A New Jersey prosecutor has ordered a town’s police department to ignore a new ordinance that he says could illegally target Orthodox Jews from New York.
Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir Grewal told Mahwah Police Chief James Batelli to ignore the ordinance banning out-of-state residents from township parks. The ordinance went into effect Thursday.
In the directive to Batelli, Grewal warned that the ordinance could lead to racial profiling and unlawful searches and seizures. The ordinance could also illegally target out-of-state members of the Orthodox Jewish community who use Mahwah’s parks, Grewal said.
Grewal’s letter comes after the town ordered the South Monsey Eruv Fund to stop installing PVC piping to delineate the borders of an eruv they were building on utility poles. Township officials have called for the eruv’s removal, citing zoning regulations that prohibit signs on utility poles.
The eruv was vandalized on Friday in six different areas. A local resident was arrested later in the day for the vandalism and the eruv was repaired in time for Shabbos.
The ordinance adopted last month, Council President Rob Hermansen claimed, was not targeting Jews but was responding to complaints from residents that Mahwah’s public parks were being taken over by people with New York license plates.
However, Grewal said that police have “received numerous calls asking for [the ordinance] to be enforced against individuals perceived by the callers to be out-of-state members of the Hasidic Jewish community using Mahwah parks.”
A new group with more than 3,000 members was formed, Mahwah Strong, to oppose the eruv.
Hermansen said the council will rework the parks ordinance in light of Grewal’s directive, but he maintained that the township will put residents first. Mayor William Laforet says the prosecutor’s directive would help Mahwah avoid profiling lawsuits.