an eruv in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York photo courtesy of Wally Gobetz
Recently, my writing advisors Elizabeth Chin and Molly Steenson introduced me to eruv - a structure erected around orthodox Jewish communites throughout the world. They are erected with the permission of local authorities and in accordance with the lengthy and complex set of architectural laws set forth in the Talmud. The construction of eruvin (or eruvim, plural for eruv) stems from the observation of Shabbat, the weekly day of rest (Friday sundown to Saturday sundown) that includes a prohibition against carrying objects outside of one’s home, or private domain. Religious law forbids one from carrying objects outside the home on the Sabbath, but the eruv extends the home, with a symbolic doorframe, allowing women to carry their children outside the home. The wire or string must form a continuous boundary and may be strung along telephone poles or buildings. A natural boundary such as a river bank or steep hill can also be used as part of the eruv, as can an actual wall of a building.
Daniel Beauregard of the The Champion Newspaper of DeKalb County, GA discussed of Orthodox Jews in Delkalb have developed the eruv’s to be in sync with power line and black string. Thus, the process of creating an eruv doesn’t just create a boundary – but an extension of personal space for a cultural group. Click photo for article.
Photo courtesy of Daniel Beauregard
One translation into the digital realm for eruv was done by Elliot Malkin of New York Times. Click the photo below for the article.
Here is the project description:
eRuv is a digital graffiti project installed along the route of the former Third Avenue elevated train line in lower Manhattan. The train line, dismantled in 1955, was more than just a means of transport; it was part of an important religious boundary – an eruv – for a Hasidic community on the old Lower East Side. Using semacodes, the former boundary is reconstructed and mapped back onto the space of the city, and pedestrians with camera phones can access location-specific historical content
Photo courtesy of Elliott Malkin
These two particular articles reveal that the aesthetics and practice of eruv structures enable a cultural group with to create extensions, not boundaries, within the public domain. In DeKalb County, GA, the eruv has merged with telecommunication structure (telephone wires, etc) that it has create roles of preserving and maintaining a cultural practice – since the eruv needs to be certified. Within Malkin’s project, the eruv identified in that Manhattan community was discovered also built from city infrastructure. The 3rd Ave train line was parallel along the eruv. Once it was dismantled in 1955 – so was the trace. The semacode done Malkin doesn’t just try to rebuild that part of eruv but also use technology to reveal the infrastructural history of that train line.
Within in my own neighborhood of Van Nuys, CA, many pedestrians casually pass by infrastructure that tie peculiar part os the street together. Also, few unusual object pop up as well- temporary CCTV systems. Below are a few snapshots of these conditions. They are not eruv – and may even seem irregular in terms of form relating to streetscape. However, they are regular because they blend a soft condition (the need for telecommunication) with hardscape. The space in between is enough to pass by- knowing that I have basic cable for the night.