M ahwah doesn’t want out-of-state residents to use its parks, and the town has passed laws that would make building an eruv impossible. The state’s attorney general says the township is discriminating against Jews and is seeking $3.4 million in a civil suit.

The northern New Jersey town, which sits across the border from Monsey and Spring Valley, New York, is also being sued by the Bergen Rockland Eruv Association over its refusal to allow an eruv.

In a nine-count complaint filed in late October, state prosecutors said the actions of Mahwah’s township council were “hateful,” “small-minded,” and “biased.” Jewish leaders also smell a skunk.

“They fear the hyped-up lies regarding the chassidic community,” Yossi Gestetner, co-founder of OJPAC (Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council) and a Monsey resident, said. “Anywhere from education to poverty, taxes, unemployment, and blockbusting accusations — all flat-out lies and innuendo.”

The first of the two Mahwah ordinances, enacted earlier this year, said only New Jersey residents could use the town’s public parks, excluding residents of nearby Monsey. The second ordinance, which was introduced but not passed, would have expanded an existing rule that banned signs on utility poles to include any “device or other matter.”

There is currently no Orthodox Jewish community in Mahwah, so both moves have raised questions with state prosecutors, who claim the township’s council was “influenced largely” by the “vocal anti-Orthodox Jewish sentiment” from some residents on social media and in public meetings. At one such meeting this summer, a Mahwah resident stated: “I was wondering if there are any thoughts and procedures in place to keep the hassidic Jewish people from moving into Mahwah? They have chased us out of two towns we lived in and now they are buying up houses in Suffern.” At another, a resident lamented that “the hassidics” were using the town’s parks.

Gestetner says it’s common for New York residents to use New Jersey parks and vice versa. “On weekends, New Jersey plates can often be seen in our parks, and New York plates can be seen in the New Jersey parks,” said Gestetner. “It is a normal thing.”

State prosecutors say it’s unlawful for Mahwah to restrict use of its parks to state residents.

Ironically, an Orthodox influx into Mahwah is unlikely. Schooling between New York and New Jersey is inconvenient at best, primarily because all state-funded educational services available to parents living in one state — like busing and special education — would be unavailable if a child attended school in another state.

Mahwah isn’t the only New Jersey locale being targeted by an eruv-related court action. In Jackson, which borders Lakewood, Agudath Israel of America charges in a federal suit that the township is discriminating against Orthodox Jews by enforcing laws that prevent the building of an eruv. The suit, filed earlier this year, came only after the Jackson township leadership ignored all efforts at dialogue, according to the Agudah.

The council ignored hundreds of phone calls and e-mails from residents who opposed the eruv ban, along with the presence of 300 people at one town meeting. “We have reached out to council members and the mayor,” said Rabbi Avi Schnall, New Jersey director of Agudath Israel. “We understand their concerns of overcrowding. All residents do. We pursued every other avenue we could think of, and the council refused to have any dialogue at all.” (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 685)