Jewish law forbids carrying objects between private or public areas on the Sabbath. However, rabbinic authorities deemed carrying permissible within a physical enclosure called an eruv. This book explores the rabbinic debates surrounding the creation of such enclosures in North American cities and examines the evolution of American Orthodox communities from the late nineteenth century through the 1960s. The earliest debates reflect a community with low religious observance and weak ties to local government that relied on European rabbis for authority. By the mid-twentieth century, these rabbinic disputes reveal an established, religiously observant community forming its own traditions.
1. History of the Eruv
2. The St. Louis Eruv
3. The East Side of Manhattan Eruv
4. The Toronto Eruv
5. The Manhattan Eruv, 1949–1962
Adam Mintz is a rabbi and scholar in New York. He is the rabbi and founder of Kehilat Rayim Ahuvim, a Modern Orthodox community on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and a member of the Talmud faculty at Maharat, an Orthodox women’s rabbinical seminary. He has lectured and published on a wide variety of topics and focuses on the legal history and culture of the Jewish community. He is married to Sharon and they have three children and two grandchildren.
Rabbi Adam Mintz is a Jewish communal leader with a passion for Jewish scholarship. Rabbi Mintz has served for 30 years as a community rabbi in Manhattan. He is currently the rabbi of Kehilat Rayim Ahuvim, a Modern Orthodox synagogue he founded on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in 2004. He is also the Director of 929 English, an organization that promotes the daily study of Tanakh. In addition, Rabbi Mintz is a member of the Talmud faculty at Yeshivat Maharat and has taught as an Adjunct Professor at City College, New York. Rabbi Mintz received Rabbinical Ordination (Semicha) from Yeshiva University and a PhD in Jewish History from New York University. Rabbi Mintz lives in Manhattan with his wife Sharon. They have three children and two grandchildren.
“This book is rather accessible given the topic’s dense legal history. … Mintz does an excellent job of going through the history of eruvin, what concerns different communities had, and how those communities did or did not tackle those issues. … The laws of eruv are too often relegated to Hebrew Halakhic texts, that Building Communities has merit in possessing even if it were not as accessible as it is.”
— Andrew Lillien, AJL News & Reviews
“Adam Mintz’s excellent work, Building Communities: A History of the Eruv in America, is a splendid example of how halakhic texts can be employed and interpreted to better inform us of widespread historical matters. … While the author discusses the legal-halakhic issues that challenged rabbinic scholars in those cities, he deftly highlights the larger practical matters that shaped and often divided these communities. … Adam Mintz has written a highly informative work that presents the reader with a wide range of halakhic sources and analysis, while offering insight into their historical significance. The work is a notable contribution to the history of halakha and the experience of Orthodox Jewish life in America.”
— Moshe D. Sherman, Tradition
“In this well-researched and erudite book, Adam Mintz, a distinguished pulpit rabbi and scholar, provides an invaluable survey and guide to the history of eruv establishment from the Mishna to the modern era…Mintz briefly discusses the dramatic expansion of community eruvim throughout the USA, as well as the bitter opposition these structures frequently provoked in communities with predominantly non-Jewish and non-Orthodox residents. This opposition has been described piecemeal in articles dealing with events in towns such as Palo Alto, California; Tenafly, New Jersey; and Westhampton, Long Island. Following on Mintz’s excellent book, a subsequent more book length study of the further development of these communities is merited and would be of interest to readers of Contemporary Jewry.”
— Philip Fishman, Contemporary Jewry
“More than 200 American Jewish communities boast an eruv, permitting observant Jews to carry within its boundaries on the Sabbath. In this long-awaited volume, Adam Mintz explains the early history of the eruv in America, focusing on St. Louis, New York, and Toronto, including the fierce halachic disputes surrounding these projects and their relation to earlier eruv projects in Europe. Learned, readable and comprehensive, the book makes an important contribution to the history of American Orthodoxy and will be welcomed by all students of the eruv.”
— Jonathan D. Sarna, University Professor and Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History, Brandeis University
“Adam Mintz's study on Eiruv in America provides a sweeping view of the history of this important aspect of Sabbath observance and a detailed study of early attempts to construct Eiruvin in North America. His work puts the resurgence of this aspect of the development of Orthodox life in the late 20th century into a completely new perspective. Mintz shows that study of the modern history of Jewish law can contribute greatly to understanding the development of orthodoxy in America.”
— Lawrence H. Schiffman, Judge Abraham Lieberman Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, New York University