pm

Hey y'all! I'm soooooo happy it's finally done! I carried a flyer home from shul just because I COULD!

I, unfortunately, with Mr. RLeeSMith, because I am *technically* conservative. I see conservative teens my age using cell phones at shul. Whoever wrote the driving tshuva apparently didn't take the fact that most people in the movement would consequentially "drop" all laws of Shabbat, into consideration.

One thing, I think the founding fathers merely meant that there would be no established state religion when they put in the "separation between church and state" into the constitution. If they had been posed with an eruv question, I GUARANTEE that they would have fallen over laughing, because it's such a trivial question!

Well, as is said in Macbeth, "What is done is done." The eruv is up, ve-zehu, as the Israelis would say.

Like this comment
Posted by Elizabeth Levinson
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 4, 2007 at 6:00 pm

Oh, one more thing.

Whoever wrote that silly comment about putting the eruv underground is being silly. How tall are you, spike? 8 feet? Given the average height around here, I highly doubt you are tall enough to run into it, thus, you must been vertically challenged and intellectually chanllenged compared to the eruv! IT'S NOT A UTILITY!!!!! lol

Like this comment
Posted by Wired up
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 31, 2007 at 1:44 pm

This business of running a piece of fishing wire around town is an extreme form of religious doctrine which is bad news for a tolerant, open society. The wire may not be visible to the eye, but its very presence creates a symphoic border that is dangerous. It takes courage to stand up against allowing unique treatment for a few based on religion. But I and many people I know, including Jews, are not comfortable with the state of Israel and its expansionism and military bullying of its neighbors. I hope for the sake of future generations that conservative and orthodox Jews will focus more on learing to live in an environment of tolerance and openess without having to alter our (as in everyone's) community by erecting walls, even string ones.

Like this comment
Posted by Noam
a resident of another community
on Jan 31, 2009 at 4:06 am

This wire business is really silly. Who in their right mind thinks that this really turns all the public area in to a private domain?
It is time that people think for themselves and decide that carrying one's reading glasses or tissues is simply not considered 'work'.
Come on, how rediculous do the fringes of judaism need to make all jews look before we speak up and object tho the redicule?
I for one am ready to speak for myself. I think halacha allows you to fool only yourself, but others aren't fooled. Others will and should view such stringy erections as absolutely rediculous.

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