Some recent moves by a northern New Jersey town could signal a shift in a dispute over an eruv which has already prompted state and federal lawsuits.
Mahwah’s township council this month reversed a sign ban that effectively banned the building of an eruv through banning the placement of a lechi on public property. They could also vote later this week to reverse a parks ordinance that barred out-of-state residents. The ban was created after residents complained about overcrowding at parks and their use by Orthodox Jewish families from nearby Rockland County.
The reversal comes after months of insisting by town officials that it was all about overcrowding. The state Attorney General’s office called their actions violations of the civil rights of Orthodox Jews.
Mahwah Mayor William Laforet, in a statement he read at the council’s Dec. 14 meeting, slammed the council’s earlier actions as an “ill-advised, poorly disguised act of discrimination” and “political misbehavior” that has tarnished the town’s image.
The town council is refusing to say why they have reversed course, citing only a “legal strategy” recommended in private discussions with their attorneys. The state has threatened to sue them over its practices and legal scholars have warned that the state would have a tight case.
“I would be concerned about whether or not I was violating the law,” Seton Hall University law professor Charles Sullivan told The Record. “It seems to me that the state has a pretty strong case.”