In letters to the mayors of two New Jersey towns, Agudath Israel Executive Vice President Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel expressed “deep concern” about the order to remove an “eruv” that had been constructed (with permission) on telephone and utility line poles to enable observant Jewish residents to carry objects outside of their homes on the Jewish Sabbath. The towns have argued that the plastic strips on utility poles are “signs” and violate the local zoning ordinances, but Rabbi Zwiebel asserted that “what opponents of the eruv are troubled by is not the presence of unobtrusive plastic strips on utility poles, but by the continued growth of the Orthodox Jewish community. The fact that so many of those opponents make no effort to hide their hatred is shocking and should not be tolerated.”
Yehudah Buchweitz, an attorney at Weil Gotshal & Manges, included several of the many disturbing online comments in a letter he sent to the mayors of the townships on behalf of the organization promoting the eruv.
- “They are clearly trying to annex land like they’ve been doing in Occupied Palestine. Look up the satanic verses of the Talmud and tell me what you see.”
- “I don’t want my town to be gross and infested with these nasty people.”
- “I do not want these things coming into my town and ruining it.”
Following a contentious meeting in Mahwah last week which brought out more than 600 residents, several eruv pipes were vandalized and one person was arrested.
Agudath Israel’s New Jersey Director Rabbi Avi Schnall condemned the vandalism, but expressed his willingness to work with the mayors of the affected towns. “Currently, the only sign we see is the one emanating from some township residents that religious bigotry is welcome, but Orthodox Jews are not! We hope to work with the townships officials to reduce the hateful rhetoric and protect the religious liberty of all residents.”
During a very similar debate fifteen years ago, regarding an eruv in Tenafly which was ultimately decided in favor of the eruv supporters, Agudath Israel submitted an amicus curiae brief and has been involved in other cases since then.