Yesterday, New Jersey Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino filed a lawsuit in New Jersey Superior Court alleging that the Township of Mahwah had discriminated against Orthodox Jews in enacting two ordinances: one, prohibiting the construction of any eruv in the Township; and the second, banning non-New Jersey residents from using Mahwah’s public parks.
Both of these ordinances, the lawsuit alleges, were motivated by unlawful anti-Orthodox bias.
Mahwah borders certain parts of heavily Orthodox Rockland County, and the Township Council was seeking ways to discourage Orthodox Jews from moving to Mahwah or even from enjoying its public facilities. Hence the two ordinances.
Said Attorney General Porrino, “This is an extensive complaint that lays out a variety of serious allegations and a number of legal theories, but the bottom line is very simple – the Township Council in Mahwah heard the angry, fear-driven voices of bigotry and acted to appease those voices.”
Agudath Israel of America’s New Jersey director, Rabbi Avi Schnall, called the lawsuit “a landmark development.”
“Newspaper accounts of the Attorney General’s action described it as ‘stunning’,” Rabbi Schnall noted. “But what is truly stunning is that the haters who sought to employ every means possible to prevent Orthodox Jews from moving into Mahwah or even visiting its public parks were quite open in expressing their hatred. Attorney General Porrino deserves all the credit in the world for challenging this blatant discrimination in a court of law.”
In a a letter this past July to Mahwah’s Mayor, William C. Laforet, Agudath Israel’s executive vice president Rabbi David Zwiebel implored the Mayor to allow the maintenance of an eruv in Mahwah.
“Statements by opponents of the Eruv reek of anti-Semitism and anti-Orthodox animus,” wrote the Agudah leader. “Clearly, 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 community . . . The fact that so many of those opponents make no effort to hide their hatred is shocking and should not be tolerated.”
With today’s lawsuit, said Rabbi Schnall, “it now appears that such efforts will in fact no longer be tolerated.”