May 28, 2024
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Princeton University to Build Eruv to Accommodate Observant Jews

It has been five years in the making, but Princeton University is installing an eruv, or virtual boundary, around most of the campus and parts of the town so that observant Jews can carry essential items outdoors without desecrating the Sabbath. Under construction during the coming few weeks, the eruv will stretch from Harrison Street to Elm Road and Terhune Road to the tow path.

With the addition of the eruv, Princeton joins other Ivy League institutions, as well as such communities as East Windsor and Lawrence, in creating a kind of enclosure that allows observant Jews to be more mobile while still respecting the Sabbath, which is a designated day of rest. There are eruvs all over the world.

“According to Shabbat rules it is forbidden to carry any items—regardless of its weight, size or purpose—on the Shabbat,” reads an explanation of the eruv concept on the website chabad.org. “Under Jewish law on Shabbat, it is forbidden to carry anything from a ‘private’ domain into a ‘public’ one or vice versa, or more than four cubits (approximately six feet) within a public domain.”

The University’s installation began with a request from observant students, faculty and staff, said Kristin Appelget, who heads the Department of Community and Regional Affairs. “They wanted the University to consider it because of the impact it would have on their lives here,” she said. “It was designed with the oversight of a rabbi trained in knowing how to develop the boundary. It took so much time because we then needed approval from Verizon and PSE&G for the use of their poles.”

Rabbis David Wolkenfeld and Elie Bercuson, who served at the Center for Jewish Life’s (CJL) Orthodox Jewish educators through the Orthodox Union’s Heshe and Harriet Seif Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (OU-JLIC), supervised the research phase of the project. They were aided by several partners at the University including Design and Construction as well as Community and Regional Affairs.

“It demonstrates Princeton University’s incredible, ongoing commitment to diversity in the broadest sense and its outstanding support of Jewish life on campus,” said Rabbi Julie Roth, executive director of the Center for Jewish Life and the Jewish campus chaplain, in a press statement. “The eruv will have a significant, positive impact on our students and the broader community for years to come.”

The University is paying the cost of installing the eruv, and the Center for Jewish Life will support its ongoing maintenance. Rabbis will inspect it on a regular basis. Overseeing the construction is Rabbi Ariel Fisher of the CJL and the current OU-JLIC educator at the University. “I am very excited and honored to be taking over this project after the years of hard work contributed by my predecessors,” he said. “This eruv will allow our strong and vibrant community to continue to grow and develop. We are all very grateful to the University for the considerable resources they have invested and the wonderful partnership they brought to this initiative. It truly demonstrates their dedication to religious pluralism in general and the Jewish community specifically.”

While there was no community involvement in the project outside the University, it is designed to include all observant Jews in the greater community. “It is of obvious interest not just to campus members but also to those who are observant outside the campus,” said Ms. Appelget.

To view a map of the eruv boundaries, visit http://bit.ly/1NXJWs9.

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