(JTA) – Three New Jersey towns are being sued for legislating against the construction of an eruv in their borders.
Meanwhile, the front-runner in the state’s gubernatorial race also criticized the towns’ actions in an op-ed in a local Jewish newspaper.
A few New Jersey towns on the border with New York have been trying for months to prevent the construction of an eruv, the artificial boundary that, according to Jewish law, allows Jews to push and carry objects outside their homes on the Sabbath and holy days. The eruv in many cases is meant to accommodate Jews in the neighbouring New York villages.
One of the border towns, Mahwah, passed ordinances prohibiting out-of-state residents from using its parks and prohibiting the construction of some materials necessary for the eruvs’ construction. The state of New Jersey has sued Mahwah over the ordinances, which it says illegally target Jews, according to a report Tuesday in The Associated Press.
Another lawsuit from the Eruv Association, which puts up and maintains the eruv, targets Mahwah and the nearby towns of Upper Saddle River and Montvale for illegally inhibiting Jews from practicing their religion, according to The Record newspaper.
Some of the towns’ residents have objected to the eruvs on the grounds that they were constructed in violation of municipal ordinances. They are also voicing concerns that an increase in haredi Orthodox residents could mean a change in the character of their towns or a defunding of local services that many haredi families do not use, like the public school system.
Jewish residents contend that the concerns are anti-Semitic and say the eruv was constructed legally, though there are Jewish opponents of the eruvs. Accusations of anti-Semitism were bolstered by Phil Murphy, a financier and former ambassador to Germany under president Barack Obama, who is the Democratic nominee for governor of New Jersey. He wrote an op-ed in the New Jersey Jewish Standard accusing the towns of creating an “overarching perception of anti-Semitism and discrimination.”
“Sadly, not all of Mahwah’s residents embrace tolerance,” he wrote on Oct. 19. “When claims are made in public forums that a particular group ‘destroys’ the local tax base upon entry, there is a problem. When a Holocaust survivor at a public meeting is heckled, and then denounced as a fraud, there is a problem. When well-intentioned residents are disparaged as ‘paid actors’ for a ‘Jewish money conspiracy scheme,’ there is a problem.”