A New Jersey town council in a town that opposed letting Orthodox Jews run their eruv through their town was silent when an apparent resident, using Nazi-like rhetoric, said Hasidic Jews were an “infection” in their town, but reacted with an outcry when a representative from the Simon Wiesenthal center accused the town of saying Jews were not welcome.
An eruv is often a very thin filament that runs around an area, expanding what is considered a private domain, within which religious Jews are permitted to carry on the Sabbath, to a larger area, thus permitting mothers to push their strollers or carry their children on the Sabbath. The filament runs far above normal height as it encircles a town, or series of towns; sometimes it is attached to telephone poles by a piece of PVC piping.
That was the case in New Jersey; in 2000, the Tenafly, New jersey, Eruv Association sued after the Borough Council banned eruvs. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the ban. Upper Saddle River and Mahwah later argued the eruv violated local ordinances prohibiting signs on poles.
On July 17, 2017, Mahwah officials ordered the South Monsey Eruv Fund to stop construction of an eruv through Mahwah, despite the group getting permission from Orange & Rockland Utilities, which owned the poles where the PVC pipe was attached. Mahwah argued that the eruv violated township regulations. The Monsey group was given until August 4 to remove the eruv.
A legal firm was hired to fight for the eruv’s existence; on August 14 the eruv was reported vandalized. In late October, Christopher S. Porrino, the state's attorney general, issued a press release in which he condemned the town’s "hatred," "bigotry," "small-minded" and "bias," likening Mahwah’s citizens and leaders to "1950s-era white flight suburbanites who sought to keep African-Americans from moving into their neighborhoods."
Mayor William Laforet responded with a statement in which he cited Council President Robert Hermansen for Mahwah's "loss of reputation,” adding, "It has been a lonely and painful struggle for me and my family these past several months, having to deal with a reckless and oblivious council president, Rob Hermansen. He personally led his council mates to this action by the state's highest law enforcement official, and is most accountable."
On December 1, the Township Council unanimously approved the allocation of $175,000 to fight the two lawsuits alleging that the town discriminated against Orthodox Jews.
On December 14, the public session of the Mahwah, New Jersey town council meeting was witness to a woman telling them, “I want to make it known here, that the town of Ramapo, I’m sure, is suing the Hasidic people, because they have completely sucked the blood out of that town, from ruining their schools, from claiming that their husbandless women … complete corruption, and possibly criminality. And I want to know why it’s taken so long to remove, to remove the infection from our town. Thank you.”
The council sat silently, without offering any rejoinder to the hatred.
Yet back on August 10, Michael Cohen of the Simon Wiesenthal Center spoke to the council, stating, “You are, in fact, doing nothing more than saying Jews are not welcome.”
That precipitated an outcry from the council, with Hermansen snapping, “I’m done with it. And honestly, I don’t know what the attorney is going to tell me or not, but I’m sorry, you’re done.”