In the COVID World, Is There a Point to The Eruv?

I decided it was time to stop wallowing in hatred of my living space and do something more productive. It was time to start looking for somewhere else to live. So I started by looking for other places to live in my current town. But the living options in my town are so-so. Not so great.

Then I thought, well, actually, I don’t have to stay in the same town. I am still WFH and although the synagogue has started meeting in-person in a limited socially distanced way, I’ve been going to Zoom services elsewhere.

So I started looking at places to live in a different Jewish community nearby that I don’t live in, but that I’ve been to and know pretty well. Because my first instinct was that of course I need to live in a Jewish community.

Let me clarify here that by “Jewish Community”, I mean, a place with an infrastructure for egalitarian semi-observant Jewish life – an appropriate egalitarian synagogue community, housing options within a reasonable walking distance of the synagogue for Shabbat, grocery stores/restaurants with kosher food, an eruv (string boundary that defines a domain so people can carry items within it on Shabbat).

So I looked at the living options in this other Jewish community and I wasn’t thrilled with what I was seeing. And also, I was not sure this Jewish community was an improvement over the one where I currently live.

Then I thought, if we’re all remote anyway – not going to synagogue / services over Zoom, not spending Shabbat meals with others – does living in a Jewish community really matter?

It is ironic that I am asking this given that I’m on the board of the congregation. We have had so many conversation about how to support the community at this time and what does it mean to be a community. In certain ways, the congregation community has expanded; we have former members joining our Zoom events from across the country.

But it also begs the question of why bother to stay within walking distance of if everything is going to be remote?


    • I think the non-Orthodox congregations will be even slower to return to in-person services. Zoom is pretty well accepted and the congregants are also in the older, high risk demographic. I have no idea if/when Shabbat hospitality will return. Given that, I’m feeling like the eruv is a less important priority.

      The space doesn’t meet my needs at all and there is no easy way to modify it, the community being not as good a fit as it had been (although hard to tell if somewhere else would be an improvement), not getting along with my roommate, and being effectively trapped because of the pandemic.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I think it may be a bit early to assume that things will stay remote/Zoom after the end of next year? Personally, having a walking community (and hence an eruv) is important to me, although I do carry (but not schlep: an umbrella is ok by me if it rains) without a kosher eruv. Also, having folks near enough to invite to Shabbat lunch, if that is your custom, may become more important in a couple of years?

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    • I don’t carry on Shabbat w/out an eruv, but there isn’t anywhere to go and I have a car for getting around the rest of the week. It would be great to go to shul or have guests for Shabbat meal (from a curated guestlist- hosting is a challenge for me, but there are some guests I truly enjoy having over for Shabbat) again, but I’m struggling to imagine this being a realistic option any time soon.

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      • Fair enough. I always had trouble getting guests when I walked, as I could never seem to get an apartment less than about 1.5-2 miles from any shul I attended. I’ve always been a very fast walker, but everyone told me that I just lived too far to be my regular shabbat guest. That led me to try organising Walking Busses, but most folks just (Masorti) don’t seem to want to walk to shul. I like to arrive in time for P’sukei, and stay for benching, when there is benching, or often just instigate (often not enough for a mezumen) because folks seems to have to go right after eating. I really miss that about the orthodox world: benching is more important than haMotzi, imho. But Reform & Masorti/conservative folks don’t seem to get that.

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  2. This was a very interesting post to read because I can’t relate to any of it so it was really intriguing to learn what is on your mind. The pandemic is pretty much over here. We’re back to normal but with extra sanitiser. And I’m quite ignorant about what’s really involved in being Jewish so I found your explanation of a Jewish community useful. Despite my own agnosticism, I appreciate hearing about other people’s beliefs (so long as they don’t try to convert me). What happens if you live outside a Jewish community and then everything goes back to normal? What if you encounter anti-semitism in a non Jewish community – is that a concern? I have no idea. If there are Jews in Sydney, Australia I haven’t ever known nor have I personally heard any one have an issue with Jews. But I understand that in America it can be quite racist still.

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    • I’m very happy and also very jealous that Australia is back to normal. I’d love to be back to normal with extra sanitizer!

      I’ve been deliberately vague about my exact location in USA and I can’t get more specific here, but I should clarify that even if I moved out of the walking-distance Jewish community, I wouldn’t anticipate encountering antisemitism. I mean, you never know. But I’ve felt safe in the US. In fairness though, America is so heterogenous and it’s absolutely possible to go to another part of the country and have a completely different experience.

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      • I understand the need to be vague about locations on a blog. It’s good to hear you feel relatively safe in the US. One less concern in your decision about where to live. I think having a home that is pleasant and not claustrophobic is so important (assuming it’s affordable).

        Liked by 2 people

  3. I don’t know much about Jewish life so your posts are illuminating; I will soon be experiencing my first zoom session where I’ll be giving a seminar on poetry writing to a writing group in Vienna where my son is President; it will be interesting 🙂

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  4. Gosh, I sure hope things won’t be remote forever! Living within a Jewish community is always good, covid or no covid. I think the only way we can effectively reach out to our fellow congregants is if we’re nearby. Even now, with all the physical restrictions, just walking by someone’s home on Shabbat and waving ‘hi’ lifts everyone’s spirits.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m hoping we won’t be remote forever, but meeting in-person still feels like a long way off. I’m actually not someone who appreciates walking by unannounced/having someone walk outside my home unannounced on Shabbat, but happy it works for others. My local Jewish community is doing a lot to support its members though. I do appreciate the effort even during a challenging time. But I’m definitely deriving more benefit from the Zoom services as of late.

      That said, I’m job-hunting right now and saw a promising posting located out of state in an area I have never visited. And in spite of everything I wrote here, my very first instinct was to look up the synagogues/Jewish community within commuting distance of the job.


  5. Good question! We have not been to our church since March! We do the virtual services. I told my wife, “I think I could get used to this! I believe a lot of things will change because of 2020!

    Liked by 1 person

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