Jewish group wins New Jersey eruv battle

Town of Mahwah agrees to allow pipes, wires to remain, will pay $10,000 in legal fees.

By
February 1, 2018 16:42
2 minute read.
The Old city of Jerusalem's Eruv at Tower of David.

The Old city of Jerusalem's Eruv at Tower of David.. (photo credit: UTILISATEUR:DJAMPA)

 
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After months of negotiations, a Jewish group in New Jersey won its battle against the town of Mahwah and will be allowed to retain its eruv – a symbolic perimeter generally marked by strings or wires which allows observant Jews to carry items or push strollers on Shabbat.

Many towns with large Jewish populations – as well as cities like New York and London – have them installed, and they are largely invisible to the public.

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In a settlement published on Wednesday, the town council agreed to allow the eruv to remain standing, and also agreed to pay the Bergen Rockland Eruv Association at least $10,000 in legal fees.

The Mahwah saga began in July, when the town ordered the association to cease building the eruv, and remove thin white PVC pipes that had been attached to some utility poles in town. The association had received permission to do so from the local utility company. In response to the town’s order, the association countered by suing Mahwah for discrimination.

What followed was a messy months-long battle that pitted the Mahwah town council against its mayor, the New Jersey governor and the state’s attorney-general. In October, the attorney general filed a lawsuit against the town for violating the rights of and discriminating against religious Jews.

On Tuesday, the council finally voted 5-2 in favor of the settlement, which was accepted by the eruv association on Wednesday. According to the settlement documents, published by NorthJersey.com, the town has agreed to allow the eruv, and will not interfere in any maintenance or upkeep relating to it. The eruv association agreed to switch the white PVC pipes with elements that better blend in with the poles within 12 months, and the town agreed to provide a police escort for any such work.

Town council president Rob Hermansen, who was opposed to the eruv for months before agreeing to the settlement, wrote on Facebook Wednesday that the council “chose the path for a solution through a settlement instead of the path of resistance.” He added that it was time to lift the media focus from Mahwah, which “should be known more for our open space, parks and our overall community than the negative comments made about our residents from outsiders.”

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The public battle incensed many town residents, who turned out in droves to council meetings to protest against the possibility of a large group of ultra-Orthodox Jews settling in their town. NorthJersey.com reported that some opponents of the eruv called the community an “infection” and a “cult.” A Facebook group opposed to the eruv, called Mahwah Strong, was removed after an influx of hateful comments.

Similar eruv lawsuits are currently being waged in Upper Saddle River and Montvale, other New Jersey towns. They have been waged in cities around New York and New Jersey, and in each battle the eruv supporters have ultimately prevailed.

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