OP-ED FEATURED IN ASBURY PARK PRESS THURSDAY, AUG. 17TH
Recent developments in the New Jersey town of Mahwah should trouble not just Jewish Americans, but every American of good will.
Only the most irascible curmudgeon would be bothered by unobtrusive plastic pipes attached to neighborhood utility poles and connected to one another high in the air by thin filaments. If passersby even noticed them, they would be at most curious, and certainly not offended.
But in Mahwah, the municipality and some citizens are up in arms over the piping, part of a Jewish law legal construct called an “eruv,” which figuratively “encloses” an area so that observant Jews can carry things and push strollers on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath.
Although missing pet notices and fiber-optic cable boxes abound, the plastic pipes alone have inspired residents to invoke an anti-signage ordinance to protest them.
The group that mounted the pipes worked with police and utility companies, neither of which had any problem with the eruv pipes.
Eruvs have been challenged in other municipalities, and their legality has consistently been established by courts.
But legalities and regulations aside, the real issue that emerges in the anti-eruv battle is the determination, voiced outright by some, more subtly by others, that Jews are “taking over” communities. The Jews are coming! Actually, they’re already there, and just seeking to improve their lives in a way that benefits them greatly and doesn’t in any way interfere with anyone else’s life.
But some of the online commenters opposing the eruvs see things differently:
“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.”
Love may trump hate, but in Mahwah – and Montvale and Upper Saddle River, other communities challenging local eruvs – fear seems to be trumping facts.
And it has done so not only in social media but at public hearings as well.
As a leading voice for American Orthodox Jewry, Agudath Israel of America has called upon officials of the communities at issue to stand up and defend American religious liberties.
The need for responsible leadership is all the more urgent given the recent vandalism of some two dozen eruv poles in the dead of night – vandalism rightly labeled bias crimes by the Mahwah Police Department and which was perpetrated by ignorant people whose handiwork was undertaken without homework.
It’s high time that mayors and citizens alike in communities where an eruv is planned, to take the high road, the American road: to address any and all legitimate concerns but to unabashedly defend the religious rights of all citizens. To replace canards with comity, and fear with facts.
To read the lawsuit filed against Mahwah Township click here.