Frequently Asked Questions
What is an eruv?
On Shabbat, Jewish law prohibits carrying or transferring objects from one domain to another. For instance one would be prohibited from carrying a prayer book from his or her home (private domain) to the synagogue because one would have to be carried through a public domain. The Rabbis instituted the Eruv Chatzerot ("joining of courtyards"), which allows for one to carry from a private domain into a public domain or vice versa, by joining the public and private domains together into a single, joint private domain. Creation of an Eruv Chatzerot, or 'eruv' for short, is accomplished by creating a virtual, Halachic fence around the area to be joined together and the placing of food in a public area such as a synagogue which may be accessed by anyone residing within the designated area. One must also Halachically rent or retain ownership of the area in order to transform the space from separate domains into one joint private domain.
In our days, eruvin (pl.) have been constructed in hundreds of cities around the world, both large and small. Some examples include Paris, London, Jerusalem, Sydney, New York City, Chicago, Miami, Denver, Teaneck, East Brunswick, Hartford, and Boston. And now Ithaca!
Why is an eruv important to the Ithaca Jewish community?
Those with disabilities, the elderly and families with infants are especially affected by the absence of an eruv: Wheelchairs, walkers, crutches or canes cannot be used in public areas; nor can children be carried or pushed in strollers to the synagogue or other family activities. It is also impossible to enjoy more leisurely activities such as reading a book on Libe Slope, or to bring a snack from one home or from one dorm to another. Nor can one even carry a coat, to guard against Ithaca weather, while strolling through our beautiful campus. Without an eruv there is a significant diminution of the enjoyment of the Sabbath for the entire community.
Can I assume that the Eruv is always up from week to week?
NO. You must always assume that the Eruv is not up or usable, until verifying otherwise from a reliable source. For the moment we recommend checking the website every week before Shabbat to see if the Eruv is up, or signing up for the eruv listserve. However, for any given Shabbat, once the Eruv has been checked and declared to be up, you may continue to rely upon it for the duration of that entire Shabbat without any worry or concern that it will come down.
Who ensures that the Eruv is usable?
The Eruv Committee will verify that the eruv is usable from week to week. The eruv is under the local rabbinical supervision of Rabbi Ami Silver and under the supervision of the Rav HaMachshir, Rabbi Barry Freundel.
What can I carry within the Eruv boundary?
This list is not authoritative. Please contact Rabbi Ami Silver with any questions.
Some items one may carry are: Tallit, Chumash, Siddur, other types of books, house keys, tissues, gloves, medication, clothing that one removes due to heat, clothing to put on if you get cold, taking out garbage, all types of eye glasses, pushing a baby stroller, walking a dog on a leash, pushing a wheel chair.
Items that still may not be carried: things that are Muktseh, weekday activities that are not in the spirit of Shabbat, carrying anything that is going to be used after Shabbat (meaning that you are either not going to use it on Shabbat or that it cannot be used on Shabbat).
Am I allowed to carry along the map boundaries?
Certain parts of the eruv route boundary are inside the eruv itself, while others are not. The included or excluded status of any particular street on the route boundary may change back and forth over just a few hundred feet, in ways which may be difficult to determine without detailed knowledge of the eruv route. As a consequence, to avoid violating Shabbat you MUST assume that the eruv route boundary is NOT included within the eruv and you may NOT carry along it. However, please note that individuals may contact the Eruv Executive Committee for private instruction of where they may or may not carry along the eruv route boundary.
How was the Eruv route selected? Why was more of downtown Ithaca not included?
Planning an eruv route is a challenging and exacting task, which requires weighing multiple Halakhic, pragmatic and other issues. With this in mind, the present route has been selected primarily to enclose the entire Cornell campus, dormitories, Collegetown, and major Ithaca synagogues.
The downtown Ithaca portion of the route presented several challenges. Some of these included: finding a usable series of poles and wires within the downtown street pattern west of N Cayuga St; Halakhic difficulties in crossing the Cascadilla stream; and avoiding the commercial Commons district, whose inclusion is Halakhically problematic. As a result, North Cayuga St was the Halakhically simplest and so far the only possible choice for the western boundary of the eruv.
The Eruv Executive Committee is aware that several members of the Ithaca Jewish community in the downtown area as well as the Chabad mikveh are not included in the eruv as a result of this choice. The committee does take this problem seriously, and will continue to seek viable solutions.
Why are the Hasbrouck and Maplewood graduate apartment complexes not included?
With reference to the above anwser, the Hasbrouck apartments unfortunately could not be included due to a lack of utility poles surrounding the complex. The Maplewood apartments unfortunately could not be included without also including the adjacent cemetary, which is Halakhically problematic.
Still have more questions?
E-mail Rabbi Ami Silver.