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Mahwah Officials: Ritual Enclosure Violates Zoning Law, Must Be Removed

Piping has been attached to some utility poles in Mahwah.
Piping has been attached to some utility poles in Mahwah. Photo Credit: Lauren Kidd Ferguson

MAHWAH, N.J. – Mahwah’s zoning official sent a letter to the South Monsey Eruv Fund Friday calling for the removal of piping attached to utility poles in the township – which are being installed to create a ritual Jewish enclosure called an eruv.

“Today we ordered our Zoning Official to take action regarding the placement of PVC pipes on public utility poles which is consistent with the placement of signs on utility poles which is a violation of our sign ordinances,” Mahwah Mayor Bill Laforet said of himself and the township council.

The letter states that the organization must start removing the eruv by July 28, and finish removing it by August 4. “Should these deadlines not be met, we will recommend that summonses be issued for violations,” the letter states.

The installation of the eruv in Mahwah has sparked an online petition with more than 750 signers who are worried about “illegal incursions” in the community.

The eruv’s perimeter was being marked by half-inch thick PVC piping on some utility poles in Mahwah and Upper Saddle River.

An eruv permits observant Jews, such as ultra-Orthodox Jews, to carry items such as house keys and prayer books and push strollers within its boundaries on Shabbat, a day where carrying objects outside the home and all activities associated with work are prohibited for some sects.

The petition states: “Rockland Electric, without notification to Mahwah residents, permitted the use of public utility poles in our Township for the attachment of a religious article/symbol called an eruv used by the Hasidic sect. We must demand the removal of these eruvs in order to prevent further illegal incursions into our community.”

“As elected officials we take our responsibilities very seriously and are very concerned. Our elected responsibilities are to serve the public and enforce the laws of the Township of Mahwah. This sends a very strong message to those who choose to violate our sign ordinances,” Laforet said.

According to the letter sent Friday, the installation of an eruv constitutes a sign on a utility pole, which is prohibited by the township’s zoning ordinance. The ordinance defines a sign as: “any device for visual communication that is used for the purpose of bringing the subject thereof to the attention of the public.”


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