The Boston Eruv

Over the years, many requests for information about the Eruv, how it was designed, how the permits were obtained, how the construction was accomplished, etc. have been asked. It seems appropriate that answers to these and similar questions be placed here on the Eruv Internet site for all to share.

There have been individuals from around the United States who have heard of the Boston Eruv and want to build an Eruv in their own community. This is great, and I hope that the answers to the questions assist the reader in learning about Eruv and how to go about putting a Community Eruv together.

Finally, remember that the answers to these questions reflect the Boston experience. The general themes should be applicable wherever you live; the specific implementation requires a local rabbinic consultant and approach adjustments as well.

The Questions






How did you determine the borders?
The critical element is to make sure that the borders are "defensible." That is, the borders should be composed of materials and constructions that are durable and stand little chance of damage over time.

There are three types of borders we looked for in the design of the Eruv. These borders were chosen with an eye towards balancing the locations of the border with the population to be served. at some point, one may have to choose a "defensible" border and still exclude a certain small part of the community. In our case, we were able to add small adjuct sections to the Eruv at the time or just after construction of the main Eruv. In other cases, small pockets of people living several blocks from any reasonable border were left outside of the border.

This issue was also raised in relation to the "inner borders." Any large noninhabitable area within the confines of the main Eruv must be excluded from the Eruv domain. Such types of areas are cemeteries, golf courses (if no one lives of the property most of the year), and ponds or lakes (greater than 15,000 square feet with no Halachik mechitza/border existing around it). In order to construct a small Mechitza around these areas, there were several instances in which residential areas were also removed. Such cutaways of residential areas were minimized to the extent possible.

What do you look for in outlining the borders?
The major border of the Boston Eruv rely on the following typologies:

  • existing chain link fencing
  • existing utility poles (telephone/power/cable)
  • existing underground-fed concrete light poles
  • walls of existing building

What materials do you use when gaps exist in the existing border?
Depending upon the size of the gap, many types of solid materials are typically used. The important consideration is that (1) the material used must reach up from the ground (or at least within about 10 inches of the ground) to at least 42 inches or more from the ground, and (2) the material should not have gaps within it which are greater than about 3-4 inches (e.g. netting with large holes in the netting).

In some cases, standard metal fencing can be used, in others, a short section of plywood or other appropriately sized lumber. Still in other cases, a short gap in an earthern-based Mechitzah can be closed off by filling in the gap with earth.

Sometimes, the gap is most easily closed off by either placing a series of short poles in the ground, each within 10 inches of each other and at least 42 inches high, between each end of the gap. Alternatively, a Tzurat HaPesach (THP) can be built across the gap. This THP can be constructed (if the gap is only several feet and out of the public thoroughfare) using a pair of Lechis and twine or with a segment of half-inch conduit bent into an upside "U" and placed across the gap.

Who did you need to get permissions from?
You need to get permission from every organization or entity whose property you use as part of the border of your Eruv. Now, if a fence is located along the rear of a building or along a parkway and you are not modifying it in any way and the land is part of the city or state, we subsume the permission needed to "use" the fencing for the Eruv under the permission or "reshut" that is required to be obtained from the city, state, province, etc.

If you are planning on placing any material (string, lechi, post, fence extension, board, dirt) on anyone else's property for the purposes of your Eruv, then you ened their permission.

This permission can be oral or written but it must be obtained.

Some examples of organizations from whom we had to obtain permission:

  • Massachusetts Turnpike Authority
  • Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority
  • New England Telephone Company (Now known as: Bell Atlantic)
  • Massachusetts District Commission (the Parks people)
  • Boston Edison
  • City of Boston Public Works Authority
  • Town of Brookline Department of Public Works
  • City of Newton Department of Public Works
  • City of Boston - Mayor's Office
  • Town of Brookline - Selectmen's Office
  • City of Newton - Mayor's Office
  • State of Massachusetts - Governor's Office (then Governor William Weld)

How did you go about getting these permissions?
You need to contact an individual in the area that handles permits and licenses. It is good to try to reach someone reasonably technical (e.g. a town planning engineer) so that they will get the general idea of what you are asking for. You also need to contact the Legal Counsel for the organization for they will be responsible for writing the legal permit that they and you will sign. There may a fee for completing this permit phase. Generally, we were not charged since we are a public-funded (501-3c), tax-exempt organization.

Plan of having a cogent, well-written document that describes the following:

  • What is an eruv?
  • Why do we need one?
  • Who does it benefit?
  • Who maintains it?
  • Does it get in anyone's way once it is up?
  • Who is liable if someone gets hurt because of it falling down?
  • Who is insured and at what level for the liability for the Eruv is it causes damages to someone?
  • Where has an Eruv been put up before and who can be contacted about it?

Who else "signed off" on the eruv?
After all legal contracts with all the utilities, agencies, organization and all are completed, the "reshut" (permission) to lease the land located within the Eruv for a pretty long time (we used 99 years) must be secured.

We created a certificate-sized document attesting to the fact that for the transfer of 1 silver dollar between the Greater Boston Eruv Corporation and each of the entities with whom we needed to create the lease, that the area within the Eruv would belong to the GBEC for only the purpose of carrying on Shabbat and Yom Tov that falls on Shabbat and Yom Kippur.

This document and the silver dollar attached to its face (all within a nice frame) was handed to the representative of the relevant organization (e.g., governor, mayor) and a "kinyan" was made. That is, the certificate was placed in the hand of the individual and they raised it up from our hand signifying that they were taking ownership of the certificate and were agreeing to the terms written within the certificate.

How much did the Eruv cost to build?
Of course, each Eruv has its own specific cost; our initial cost was about $70,000 (in 1992 dollars) including all materials and labor.

We needed many 20-24 foot 3-inch diameter, galvanized pipes to construct our "tzurot ha-pesach" along the Mass Pike and the MBTA train track (e.g., the Longwood Station area). This also required significant amount of excavation as well as substantial amounts of concrete. In some cases, the pipes needed to be made of large pipe sections for the lower portion (for stability) with somewhat thinner sections welded to the top of the lower sections. This required special clamp sections and welding costs.

Affixing the pipes to the concrete walls along the Pike required that we fashion and build large metal clamps that, together with Hilti-style bolts, were used to clamp the pipes into their intended position.

Lechi attachments were made to over 800 poles. Several lechis, slightly overlapping each other end-over-end as they snaked up the side of a pole, were required to reach from the ground to just under the relevant cable.

Rental of bucket truck equipment for completing the aerial work also was a significant portion of the installation cost.

What are the maintenance costs?
The yearly operating budget has varied from 1993-1999 from as low as $19,000 to as much as $26,000 (not adjusted for inflation).

The primary expenses we see during the year can be generally broken into the following categories (in roughly descending cost amount):

  • Eruv checker salary
  • Repair
  • Bucket truck rental
  • Liability Insurance
  • Federal Witholding taxes (Form 941)
  • Fundraising
    • Postage
    • Photocopying
    • Stationery
  • Repair materials
  • Phone VoiceMail account

How much money did you raise?
This is not such a silly question.

We tried to raise the money the first year that would cover two things:

  • Construction costs (the $70,000)
  • The first year of maintenance costs (estimated at $18,000)
In fact, we did not raise the $88,000. We raised several thousands of dollars less. As a result, sometime in the autumn months in 1993, we ran out of money and had to start fundraising for the end of 1993 and all of 1994 right then and there. After a few years, we balanced things out and now launch our fundraising campaign each December (usually by the 10th of the month) and try to raise all the funds for the succeeding year between December and February (of the following year, i.e. in about 3 months).

The reality is we collect most of the money by March and then perodically send out reminders every three months during the rest of the year to all those who have not responded and that we know still live in the community.

Getting names and addresses for people who move into the community so that we can approach them to "help out" is a continuing challenge.

How did you raise the money?
A committee was formed to approach several individuals who could make substantial donations (>$5,000). The committee members were also successful at finding people who would donate $500 or $1,000. Others were asked to donate $250 to cover both the cost of construction and the first year's expenses.

Some of the fundraising was done over the phone, some by home visits, the majority by letter.

All donors at all levels were listed in the Eruv Manual that was produced and distributed to all contributors in December 1992.

Last updated : May 12, 2006 (Pesach Sheini 5766)