Compiled by: Sandy Eller
State of New Jersey Sues Mahwah, Says New Park and Eruv Ordinances Discriminate Against Jewish Community AFTER A SUMMER filled with meetings to discuss concerns about a newly erected eruv and an influx of non-residents into its town parks, residents of Mahwah are finding themselves facing an even greater problem: a lawsuit filed by New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino accusing both the town of Mahwah and the town council with discriminating against Orthodox Jews. Trouble began brewing in Mahwah several months ago when residents discovered that strips of white PVC had been installed on telephone poles to extend the Monsey eruv’s coverage to include areas in South Monsey and Chestnut Ridge. The piping had been put up with full permission of Verizon, which rented out the poles to the Bergen-Rock land Eruv Association, as reported on VIN News. Township meetings to discuss the eruv also included complaints about the many Jewish visitors to Mahwah’s parks, with residents complaining that their children were being crowded out of the play spaces and noting that in some instances, there were Jewish children arriving by the busload. Tempers flared on numerous occasions during township meetings, with anti-Semitic comments made by some, demon-
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strating that they had no interest in welcoming any Jewish residents into the township. The Bergen Record reported that an ordinance enacted by the Township Council in June banned all outof-state residents from local parks. Chief James Batelli of the Mahwah Police Department warned the council that the ban might violate state laws, and Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal instructed township police not to enforce the ban. A second ordinance banned
the piping, used as lechis for the eruv, from the township. Porrino’s lawsuit, filed in late October, said that the ordinances were wrong, both legally and morally, and were motivated by hate. “To think that there are local governments here in New Jersey in 2017 making laws on the basis of some archaic fear-driven and discriminatory mindset is deeply disappointing
and shocking,” said Porrino. Township Council president Robert Hermansen defended the Township Council’s decision to enact the ordinances in September, saying, “We had incidents where Mahwah families could not use the parks. They asked that we look into a way to put Mahwah residents first.” Hermansen denied that the ordinances were meant to be discriminatory, but Porrino’s complaint said that they are abuses of municipal power that are in violation of the 1st, 4th and 14th Amendments. The lawsuit alleges that because township parks were built using funding allocated to Mahwah by the Department of Environmental Protection, it was illegal to restrict anyone from the parks based on residence or religion. The lawsuit hopes to reclaim the full $3.4 million allocated to Mahwah for the parks. Mahwah Mayor Bill Laforet has estimated that Mahwah residents could be on the hook for $10 million should the town lose the lawsuit. He said that Hermansen is to blame for the town’s legal woes and accused him of fanning the flames of anti-Semitism in Mahwah. “His disgraceful behavior is now worsened by the severe potential financial penalties facing the township’s taxpayers,” said Laforet.
The Monsey View