New Jersey township settles lawsuit over eruv ordinance


(JTA) — A New Jersey township has settled a lawsuit with an Orthodox Jewish group that alleged municipal ordinances illegally targeted Jews.

The Mahwah Township Council, which had proposed an ordinance prohibiting the construction of an eruv, approved the settlement with the Bergen Rockland Eruv Association in a 5-2 vote on Tuesday night, The Record reported. The vote followed nearly two hours of private discussions with legal counsel. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

Local residents who attended the meeting called on the council to fight the eruv in U.S. District Court and the Supreme Court if necessary, the newspaper reported.

An eruv is a boundary of string and existing fences and power lines, sometimes several miles in circumference, within which observant Jews may carry objects and push strollers outside of their homes on the Sabbath.

Last summer, some Mahwah residents objected when they saw trucks in their neighborhoods installing small PVC pipes on utility poles to demarcate the eruv. The Township Council then called for the removal of the pipes, citing zoning regulations that prohibit signs on utility poles. The eruv association said it had obtained permission from the utility company to hang the eruv infrastructure.

The State of New Jersey also filed a lawsuit against the township over the ordinance and another measure prohibiting out-of-state residents from using its parks, which appeared to be an effort to keep out Orthodox Jewish families living just beyond the state border in New York.

Some residents have objected to the eruv on the grounds that it was constructed in violation of municipal ordinances. They also have voiced concerns that an increase in haredi Orthodox residents could mean a change in the character of their town or a defunding of local services that many haredi families do not use, like the public school system.

In December, the Township Council voted to rescinded a proposed ordinance that would have prevented the construction of an eruv.

The eruv association also targeted two neighboring Northern New Jersey towns, Montvale and Upper Saddle River, with litigation over their bids to stop the construction of an eruv.

Also Tuesday, the Borough Council in Montvale tabled a settlement agreement with the association and instead will continue negotiations, reported. The council said it will bring the matter to a vote on Feb. 13.

Earlier this month, a federal judge in Newark urged Upper Saddle River to settle eruv litigation, reported, and directed the two sides to return to court on Feb. 7 closer to a resolution.

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