, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 42-79

Jewish space in Suburbia: Interpreting the eruv conflict in Tenafly, New Jersey

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Abstract

Although the ostensible purpose of an eruv, a symbolic enclosure inhabited by a fictive food-sharing household, is to allow observant Orthodox Jews to “carry” on the Sabbath, its wider purpose (even in early rabbinic tractates) as understood by its members is to establish a community distinct from both non-Jewish and non-Orthodox Jewish neighbors co-habiting the same space. This examination of a bitter conflict over the right to establish an eruv in a prosperous New Jersey suburb demonstrates the multi-layered conceptions of the meaning of the eruv as related to Jewish identity, practice, and belonging in a modern, pluralistic secular state. Legal briefs, courtroom testimony, and statements in public meetings, as well as opinions expressed in the media, form the evidence presented for the feelings and motivations of the actors in this case.