New Jersey Township to Scrap Ban on Symbolic Jewish Boundary's Construction

Local residents have voiced concerns that an increase in ultra-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

Thin PVC piping is seen on an utility pole August 5, 2017,as a vehicle drives by on Airmount Road in Mahwah, N.J., which has stirred worries that an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community plans to expand.
Julio Cortez/AP

A New Jersey township has agreed to repeal an ordinance prohibiting the construction of an eruv that state officials said discriminated against Orthodox Jews.

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Monday’s announcement resolved a lawsuit filed by the state attorney general’s office against Mahwah in October.

The ordinance said the affixing of PVC pipes on utility poles to demarcate the eruv violated town signage rules.

The township previously had repealed an ordinance that prohibited out-of-state residents from using its parks, which also appeared to be directed at Orthodox Jews in bordering New York, which also had been part of the lawsuit.

Mahwah also agreed to inform the attorney general’s office in writing about any new ordinance proposals affecting the use of parks or signage on utility poles for the next four years.

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.

Local residents have voiced concerns that an increase in ultra-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 January, the township settled a lawsuit with the Bergen Rockland Eruv Association that alleged the municipal ordinances illegally targeted Jews.