New Orthodox Jewish Eruv in Pinetree Park Raises Constitutional Questions
Mary Baker knows Pinetree Park like the back of her hand. Every morning, she walks her dogs beneath its eponymous pines. And every evening, she returns. As the setting sun glints off Indian Creek to the east, butterflies flit around the community garden. On an island infamous for sin, the park is a rare outpost of peace.
Michael E. Miller Part of an eruv recently erected in Pinetree Park
Last summer, however, Baker was walking along the water when she spotted two men erecting a pair of 15-foot-tall, pale plastic poles and connecting them with a long, thin white string. When Mary asked what the men were doing, they ignored her. She threatened to call the city. "We are the city," replied a man with a bushy beard and a black hat.
Soon, more poles appeared. They, too, were strung together, like a giant spider web slowly surrounding the park. Baker was baffled.
"It's an eruv," one of Baker's Orthodox Jewish friends finally explained.
During the Sabbath -- which begins at sundown Friday and lasts until nightfall Saturday -- Orthodox Jews are prohibited by scripture from engaging in a number of otherwise routine activities. One rule prevents the "carrying" of any object outside the home, whether keys or kids.
An eruv is a symbolic structure that blurs the boundary between private and public areas, allowing Orthodox Jews to leave their houses and push their children around in strollers on the Sabbath.
Unbeknownst to most people, the entire island of Miami Beach is surrounded by an eruv. Most of the time, the seawall is enough. In Pinetree Park, however, the city recently installed a kayak ramp that broke the eruv.
When Rabbi Pinchas Weberman learned of the lapse in the eruv, he dispatched the two men to erect the poles and string. Weberman, who has a white beard and a gravelly voice with which he dispenses as many jokes as parables, says extending the eruv into the park isn't a big deal.
"It doesn't hurt anybody," he says. "It's hardly visible unless somebody is looking for it. And the dogs certainly aren't bothered by it."