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Is an Eruv Coming to Austin?

Alex E. Proimos,

Northwest Austin’s orthodox Jewish community may soon be able to move a little more freely on the Sabbath.

This Thursday, the Austin City Council is calling on staff to study the feasibility of creating an eruv.

“It’s a Hebrew word, eruv, and what it means is to mix together,” says Rabbi Eliezer Langer at the Tiferet Israel Congregation in Northwest Austin, located inside the proposed eruv.

“According to Jewish law, one is permitted on the Sabbath to do certain things, and certain things not,“ Rabbi Langer explains.  One of those rules prohibits simple labors, like carrying grocery bags or pushing strollers in public – unless the labor take places within a shared enclosure like an eruv. 

Hundreds of U.S. cities have designated such areas for Jewish communities using existing boundaries. Here in Austin, the eruv’s largely invisible boundaries would run along utility and power lines, from MoPac, Farm Road 2222, Mesa Drive, and Spicewood Springs.

“So it’s basically an unobtrusive type of thing; most of the times a person would not, even when they’re aware of it, realize something is there,” says Rabbi Langer.

Should the resolution pass, city staff will report their findings on designating the eruv in August—including whether additional material needs to be run along the utility line boundaries to complete the symbolic enclosure.

Jay Rubin, chief executive officer of the Jewish Community Association of Austin says the eruv is a welcome development.

“In a sense it’s creating more diversity,” he says. “Orthodox Jews are one particular group that in Austin has a much more limited presence that in places like Dallas, Houston or San Antonio, for example … We’d like to join those other communities and enable another demographic group, if you will, to see Austin as a place of opportunity and to add to the wonderful mix that we have here.”   

Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.