Snow fences and a foot bridge became key topics of discussion Tuesday evening as Evanston residents met to discuss plans to expand an eruv — a symbolic enclosure that makes it religiously permissible for Orthodox Jews to carry objects outside their home on the Sabbath.
Robert Matanky, and organizer of the project, said the boundary of the eruv needs to be defined by actual walls — which could be a fence or a steep embankment. Where those barriers are crossed, there needs to be a symbolic doorway that closes the gap.
So, he said, at the bridge over the North Shore Channel on the Canal Shores Golf Course, the eruv would need posts, perhaps 20-feet high, attached to either side of the bridge railing, with a wire connecting the top of the posts to represent a lintel over the door.
A resident critiques the design for the gate at the golf course bridge.
Some residents questioned the design for that aspect of the project — suggesting that the trees at the site formed a natural canopy — and worrying that kids would end up suspending gym shoes from the wire.
Matanky said someone from the Jewish community would check the eruv every week and would address graffiti issues and similar problems.
He also said the backers of the project were open to other design solutions. “This is Evanston. We’re sensitive to the design concerns,” he said.
He added that he’s worked on more than 20 eruv projects in the United States. “Nobody’s proposed an eruv that has given more thought about the environment or been more conscious of aesthetics than here.”
Matanky said eruvs already exist around many major university campuses — including at Harvard, MIT, New York University and the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. He said Northwestern University is supporting the project and working with organizers on the design elements around the university campus.
Plans for forming the eruv along Lee Street beach.
Along the lakefront the boundary for the eruv would be formed with a mix of wires strung atop light poles and posts, reinforced snow fencing and repaired chain link fences.
Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, raised questions about the snow fence solution, saying some sections of the snow fence get moved periodically. And Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said the fence “is used for sand control.”
“I don’t think any of us ever thought of it as a permanent fence,” Fiske added.
The project will require right of way permits and other approvals from the city.
The existing eruv in south Evanston, created about 25 years ago, forms the northernmost portion of the West Rogers Park eruv in Chicago. It includes the area bounded by the Metra and CTA Yellow Line tracks and the North Shore Channel.
The planned eruv expansion would extend the boundaries to run from the North Shore Channel almost to the north city limits and then along the lakefront to Calvary Cemetery.
Fiske said the eruv will also be up for discussion at a 1st Ward meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 6, at the Evanston Public Library.