Significance of the Eruv

The eruv represents considerably more than a legal tool for the people who live in it. It denotes the boundary of a concentrated community which impacts the lives of its residents in a significant way in terms of their relationships with neighbors and their views of the outside world.

For Orthodox Jews, the eruv is important in a legal sense, as it allows them to carry items on their person that would normally be forbidden on Shabbat. The physical community is also significant due to the need to be within walking distance of a synagogue. For these reasons, many Orthodox Jews want to live in the neighborhood (increasing the value of homes within the eruv). However, the eruv has great symbolic meaning as well; it represents the physical boundaries of a rather insular and protective community. Several Orthodox people have referenced the traditional Jewish environment as a positive aspect of living in the eruv; for example, a Jewish parent can allow his or her child to play at a neighbor’s house on Shabbat without worrying that the child might accidentally break Jewish law, and can socialize and form friendships with people who adhere strictly to halachic law. Members of the Orthodox community, at least, appear very open with each other; visitors are welcomed warmly and everyone seems to know everyone else (in part since the community has never been that large). This environment is another reason cited for living in the neighborhood. For Orthodox Jews, the idea of “sticking together” is what appears to bind people to the neighborhood. The idea of being in a “traditionally Jewish” environment appeals to people attempting to raise families.

People who are not Orthodox and/or do not observe the rules that necessitate an eruv are still sometimes drawn by this Jewish environment. Resident Wendy Goldberg, for example, cites the proximity of Jewish cultural and spiritual life as a draw. While it can be more of an inconvenience for Jews living outside the community to participate in Jewish life, Jews in the eruv can do so easily, and the presence of so many congregations in the eruv allows residents to attend services more frequently and easily if they are so inclined. Furthermore, the Jewish presence in the eruv allows Jews to engage with the more cultural aspects of Jewish life on a regular basis. Besides the opportunity for greater immersion in Jewish culture, residents move into the eruv for reasons such as its proximity to downtown Minneapolis, its safety, and its public school system. Homogeneity of race and class is a side effect of living in the eruv, which is wealthy and largely white but not necessarily to a greater extent than in comparable suburbs anywhere in America.

Rabbi Barry Woolf talks about the eruv's appeal as he sees it. 

Wendy Goldberg talks about why living in the eruv appealed to her.