Eruv makes life easier for Jews in Vienna

Source: ORF, September 14, 2012

The area within the symbolic boundaries should make life a lot easier for Jews in Vienna during the Sabbath.

According to the Torah, on Sabbath, religious Jews are not allowed to move or carry anything outside their homes. It does not matter if it is a stroller or a fruit crate. However, there are exceptions to these strict Sabbath rules. The private domain can be extended to the yard and even other houses. The area must be somehow demarcated from its surroundings, either by a wall or fence of some sort and it must be used jointly. The joint use manifests itself in the form of an “Eruv”.  An Eruv is usually some sort of food – a loaf of bread for example, which is shared by all the residents. That way all residents are seen as members of one “private domain” and they are allowed to carry things within the boundaries of that Eruv. By now the Eruv is also a synonym for the area within which things are shared. The new Eruv in Vienna extends from the inner district to the Danube.

For Non-Experts Almost Invisible

In the course of the centuries Eruvim have increased in size. Entire apartment buildings and even districts have been transformed into “private domains”. “In order for it to be an Eruv, the area has to be surrounded either by a wall or a fence”, explains Rabbi Schlomo Hofmeister in his interview with “The boundaries, however, can be marked by only a rope or wire. This rope or wire has to run around the apartment building or district. For non-experts these boundaries are almost invisible. However, they must be gapless,” states the Rabbi.

“Private Domain”

As of now the Eruv, which existed prior to the Nazi era, is back in Vienna. It approximately stretches from the inner districts to the Danube. Defined as Eruv, this area is now “private domain” for orthodox Jews and therefore constitutes an exception to the non-carry rule on Sabbath. The boundaries of the new Eruv in Vienna are 25 kilometers long. The planning process for this endeavor lasted for nine years. People were looking to incorporate already existing walls, fences, wires and also natural boundaries such as the Danube.

The challenge was to bring all the individual approaches of various communities of orthodox Jewish and exegetical traditions to a common denominator, explains Georg Muzikant, who was in charge of planning the Eruv. “What constitutes a boundary and what does not?” was among the most discussed questions during the planning process.

No Additional Construction Work

In 2007, Maurizi Berger, who was in charge of the preliminary planning of the Eruv, estimated in an interview with the Austrian newspaper “Die Presse” that four to five kilometers of the boundaries of the new Eruv would have to be newly bridged. That meant that wire would have to be spanned from mast to mast high up in the air. At that time it was expected that at least forty to fifty new masts had to be put up. The costs of the establishment of the Eruv were estimated to a total of one million Euros, funded through donations.

More than 150 Eruvim worldwide

Currently, there are 150 Eruvim around the world, excluding Israel. In Israel alone, the number of Eruvim is even higher. The exact boundaries of the new Eruv in Vienna can be found using the link
According to Georg Muzicant no additional construction work was carried out. Existing wires including tram wires and such were used to surround the whole Eruv leaving no gaps in between. “These days an Eruv cannot be understood as a boundary in the sense of walls or barb wire fences but rather as a virtual symbol,” said Muzicant. “For non-experts for example these boundaries are not detectable,” agreed Hofmeister.

According to Muzicant, the money that had already been raised through donations was not used for construction work but rather for planning experts. The Jewish religious community checks regularly if the Eruv is still intact. It can only be considered kosher if there are no gaps in between.