Even ‘Carmageddon’ respects religious boundary markers

Orthodox Jews in Los Angeles have need of eruvs – ritual enclosures allowing them to do things on the Sabbath not normally permitted under Torah.

LA Times writer Mitchell Landsberg reports that the recent Carmageddon phenomenon has not dimmed the need for these ritual enclosures, and that work is proceeding in light of this reality for the 40,000-50,000 observant Jews who depend upon them.

It is perhaps not surprising that Los Angeles, the city that practically invented urban sprawl, is home to one of the largest eruvs anywhere, a vast enclosure 40 miles in circumference, surrounding much of the Westside and spilling over into the San Fernando Valley.

Its boundaries are, roughly, Western Avenue on the east, the 101 Freeway on the north, the 10 on the south and — yes — the 405 on the west. In portions, such as along Western, the boundary consists of fishing line strung along the tops of utility poles. It’s hard to spot, even if you know it’s there….

Witkin and Mayer had nothing but praise for the contractor and government agencies for their sensitivity. In some cities, eruvs have been met with hostility and become battlegrounds over church-state issues. That has not so far been the case with this project.

“The level of help we’ve had, from the Roman Catholic permit people at Caltrans … to the Muslim line inspector along the freeways who gave us engineering help.…The level of deference and courtesy and kindness — it makes you feel good that you live in America,” Witkin said.

Kulka could not estimate how much the contractor has spent on eruv-related issues. “It doesn’t cost a lot,” he said, although some labor has been expended. Marc Littman, a spokesman for the MTA, insisted that there had been no extra cost to taxpayers. “This outreach is part of their job,” he said of the contractors.

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