PRINCETON: University to install eruv around campus, parts of town, for observant Jews

By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
Princeton University will install an eruv, or a virtual boundary used as part of Jewish religious law, around most of campus and parts of town to enable observant Jews to carry essential items outdoors without breaking the Sabbath.
The boundary relies upon utility poles, fences, power wires and natural topography to create a type of enclosure within which observant Jews can carry keys or push baby carriages, for example. Such activity ordinarily would be prohibited.
The eruv enables them to keep the Sabbath yet have some flexibility of movement when they are supposed to observe a day of rest.
The school said it was approached by Jewish students and others about having something that is in place in communities that are home to peer institutions of the university as well as in hundreds of towns nationwide where observant Jews live. Rabbi Julie Roth, Jewish chaplain and executive director of Princeton’s Center for Jewish Life, said Wednesday that the 40 to 50 observant Jewish students at the university come from towns that have an eruv.
“It’s something that many communities all across the Untied States and all around the world have. So it’s not unique to college campuses,” she said.
The concept of an eruv grew out of the Talmud, the rabbinic writings of ancient scholars who wanted to make it possible for Jews to observe the Sabbath in community.
On how Princeton came to have one, Rabbi Roth credited a former Orthodox rabbi at the Center for Jewish Life, David Wolkenfeld, who invested the time five years ago to see if an eruv could be installed. The school also was interested in “wanting to make it happen,” she said.
“It had been explored in the past, and there was no feasible solution found,” she said. Undeterred, Rabbi Wolkenfeld walked around town to see if an eruv boundary could be achieved.
Aside from this, the university has taken other steps to accommodate religious minorities on campus, including having Muslim and Hindu chaplains, providing halal food for Muslim students and offering a Kosher meal plan. The eruv is one more step in that direction.
“It’s a wonderful statement of diversity for the town, generally, (and) for the university, specifically,” said Rabbi and Jewish campus chaplain Eitan Webb of the eruv. “We are very proud to be living in a town that values the religious practices of all of its inhabitants.”
Princeton director of community and regional affairs Kristin S. Appelget, who was involved in bringing the project to fruition, said Tuesday that plastic tubing known as lechies would be installed this week on 60 utility poles that either PSE&G or Verizon own. Both companies permitted the tubing — meant to represent virtual doorposts — to be hung.
The physical installation is due to be completed in two to three weeks, she said.