Jewish group prepares for legal fight over religious boundary –

Posted By on July 27, 2017

An explanation of the Orthodox Jewish custom of an eruv. Wochit

An Eruv remains on a utility pole on West Saddle River Road at Applewood Drive in Upper Saddle River on Wednesday afternoon after the noon deadline passed to have it removed.(Photo: Tariq Zehawi/

Amid an increasingly ugly battle that has prompted accusations of anti-Semitism, an Orthodox Jewish group seeking to expand a religious boundary into northwest Bergen Countyhas hired a Manhattan law firm to defend itself against threatened legal action.

A leader ofthe South Monsey Eruv Fund, which wants to extend a boundary known as an eruv into Mahwah, Upper Saddle River and Montvale, said Wednesday that the firm of Weil, Gotshal & Mangeshas agreed to represent them on a pro bono basis.

The firmhas a successful history of defending the Jewish ritual boundaries in Bergen County. The firmguided a Tenafly Orthodox Jewish groupto a decisive victory in the U.S. Court of Appeals in2002, after the local government banned the group from marking its eruv withlechisthin pieces of wireattached to utility poles.

Its a service for the Jewish community living there," the head of the Monsey eruv, Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz, said."Its not thatthe area will be taken over."

But that is precisely what some residents fear will happen if the eruv, which allows Orthodox Jews to perform prohibited tasks such as pushing strollers on the Sabbath, is allowed to extend intoBergen County.

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As news of the proposed boundary has spread in the last week, social media groupsof concerned residentshave swelled with thousands of new members. On Monday, more than 200 people gathered at a Mahwah park tovoiceconcerns overout-of-state residents traveling into Mahwah and overcrowding local parks and public facilities.

The organizer of an online petition opposing the eruv said he decidedto shut it down after posters left "inappropriate" comments.

Its a service for the Jewish community living there. Its not thatthe area will be taken over.

One read,I don't want these rude, nasty, dirty people who think they can do what they want in our nice town. Another stated: I don't want my town to be gross and infested with these nasty people.

The response, says the head of Teaneck's eruv, Joey Bodner,smacks terribly of anti-Semitism."

In Teaneck, which has a large Jewish community, the boundaries of an eruv have been marked on township utility poles with pieces of wood, metal and plastic since the early 1970s.As the townships Jewish population grew, the eruv expanded to include parts of neighboring Bogota, Bergenfield and New Milford.

They have all been cooperative, said Bodner, who is also the chairman of Teaneck's Planning Board.This has literally been a non-issue in Teaneck for more than 40 years.

Eruvscurrently existall over theworld,inNew York City, Washington D.C,. and22 locations across New Jersey, including Paramus,Fair Lawn and Passaic.

An eruvcreates an enclosure for Orthodox Jews that extends the perimeter of the home into the street. The expanded border allows them to perform tasks such as pushing strollers or carrying books from the home to the outside world, which is prohibited on the Sabbath.

The same way people want to have Verizon, Jewish people want an eruv,Steinmetz said.

Much of Rockland County is enclosed in an eruv, serving the areas massive Hasidic population, said Steinmetz.

The Monsey eruvcirclesmost of the communitiesinRamapo,N.Y., whereHasidic residents have frequently clashed with the rest of the community.

An Eruv remains on a utility pole on W Saddle River Rd at Applewood Dr in Upper Saddle River Wednesday afternoon after the noon deadline passed to have it removed.(Photo: Tariq Zehawi/

Steinmetz said his group undertook an expansion into BergenCountyto accommodate Hasidic families living near the New Jersey border along Route 59.

The latest eruv extension is about 75 percent finished, said Steinmetz, but has been interrupted by an opposition movementin Mahwah and surrounding towns, where residents have expressed concern about thespread of Rockland's Hasidic community into the area.

Officials in Mahwah, Montvale and Upper Saddle River have allcalled for the eruvs removal, citingzoning regulations that prohibit signs on utility poles.

Montvale Mayor MikeGhassalisaid he ordered the group weeks ago not to build the eruv, which is marked by white PVC pipes on utility poles.Mahwahgave the group an Aug. 4 deadlineto strip down the pipes or face summonses. Upper Saddle River said the borough would remove the eruv itself if the Monsey group failed to do so by noon Wednesday. The eruv, however, remained untouched hours after the deadline.

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MahwahMayor Bill Laforetdisputed accusations of anti-Semitism. Hemaintains that the townships response is strictly about the enforcement of its ordinance restricting signs on poles.

It's an argument that was used by Tenafly in 2000, when it sought to baneruvsin its community.

The Tenaflylitigation waged for six years,beginning with a lawsuitfiled by an eruv association inresponseto the borough's action.

The U.S. District Court sided with the borough, ruling that it had the right to restrict access toutility poles because they are not a public forum.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision, however,finding that Tenafly officialsengaged in selective enforcement,allowing signs on utility poles for local churches and lost pets.

In 2006, the town settled with the association, agreeing to keep the eruv intact and pay the association $325,000 in legal fees. and

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