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Is an eruv a sign?

No. An eruv is a purely functional device that encloses an area, and as opposed to signs, eruvin do not have an expressive component. In fact, many attachments are virtually impossible to spot.

Many times, an eruv may be paired with a sign because even adherents can’t tell where they are:

In this photo, one of the rubber tubes is an eruv lechi while the other is a utility attachment:

Court have reached this conclusion several times.

The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (which is binding on Federal Courts in NJ) said:

“[W]e conclude that the plaintiffs have not met their burden of showing that affixing lechis to utility poles is “sufficiently imbued with elements of communication” to be deemed expressive conduct… on the record before us, it appears that the eruv serves a purely functional, non-communicative purpose indistinguishable, for free speech purposes, from that of a fence surrounding a yard or a wall surrounding a building.” (emphasis addded)

In fact, the Court went so far as to say why this is not a serious claim:

[T]here is no evidence that Orthodox Jews intend or understand the eruv to communicate any idea or message. Rather, the evidence shows that the eruv–like a fence around a house or the walls forming a synagogue–serves the purely functional purpose of delineating an area within which certain activities are permitted.

We also reject the plaintiffs’ contention that the eruv may be deemed expressive simply because some residents of Tenafly who are not Orthodox Jews discern various unintended messages emanating from it, notwithstanding that these persons would not be intended recipients even if the lechis were meant to send a message. To accept this position would mean that whether conduct is expressive depends entirely on how observers perceive it–even if the actor had no communicative intent, and even if the actor disapproves of the message (or messages) discerned by the observers.” (emphasis added)

How much can eruv lawsuits cost and who pays for them?

Court cases to remove or block an eruv installation can be very expensive. The prevailing party in the eruv litigation is entitled to receive attorney’s fees from the losing party. The amount will depend on many factors including the length and complexity of the litigation.

In the 6 year Tenafly lawsuit, an agreement was reached for the Township to pay $325,000 to the eruv Association’s attorneys. In addition, the Town also paid the costs of their own counsel, experts and others.

In some litigation, such as in the Hamptons cases, the fees were waived by the Town in a settlement permitting the case to end and the eruv to permanently remain.

The Mayor of Mahwah, NJ has said that he predicts the Town could face a $10,000,000 bill if the litigation is seen through to the end.

Who pays for an eruv?

The structures comprising the eruv, as well as its maintenance and upkeep, is funded by the organization constructing it in a particular location.<p><p>

The public does not fund eruvin through taxation.<p><p>

If the eruv makes use of structures (e.g. telephone poles used to affix wires or tubing), a fee may be assessed by the owner of the utility poles to the eruv association. Any costs associated with the eruv are paid directly by those who put up the eruv, not passed through to utility customers.<p><p>

What is an eruv?

An eruv (plural: eruvin) is a virtually invisible unbroken demarcation of an area.<p><p>

In the Northeastern US, many eruvin specifically use materials that are indistinguishable from the materials commonly found on utility poles. Often, the choice of material is mandated by the utility company.<p><p>

An eruv is required because Jewish law prohibits the carrying or pushing of objects from a “private domain”, such as a home, to the “public domain” on the Sabbath and Yom Kippur.