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  • Article: AFineLine.pdf  After reading the article, submit a 250 word response on the Discussion Board explaining the controversies and conflicts over eruvin.
    A Fine Line: Is Religious Real Estate

     

    Kosher?

     

    By Stefanos Chen For Daniel Kraus, an Orthodox Jewish renter in Midtown Manhattan, a downed utility pole could

     

    put the kibosh on all his weekend plans ? but not for the reasons you might think.

     

    Kraus (pictured at left with his

     

    family) was caught in "a flutter of

     

    email" last Friday, when it was

     

    discovered that a pole marking part

     

    of his community's ritual boundary,

     

    known as an eruv, was damaged.

     

    The purpose of an eruv -- a series of

     

    nearly invisible wires strung high

     

    above street level on utility poles

     

    and lampposts -- is to create a

     

    symbolic home in which observant

     

    Jews are allowed to perform some

     

    tasks that are otherwise prohibited

     

    on Shabbat, the time between sundown Friday and Saturday evening. Chief among these

     

    privileges: carrying items (like walking canes and keys) and moving objects (like baby strollers

     

    and wheelchairs).

     

    As a director of the Manhattan Jewish Experience, a community of young Jewish professionals

     

    in Gramercy/Murray Hill, and the father of two small children, the prospect of the eruv

     

    (pronounced ay-roov) being damaged was more than a little inconvenient, he says with some

     

    understatement.

     

    "We were hosting 50 people for lunch in our loft space," Kraus recalls. "How am I going to get

     

    the kids from the house into the loft?"

     

    It took a phone call to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Kraus says, but his congregation

     

    was able in the 11th hour to get the repairs in time for Shabbat. As should be amply clear, he

     

    says, "it has a very practical use every week." A Fine Line Yet for something so vital to the

     

    Orthodox Jewish community, eruvin remain largely unknown to other groups, including some

     

    non-observant Jews.

     

    "Aesthetically, it's just a tiny little string that you don't see unless you're at eye level, 15 to 20

     

    feet up," says Julie Friedman, a Realtor who covers the Gramercy/Murray Hill area. She leased

     

    Kraus his apartment in 2007.

     

    While an eruv may be composed of no more than fishing wire and lampposts (pictured right), the

     

    intrinsic value that the enclosure adds to a property is immense for Orthodox Jews. "Consider it a

     

    commodity" for the observant, she says.

     

    But as for adding any monetary value to real estate, New York appraiser Alice Palmisano isn't so

     

    sure.

     

    "It's a little esoteric for the general population," Palmisano says. In her 27 years working in real

     

    estate, she has never heard of an eruv. And as with all niche amenities, she adds, "It would only

     

    contribute value to those who value it."

     

    More to the point, a Realtor could be penalized for advertising the religious enclosure under the

     

    Fair Housing Act, she points out. Marketing such a feature could be construed as discriminating

     

    against non-Jewish groups. Is an Eruv Legal?

     

    While common in cosmopolitan cities like New York, eruvin exist nearly everywhere that

     

    observant Jewish communities call home. A quick perusal of a publicly updated directory shows

     

    eruv-enclosed communities in cities as varied as Las Vegas, Cincinnati and Memphis. (See the

     

    full list here.) Many renters and homeowners might be surprised to discover that their own

     

    property is located within these sanctified spaces -- and only the most eagle-eyed among them

     

    might spot the wire boundaries.

     

    But it's not their appearance that has some groups up in arms. In Tenafly, N.J., where an eruv

     

    was erected more than a decade ago, the controversy has splintered into quarrels over First

     

    Amendment rights and religious imagery in public. From there, assertions of prejudice were not

     

    far behind. A 2002 lawsuit claims that some residents were concerned that the eruv would

     

    "attract more Orthodox Jews to the area."

     

    "It makes no sense [to argue about it]," says Rabbi Menachem Genack, who belongs to a

     

    synagogue in nearby Englewood, N.J., which has a long history of eruvin. "Why is it disruptive?

     

    Can you see it? No."

     

    Ultimately the courts upheld the synagogue's right to erect an eruv, but other controversies

     

    continue to break out in other communities. Notably, "The Daily Show" spoofed a recent eruv

     

    dispute in Westhampton Beach, N.Y., for similar issues of perceived prejudice. (See their sendup of the dispute below.)

     

    The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

     

    Get More: Daily Show Full Episodes,Political Humor & Satire Blog,The Daily Show on Facebook The Bottom Line

     

    While controversies over eruvin erupt for several complicated reasons, the bottom line for real

     

    estate professionals -- and, in turn, home shoppers -- is that considerations must be made for all

     

    clients, regardless of creed, race or a laundry list of other protected classes under the Fair

     

    Housing Act.

     

    Even Friedman, who serves a large number of Orthodox Jewish home shoppers, says that she

     

    does not broach the topic unless the client makes the first move.

     

    Agents would do well to be even more stringent, says Palmisano, who is also a licensed broker.

     

    The rules can be so strict, in fact, that she says agents can get in trouble for even mentioning the

     

    terms "bachelor pad" or "family home," as those could be called out as an exclusion to other

     

    groups.

     

    The reality, though, from Friedman's perspective, is that the inclusion of an eruv is in the same

     

    category of convenience as proximity to a train station. It's just a matter of providing a service

     

    for one group of shoppers, without committing a disservice to others. "And if they ask if there are Jews who live in the building," she adds, "we just smile and say 'this

     

    is New York City' -- everything is reflected here."

     

    EDITOR'S NOTE: In response to some commenters' questions on the maintenance costs of

     

    eruvin, it is the responsibility of the particular Jewish community -- not taxpayers -- to finance

     

    the project.

     


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  • Article: AFineLine.pdf  After reading the article, submit a 250 word response on the D.zip

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