Three aldermen will host a community meeting next week to discuss expanding an eruv in Evanston — a symbolic enclosure that makes it religiously permissible for Orthodox Jews to carry objects outside their homes on the Sabbath.

A portion of south Evanston, from the CTA Yellow Line tracks to Howard Street and from the Metra tracks to the North Shore Channel, is already included in what’s known as the West Rogers Park Eruv.

And eruvs exist in portions of Skokie, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Northbrook and Buffalo Grove, as well as near Belmot Harbor on Chicago’s north side.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says the eruv would be expanded and maintained with private funds. Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein of the Tannenbaum Chabad House has been the city’s main contact with a group of residents hoping to expand the eruv, Bobkiewicz added.

Typically a wire or string attached to utility poles, an eruv can also use an actual fence or a difference in topography as a boundary.

Eruvs have been criticized as an example of religious hypocrisy and a violation of the constitutional separation of church and state and became the subject of a heated controversy recently in one New Jersey town. But some observers also see them as liberating for observant women with young children — since even pushing a stroller would otherwise be forbidden on the Sabbath.

The meeting, to be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 27, in Room 2404 of the Civic Center, will be hosted by aldermen Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward; Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, and Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Eruvs and crosses on utility poles. Why not?
    Wow, I am surprised that liberal “progressive” Evanston would even consider our government assisting and getting involved in setting up a religious symbol on government owned property to assist a particular religion.

    If governments allow eruvs on public property then why not crosses?

    If Evanston or any other town prevent eruvs on public property such as utility poles they will labeled anti-semitic and sued as we have seen what happened in New Jersey. Good to know. Christians should put a cross on every utility pole in Evanston and beyond. Right?

    1. I received an email from the
      I received an email from the city about this and was stumped as to why this is an issue. Why can’t the observant print a map of the ERUV area outlined and just stay within it? I don’t like the idea of wires going around or crosses on every pole. Just stay in the zone. Private money wants to put crosses on x,y,z location. That won’t fly either. This is a religious issue – get back to work Evanston Government – nothing to see here.

      1. Ignorance of Jewish and Constitutional Law

        Jewish law requires the physical markers of the boundaries, including the vertical and horizontal components, for an eruv to be effected, not a drawing of a line on a map. Except for compelling government interest such as public safety, the Free Excercise clause of the First Amendment of the Constituion seems to enable the use of utility poles in a religion-neutral way: any religious group that is willing to apply, pay for fees, insurance, installation, etc. should theoretically be able to use the utilty poles in a similar manner.

  2. Why only these wards?
    The current eruv ends at the Yellow Line tracks, so any expansion would likely go through Wards 8, 9, 2 and 5.

    Why aren’t they part of this meeting?

    Is there a map of the proposed expansion?

    1. Eruv boundaries

      Hi Prin,

      Rabbi Klein says the proposed boundaries would be the North Shore Channel and the Metra tracks on the west, Isabella Street and Sheridan Road on the north, Lake Michigan on the east and Calvary Cemetery and the Yellow Line tracks on the south.

      Using existing physical barriers minimizes the need for additional construction to create the eruv.

      The likely reason for having just three aldermen at the meeting is that if there were any more, under the state’s open meetings law, it would no longer be an unofficial community meeting but would turn in to an official meeting of the City Council instead.

      Given the proposed boundaries, the only ward that wouldn’t be included is the 6th.

      — Bill

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