Mahwah may give up on fight with Orthodox Jews
MAHWAH — Some recent moves by a town could signal a shift in a dispute with Orthodox Jewish groups that has already prompted state and federal lawsuits.
The Record reports Mahwah's township council reversed an amended sign ordinance this month and could vote to abandon a parks ordinance when it meets Thursday. The town, which is on the New Jersey-New York border, introduced the measures last summer.
The sign amendment effectively banned the building of an eruv, a religious boundary created by placing white plastic piping on utility poles. Some Orthodox Jews consider the boundary necessary to allow them to do such activities as carrying keys and pushing strollers on the Sabbath.
Mahwah officials contended the markers violated local laws that prohibit signs on trees, rocks and utility poles.
The parks ordinance restricting parks to local residents was created after residents complained about overcrowding at parks and their use by Orthodox Jewish families from New York.
An Orthodox group filed a federal lawsuit in August, and the state sued in October.
The state lawsuit seeks to block the ordinances and seeks the return of more than $3.4 million in state grants the town has received from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
New Jersey contends Mahwah violated the state's Green Acres Act and noted that land acquired under the law cannot be restricted on the basis of religion or residency.
Mahwah Mayor William Laforet, in a statement he read at the council's Dec. 14 meeting, slammed the council's earlier actions as an "ill-advised, poorly disguised act of discrimination" and "political misbehavior" that has tarnished the town's image.
Council president Robert Hermansen said Tuesday the ordinances weren't motivated by anti-Semitism. He criticized Laforet for "disclosing closed-session information that our attorneys told him explicitly not to do."
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