Eruv – Symbolic Enclosure of Vienna’s Inner Districts Delayed

Austrian Press Agency (06/03/2009)

Vienna – The Jewish Community’s (IKG) plans for the symbolic “enclosure“ of Vienna’s inner districts has been delayed. “Talks with officials haven‘t been easy,“ explained project head Maurizi Berger, but: “We’re still working on it.“ The idea is to create a so-called “eruv“ that forms natural and real areas of the city, making it considerably easier for Orthodox Jews. 1 

Highly religious Jews are not allowed to carry anything private into public space during the Sabbath (Friday evening to Saturday evening). This also includes using baby carriages or wheelchairs. By creating a symbolic city wall, one is able to circumvent this prohibitive law since an “Eruv“ accounts for the space lying within its borders as belonging to a private area.  

According to Berger, the Viennese project will include a route spanning about thirty-five kilometers. Beginning at the South Railway Station, the virtual border will run along the Ring until Heiligenstadt; from there along the edge of the Danube to the bridge of the Eastern railway, and along the Eastern railway tracks back to the South Railway Station. Various sections of the landscape or buildings - as for example the edge of the Danube or the former city railway arches - will serve as borders. 

Along the route there are some seven kilometers of gaps that have to be closed with synthetic wire. Berger says that herein lies the main reason for the delay because the wire has to be fastened either to street light fixtures or street car masts, and this will require approval. In some spots masts will have to be constructed, involving the Austrian railway system and the agency responsible for preservation of historical monuments, explained the project head: “That is a very complicated matter.“ Negotiations, however, appear positive. 

Berger hopes that the project can be concluded this year. Preparations for the “Eruv“ have been going on for more than three years now. Originally one wanted to submit all finished plans one year ago, but then it was prolonged until end of 2008 as the next deadline. Costs involved will amount to some one million Euros, which the Jewish Community is hoping to achieve through their own finances and donations, claimed a representative of the Jewish Community Vienna. 

The fear that political debate could arise because of the religious contents of the plans have not materialized, says Berger – at least not from any official source: “What people think is another matter.“ He is not aware of any eventual protest among the population in the form of initiatives taken by citizens. An “Eruv“ is not at all new to the Viennese. In fact, before WW II there was one created in Leopoldstadt. Currently there are “Eruvim“ also in Antwerp, parts of London and numerous cities in the United States.