MAHWAH, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Lawyers for an Orthodox Jewish group were in federal court Friday, looking to protect a symbolic fence they are erecting in Mahwah and surrounding towns.
As CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported, it is called an eruv – with plastic pipes on power poles. But it keeps getting vandalized.
In Mahwah, it was a race against the sun going down Friday night for private contractors fixing vandalized plastic poles on the area’s new eruv.
An eruv is a symbolic fence where pipes and string helps encircle an area for Orthodox Jews, who then get freedoms to move more freely on the Sabbath.
An eruv is also seen in the predominantly Orthodox Jewish town of Monsey, New York.
“An eruv is an accommodation for people who want to push strollers and wheelchairs, for people who already live there,” said Yehudah Buchweitz.
Buchweitz is an attorney representing Rockland Eruv, the group behind an expansion of the eruv from New York state into some New Jersey Towns, including Mahwah.
“A lot of people are talking about this — not just on social media, but in town,” said Cory Zie of Mahwah.
Neighbors expressed fears that their town would change under a potential wave of Orthodox Jewish newcomers. The concerns bubbled up at a packed town meeting Thursday night.
“You have no idea what you’re up against,” one man said at the meeting.
Carlin asked Buchweitz about the concerns that the eruv would spark an invasion that and turn Mahwah or Upper Saddle River into something like Monsey, Rockland County.
“First of all, there are eruvin – which is the plural term of it — all over the country, and lots and lots of places where communities are diverse,” he said. “Tenafly — the eruv has been up there. The borough of Tenafly is no different.”
But the concerns extend to town officials of Mahwah, Montvale and Upper Saddle River, who sent letters to the eruv groups to pull the pipes from the power poles.
The group reacted by heading to federal court in Newark to file a complaint. They said the threat of legal action made leaders of Upper Saddle River back off.
The town’s mayor was not in her office Friday and did not return CBS2’s calls.
“We were going to ask the court for relief, and we spoke to the boroughs’ attorneys and they agreed that they would not take down the lechis (pipes) in the interim, and they agreed they would not stop us from trying to fix ones that were already up and had been taken down,” Buchweitz said.
Prosecutors say when they find the people responsible for vandalizing the piping of an eruv, those people will be charged with hate crimes.
The eruv battle continues to spark strong differences of opinion in Mahwah.
“They are coming from Monsey and other places in New York and they’re trying to take control of our own community, and I don’t think it’s a good thing,” Zie said.
But Adam Bird of Mahwah said: “Does it keep other people out like a force field?” Carlin said no. Bird replied, “Then I don’t care.”
Lawyers with Rockland Eruv said eruvin are here to stay — with a track record of winning the lawsuits brought against them.
The lawyers said the immediate goal was getting all the vandalism in Mahwah repaired in time for this Sabbath.