New Jersey township settles lawsuit over eruv ordinance

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

The Mahwah Township Council, which had proposed an ordinance prohibiting the construction of some materials necessary for 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.

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

An eruv allows observant Jews to carry objects and push strollers outside of their homes on the Sabbath.

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 Orthodox Jewish families from New York from using the parks in the township located on the state’s border.

Last summer, some Mahwah residents objected when they saw trucks in their neighbourhoods 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.

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In December, the Township Council voted to rescinded the proposed ordinance that would have prevented the construction of an eruv.

The eruv association also targeted two neighboring 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, northjersey.com 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 the litigation, northjersey.com reported, and directed the two sides to return to court on Feb. 7 closer to a resolution.

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