NJ Town Blocks Eruv in Effort to Discourage Settlement by Eruv Users

Pigeon on a Telephone Pole

Mahwah, NJ township officials late last week ordered the South Monsey Eruv Fund of Spring Valley, NY, to take down its eruv, as part of what the Mahwah Patch described as their “fighting back against what they and residents are calling ‘prohibited’ and ‘illegal’ markers hung on utility lines.”

Michael J. Kelly, the township’s zoning officer, sent a letter to the fund stating that installing the eruv “constitutes a prohibited activity and is therefore a violation” of the township ordinance.

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In Eastern Seaboard code, blocking or taking down an eruv—a symbolic measure that allows religious Jews to push their baby carriages (among other things, including the babies inside) to shul on Shabbat—is an attempt on the part of a municipality to discourage Orthodox Jews from settling down there. Orthodox Jewish life revolves around the Shabbat morning prayer and, even more important, the kiddush that follows. Make it impossible for those Jews to have their Shabbat morning schnapps and babkas and maybe they’ll go settle someplace else.

Mahwah residents have initiated an online petition titled: “Protect the Quality of Our Community in Mahwah.” The petition language is unabashed about which aspect of community quality is of concern to them: “an eruv used by the Hasidic sect.” Never mind that the eruv is a halachic device used by all Jews, and never mind that there’s no such thing as “The” Hasidic sect – we, and the 1,202 individuals (no way to tell if they’re Mahwah residents) who signed the petition are well aware of the obvious anti-Semitic undertones. Even if the anti-Semites are biologically Jewish.

Thank God for the North Jersey editorial that rebuked Mahwah Mayor Bill Laforet and concluded, “Mahwah officials need to be leaders here. No town can decide who gets to move in based on religion, race, gender or sexual orientation. And no town should be embracing a ‘zoning ordinance’ that is used not to prevent the spread of unwanted advertising and signage, but rather to make it harder for members of a religious community to live and worship.

“The eruv should stay.”

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