Mahwah: Vote Today On Settlement With BREA (Eruv Association)

After several hours in closed session last night, the Mahwah council has continued the meeting to this evening at 6pm.

It has been confirmed that the Mahwah Council has prepared Ordinance 088-18:
“Resolution Authorizing Settlement Agreement and Release – Bergen Eruv Association Inc. vs. Township of Mahwah”

Eruv Litigation reached out to Plaintiffs and Council.  We will have more information shortly.

Sp. Emer. Council Mtg 1.30.18

Mahwah Council Still Doesn’t Get It: Diligence Necessary [by Lisa Wisotsky and Yossi Mandelbaum]

By: Lisa Wisotsky and Yossi Mandelbaum

Announcing the nine count State Lawsuit against the township of Mahwah, then Attorney General Porrino said, “Our message to those public officials in Mahwah who are leading or following this misguided charge is meant to be loud and clear: We intend to hold you accountable.”  However, as of this writing, the township council has shown that it remains unwilling to recognize their pivotal role in inflaming the hateful environment which led to discriminatory ordinances.

Although the Parks Ordinance was rescinded and the Sign (Eruv) Ordinance tabled, the hateful environment continues in Mahwah. Council President Hermansen and Councilman David May continue to participate in online forums and refuse to call out blatantly anti semitic language from their constituents. Mr. May even mockingly presented the concept of a full Bergen County eruv to the county freeholders.  The display of contempt is unmistakable.

This stance was made clear by the Mahwah Township attorney, Brian Chewcaskie at the 12/14/17 meeting (see video).  

He described the ordinance undoing the Parks Ban and the Resolution (424-17) to table the Sign Ordinance as just a “strategic move” and does not address the offensive behavior or environment that led to the State of N.J. initiating a lawsuit and condemning the civil rights violations in Mahwah.

In January , the Township Council, in a move which can only be described as pure “chutzpah,” re-installed Robert Hermansen as Council President. Upon being sworn in, he immediately began to lash out at the “outsiders” instead of taking responsibility for the current legal predicament.  This is precisely the same defiant attitude Mr. Hermansen struck immediately following the news of the Bergen County prosecutor (and the now current New Jersey Attorney General) instructing  the Chief of Police in Mahwah not to enforce the unconstitutional Park ordinance.  Specifically, he declared to a concerned “outsider,” “I promise you, there will be a Parks Ordinance and there will be one that is going to be enforceable in this town whether you like it or not.”

The audacity of the Council continues with the current effort to recall Mayor LaForet. The Mayor changed his original position opposing the eruv and now urges the Council to alter their course as well. Mr. Hermansen, consistent with his inability to offer contrition, is supporting the recall effort. Mr. Hermansen adds the thinnest veneer of professionalism stating in a recent interview that as council president he can’t  take a stance on the recall, however as a private citizen he fully supports it.  This is of course nonsense.  Not only is Mr. Hermansen actively supporting this effort, he has used the his position on the town council to symbolically censure the Mayor and even stated at a council meeting “If I had my way his [Mayor Laforet] ass would be on the other side of this dais, and not even in this room and sitting at this Meeting.”

Finally, when Keith Kaplan, at the January 9, 2018 Council meeting ( see video) asks Council President Robert Hermansen if the Council will renew the resolution in 2018 stating that the Council will not reenact Ordinance 1812 (Sign Ordinance), Robert Hermansen becomes argumentative and refuses to answer.

The Parks and Sign Ordinances were enacted in a hateful environment that was permitted and at times encouraged by the council. Rescinding the ordinances, without accepting responsibility and offering contrition, is unacceptable. This leaves open the possibility that similar ordinances may be enacted in the future when attention is shifted away from Mahwah.

Mahwah, NJ: Bigotry Without Contrition

Mahwah: A “Special Meeting” has been scheduled for January 25th at 10am.  The purpose of the meeting is to go into Closed Session to discuss: Litigation.
As the next scheduled Mahwah Town Council meeting is 2/8, it would appear this special meeting is the Council’s last chance to settle claims against them before the Court imposed deadline.

On January 12th, the Townships’ Counsel, Cleary Giacobbe sent a letter to Court indicating they needed an extension of the time to answer the complaint because “the parties are in the process of engaging in settlement discussions that would resolve this entire matter”.

The Court extended Mahwah’s time to answer the complaint until January 31st (the Judge indicated that it was being extended “for the last time”).

As the legal actions begin to wind down, in favor of the Eruv Association, the Township Council remains, as defiant as ever.

The Bigotry Started With Complaints

Earlier this spring, some residents noticed Hasidic Jews hanging out in local Mahwah Township parks.  Almost immediately, cries were heard about “overcrowding” and “other people”.

Local Leaders Responded to the Bigoted Mob

Local political leaders were swift to act.  Ordinance 1806 came first.  The letter of the law banned non-NJ residents from enjoying the amenities in local parks.  But it was in the application, where the truly pernicious nature became readily apparent.  The restrictions only applied to certain non-residents.

As I wrote back in August:

You can’t only apply laws to certain people (e.g. Jews from Rockland County), and not an out of state Grandma with her Mahwah resident grand-kids.  That would be unequal treatment under the law for which the cops could be liable to scrutiny and legal action for selective enforcement.  From a municipal perspective, the last thing anyone should want is another easily winnable lawsuit because of a poorly drafted ordinance.

But as you can see below, this is exactly the kind of situation the council created when they enlisted the lawyers to draft Ordinance 1806.

To be blunt: Mahwah’s Mayor, Council President and the rest of the Council designed and enacted an ordinance that prohibited Jews from crossing the adjacent NY border to use the parks in their town.  They exempted the non-residents they liked and declared the rest, verboten.

Township Administrator Identified Problems With Enforcement

Prior to ordinance 1806 going into effect, there was ample evidence that it was problematic.  The township’s business administrator, Quentin Wiest, had inquired and was explicitly told as much from Jerry Giaimis, the administrator of Saddle River.  Mr. Giaimis even referenced the NJ Court opinion it would violate.  Yet, thinking they would be able to get away with it, Ordinance 1806 went into effect… almost.

Chief of Police Identified Problems With Enforcement

A few days before it was set to take effect, the Chief of Police, James Batelli, wrote a letter to the governing body, following up on his previous email, outlining concerns he had about enforcement of the parks ban.  He stated that he would not be able to enforce the ordinance.  Sending men with guns to ask Jews for their papers wasn’t going to happen in Mahwah under Chief Batelli’s watch, no matter what the Council had to say about it.  The police must abide by the Law Against Discrimination and must uphold the protections of the State and Federal Constitutions.

In his July 24th letter, Chief Batteli stated in part:

“I have expressed my concerns to the Township governing body and the Township Attorney about the enforcement of this Ordinance and how the actions of Officers trying to enforce the Ordinance may violate bias based profiling guidelines (see attached correspondence)…”

“The Ordinance does not provide any neutral criteria for Officers to use as a basis for their actions…”

“The Ordinance essentially leaves our officers little other choice other than to ask for identification for no reason or for impermissible reasons and opens the door for civil based litigation and/or Internal Affairs complaints”.

“It has also been observed the elected officials have been commenting on social media about both the ERUV installation and the park and playground restrictive Ordinance in the same post which could bring into question the motivation and agenda behind the Ordinance which our Officers are expected and tasked to enforce… an argument or foundation could be made that any attempt to enforce this Ordinance is discriminatory and based to target a protected class.”

“Our agency trains and instructs our Officers on a routine and regular basis on what constitutes bias based profiling and that we explicitly prohibit and will not condone or tolerate illegal profiling by any of our members.  This Ordinance that we will be asked to enforce in four days seems to fly in the face of what we instruct our Officers as there is no discernible means of ascertaining the residency of a park user.”

Mahwah Council Attacked The Police Chief

The reaction from Mahwah was as swift as it was pointed —  Mahwah’s Council President stated he wanted to look into disciplinary charges in an explosive 1am email and Ordinance 1811 was introduced, which would create the position of “Police Director”. This new ordinance would replace the top law enforcement official (the Chief of Police) making him subordinate to a civilian police director, appointed by the council.

The unmistakable message: Listen Chief, if you won’t act the way we want, we have ways of making your life miserable.1

Bergen County Prosecutor Confirmed Problems With Enforcement

In response to threats from Robert Hermansen and the Council, the Chief of Police sought advice from the Bergen County Prosecutor, Gurbir Grewal (Mr. Grewal is now the NJ Attorney General, appointed by Gov. Murphy).  Mr. Grewal came to the same conclusion as Chief Batelli.

In a letter sent to Mahwah’s Council dated July 27th, Mr Grewal stated in part:

“I concur with your observations concerning the Ordinance [that enforcement may violate the constitutional rights of individuals using Mahwah parks]  and agree that its enforcement raises serious legal issues… the Ordinance raises numerous constitution concerns… it provides no neutral criteria for MPD officers to utilize when deciding to detain an individual… it’s enforcement would violate the Fourth Amendment‘s proscription against unlawful searches and seizures.  Indeed, in Barkawi v. Borough of Haledon, the Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s invalidation of a similar ordinance excluding non-residents.” [ed note: Haledon was the same action, cited by the administrator of Saddle River in response to Mahwah’s inquiry about similar rules in other municipalities].

“Second, enforcement of the Ordinance may violate the Directive prohibiting racially-influenced policing.”

Mahwah Council Continued Attack On Civil Rights With Additional Restrictive Ordinances

The reaction from Mahwah was, again, as swift as it was pointed.  The Council continued to create bigoted ordinances.  Ordinance 1812 aimed at creating an identical ordinance that neighboring USR was using to prevent Hasidic Jews from putting up an eruv in the Township.

Then came the “No-Knock Ordinance” amid unfounded cries from the mob that Jews were lugging around suitcases of cash, ready to “block-bust” their way into the neighborhood.

Then came the do’s and don’ts for activities in parks, banning activities as benign as playing ball or leaning a bicycle against a tree.

The Bergen Record’s Alfred Doblin described the situation:

“Mahwah residents and their elected governing body are creating a body of evidence that shows the fight against the eruv is not about zoning, but about Orthodox Jews. That a no-knock ordinance is not about door-to-door solicitations, but about Orthodox Jews. That a proposed ordinance that would ban nearly 40 new activities in the town’s 10 parks, including the egregious tree climbing, is about Orthodox Jews.”

When Mayor Laforet stood up against the ordinances (which it was later revealed that the Township attorney advised not to pass), Mr. Hermansen and the Council took a vote of no confidence in him. Councilman Jonathan Wong said “[Laforet’s] statements have now created a position which can be cited to in light of litigation and subpoenas.”

The Bergen Record from Oct 6th:

“The mayor didn’t need to go on television for state officials to figure that out.”

“The fight against the eruv, the out-of-state park ban, public comments from residents about “these people” — and worse — show that at least a vocal minority of residents and the council don’t want Orthodox Jews in their town. The reasons don’t matter. Religious discrimination is never justifiable.”

The council may have claimed the no-confidence vote had to do with an interview Laforet gave, but the pattern was crystal clear.

The unmistakable message: Listen Mayor, if you won’t act the way we want, we have ways of making your life miserable.  All the while, rhetoric in the council chambers remained antagonistic to Jews.  Jewish speakers calling out against the ordinances would be shouted down by the Mr. Hermansen and were not permitted to finish a thought without interjection.

State Of New Jersey Confirmed Enforcement and Constitutional Problems: Lawsuit Filed Against Mahwah And Council

Having seen enough, the Republican Appointed Attorney General, Christopher Porrino filed a Civil Rights Lawsuit against the Township as well as against the Council Members themselves.  The suit cited the enactment of Ordinances he described in a statement as:

“influenced largely by vocal anti-Orthodox-Jewish sentiment expressed by some residents at public meetings and on social media, engaged in unlawful discrimination aimed at halting an unwanted “infiltration” by Orthodox Jews – particularly from neighboring Rockland County, NY.”

“In addition to being on the wrong side of history, the conduct of Mahwah’s township council is legally wrong, and we intend to hold them accountable for it,” said Attorney General Porrino. “To think that there are local governments here in New Jersey, in 2017, making laws on the basis of some archaic, fear-driven and discriminatory mindset, is deeply disappointing and shocking to many, but it is exactly what we are alleging in this case. Of course, in this case we allege the target of the small-minded bias is not African-Americans, but Orthodox Jews. Nonetheless, the hateful message is the same.”

“This is an extensive complaint … 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”.

Mahwah Continued to Attack Mayor Laforet And Anyone Standing Up For Constitutional Rights

Facing two civil rights actions for discrimination, Mahwah continued to demand efforts to protect Mahwah’s way of life.  Robert Hermansen himself referred to groups he tried to exclude as “outside forces… trying to change our current way of life.”

Mahwah Officials Back A Recall

Mahwah is reacting as it has in the past. A recall effort against the Mayor has been launched.  Punishment and threats are what the mob demands of those that stand up to them, in the name of justice and equality.

Since June, when Chief Batelli advised the Township that efforts to restrict parks and create ordinances banning an eruv are unenforceable at best — and unconstitutional at worst, Mr. Laforet has been the only elected member of Mahwah’s government to switch gears, coming out to do the right thing.

And doing the right thing in Mahwah gets you punished.

It got the Police Chief a threat from the Council President in the form of a request for departmental charges and an Ordinance subordinating him to a Police Director.  It got the Mayor a rebuke from the Council in the form a vote of no confidence.  And now, after efforts in the Courtroom have proved unsatisfactory to the hate-filled mob, residents are trying to recall the Mayor from office as the Council is cheering them on from the bully pulpit.

The stated reasons for the Recall include: blatantly lying to the public about his knowledge of planned expansion of non-resident partisan political groups into Mahwah.

They may have just as well said: Jews.

If you didn’t know better, “non-resident partisan political groups” may sound nicer than “Jews“, but in Mahwah, we do know better.  We have seen this play out over months, in their Town Council chambers, by elected representatives, who remain without an iota of contrition or remorse regarding their actions.

The Mahwah Town Council currently has two civil rights suits to deal with.  They have shown absolutely no indication that they understand or care that they have acted inappropriately.

Before any settlement is reached, the respective plaintiffs on the other side of the table, should ensure Mahwah acknowledges the harm they have engendered.  It is necessary because the acrimony continues to reverberate throughout the wider community of Bergen County.

Whether the Council felt it was protecting its residents or way of life is immaterial.  Extremism is still extremism when your heart’s in the right place.

  1. After attacking the Police Chief, the Council decided to honor Chief Batelli for his 39 years of service with a resolution on December 1st.  He didn’t show up to the meeting.  On December 28th, the Council indicated that Judge Carver has been retained to investigate a hostile workplace claim against the township.  Assuming this claim was by the Chief of Police, this issue is far from over.

[VIDEO] Mahwah’s Council President has completely failed to learn any lessons from his harassment, intimidation and bullying over his last term.

On Jan 9, 2018, I appeared before the Mahwah Township Council because I strongly believe that bigotry must be confronted. I was determined to do my best, to make my message heard. Their response was to interrupt me, chastise me, deny any responsibility for their actions, and ultimately, to threaten me.

Mr. Hermansen, we will not go away!

I want to thank Freeholder Mary Amoroso and Assemblyman Gordon Johnson for their leadership in standing up to bigotry.

We call on all leaders everywhere, to join us.

“We must never remain silent in the face of bigotry. We must condemn those who seek to divide us. In all quarters and at all times, we must teach tolerance and denounce racism, anti-Semitism, and all ethnic or religious bigotry wherever they exist as unacceptable evils.

We have no place for haters in America — none, whatsoever.”
– Ronald Reagan (10/26/1984 Main Sanctuary of Temple Hillel.)

Mahwah: David May explains why the Township is on the wrong side of their civil rights lawsuit

There’s a reason that attorneys ask clients not to speak while they are in the midst of litigation.  Sometimes they can say things, especially truthful things, that destroy the case they are trying to make.

Mahwah Councilman David May came before the Bergen County Freeholders last week with a proposal to create a “county-wide eruv”.  If you want to see why this is a half-baked idea that shouldn’t have been presented, you can see my first post here, which has a set of open questions Mr May refuses to answer, despite his repeated requests for dialogue.

But now, despite his efforts to say that this concept is unrelated to the civil rights lawsuits brought by the State of New Jersey against the Town and his council individually, Mr. May is coming under criticism for such an ill-suited idea, clearly intended to shift the conversation away from the elephant in the Mahwah council chambers.

One of those criticisms came from Jacob Sasson, an attorney with previous experience teaching the First Amendment, on Facebook (you can read our similar criticism here). 

This is an astute observation by a professor that is knowledgeable in the subject matter.

Then came the reply:

“An eruv is barely noticeable attachment to telephone poles”.

Why exactly are these Civil Rights lawsuits against Mahwah happening?

On July 21st, in a letter from Mahwah’s zoning officer to the Eruv Association, Mr. Kelly wrote that “the installation of an eruv would constitute a sign on a utility pole”.  He further states that “[s]ign shall mean any device for visual communication that is used for the purpose of bringing the subject thereof to the attention of the public”.

Does the eruv qualify as a “device for visual communication”?

“An eruv is barely noticeable attachment to telephone poles”
– Councilman David May

We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.

Mahwah’s answer to the Federal complaint is due on January 12th for the suit brought by the Eruv Association and on January 30th for the suit brought by the State of New Jersey.

Deadlines and case information may be found here:


Follow-up to county-wide eruv story (it was never about the eruv)

For here we admit a wrong; here we reaffirm our commitment as a nation to equal justice under the law.
– President Ronald Reagan on Signing the Bill Providing Restitution for the Wartime Internment of Japanese-American Civilians 
August 10, 1988

There are civil rights battles that transcend party, ideology and tribe. Mahwah, NJ is experiencing one of those moments.

As mentioned in the last post, Mahwah Councilman David May has proposed a county-wide eruv*, appearing before the BergenCounty Freeholders, last Wednesday.  There are many problems with such a proposal and should he deem to answer the open questions put to him in my last post, I’m sure they will become readily apparent.

But on social media, David May and other elected officials have continued to press forward.

The Council President of Mahwah, Robert Hermansen responded via Facebook:

So let me get this straight Mr. Kaplan it is okay to build an ERUV inside a Bergen County town for residents in Rockland County for people to use but it is passing the buck if a county wide ERUV is being discussed. You can not make this up.
When Dave came to me with this idea I told him it had promise but getting the Freeholders who have been silent on the issue except Mrs. Amoroso who is adamant that the ERUV must stay to do anything on this would be a miracle. It is an interesting concept I believe the Freeholder who lives in Mahwah should comment on this I believe this is a better solution than having people come into your town in the dark of the night without permission. Then having vagrants showing up at town meetings looking to cause problems instead of coming up with solutions to people illegally installing items in other towns right of ways. I am still very confused like Mrs. Schepisi why a town in Bergen County needs to solve a NY problem. Mr. Kaplan admitted yet again that this request is coming from actual people who not only do not live in Mahwah but the state of NJ [sic]. I agree with Mr. May that I believe this is a solution that should be discussed.

But this episode goes to show that while Mr. Hermansen and Mr. May might have heard my words before the council at various meetings since July, they clearly have not been listening.

Perhaps if he considered his critics citizens instead of “vagrants”, he may have bothered to listen to what we were trying to impart.

Let me be clear: the issues Mahwah is mired in, are CIVIL RIGHTS issues.  They are defendants in CIVIL RIGHTS lawsuits by the State of New Jersey as well as a Jewish organization.

The fact this is a civil rights issue is beyond dispute.  Our republican appointed attorney general says so in his suit against the township and council.  Soon, the democratic appointed AG will continue to say so, as he takes over the suit. This is an issue that transcends party and ideology.

Back in the summer, an acquaintance asked me if the eruv would “win” the lawsuit in Mahwah? I responded that the Constitution will win and the eruv will benefit.

I have spoken at length on this issue since July & August and my message has been the same — I (and others) have been going to Mahwah and speaking at meetings to DEFEND THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.  I’m not denying that such a defense of the constitution will benefit those bringing suit for denial of their rights viz a vid the eruv.  But it’s the rights, not the eruv, that have prompted me to act.

Constitutional rights exist for everyone.  They know no boundaries.  I took an oath to uphold them, when I was sworn in by the township of Teaneck.  Robert Hermansen and David May took the same oath when they were sworn in by the township of Mahwah.

On August 3rd, shortly after a group of us started attending meetings in Mahwah and Upper Saddle River, we heard the following:

“Standing for the First Amendment knows no state boundaries. Standing knows . . . no municipal boundaries. If there is truly something that affects [Plaintiffs’] rights, the courts will hear it. And the courts will be lenient in hearing this because this has been heard already in two major circuits in this area.”

That was stated at the August 3rd, 2017, meeting in USR by Council for the Township, Bruce Rosen.  Mr. Rosen, defended Tenafly in their decade long litigation against an eruv.  If anyone has experience and understanding in this area, it’s Mr. Rosen.

Why would I be opposed to a county-wide eruv, David May keeps asking me.  Maybe, if anyone was asking for it and a need arose for such an accommodation, I’d consider it.  But that’s not the case. It’s the proper role of government to ensure civil rights. It’s not the proper role to create eruvin.

What Mr. May fails to grasp is that this was never about an eruv.  It was about upholding the oath of office we all took when we said we would support the Constitution of New Jersey and the Constitution of the United States.

In August, I asked if Mahwah understood the fundamental issues at stake here. This week, Mahwah makes me doubt they have learned what their error has been.

The Chief of Police told you that your actions were wrong. As did the County Prosecutor and the State Attorney General.

At some point, it needs to dawn on Mahwah’s leaders, so they can say: Here, we admit a wrong.

Only then, will healing the divisions they have sown, be possible.

At the last council meeting in Mahwah, I implored the council to start listening to residents and others coming before them.

It seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

* via Facebook, Mr. May stated that “this was not proposed as a solution to a current problem. This is a proactive thought that should be considered by the Freeholders.”  He further clarified that “this is not about Mahwah. This is an opportunity for the county to be forward thinking and be a leader to all of their towns.”

Mahwah’s David May: Neglecting what’s necessary to focus on the irrelevant

As reported by Eruv Litigation, Mahwah Councilman David May proposed this week, that the Bergen County Freeholders work with utilities and eruv associations to create a county-wide eruv* for all of Bergen County.

Mr. May stated, “my suggestion isn’t a solution to an existing problem. It is a forward thinking proposal”.

This has been proffered, per Mr. May’s statements on his Facebook page, as a way to

  1. “Remove the potential legal burden off of each individual town in Bergen County”
  2. “Remove the burden on individual Eruv Associations, as there could be a county association”
  3. “Eliminate the uncertainty surrounding the subject matter by increasing awareness of all county residents”

Let’s take this one at a time:

Legal Burdens

The reason for the lawsuit against Mahwah is because the Town Council voted to issue summonses to the eruv association on the eve of a potential meeting with them. If Mr. May and his fellow council-members were truly interested in removing eruv-related legal burdens on their town, the council could permit the eruv and end the litigation today.  They choose not to do so.  Their answer in the federal civil rights action brought by the eruv association is due on January 12th, 2018.  The answer in the federal civil rights action brought against them by the State of New Jersey is due on January 16th, 2018.

Burden on individual Eruv Associations

This is an astounding claim, as there doesn’t appear to actually BE any burden on eruv associations.  The Bergen Rockland Eruv Association has contracted with Orange & Rockland utilities, dealt with insurance, financing, upkeep and maintenance and obtained all requisite insurance necessary for the eruv project.  As they have a valid contract in place with the utility and have expressed no burden requiring help from the County, it’s unclear why a burden exists and how this extra work would ease it.

Uncertainty Surrounding the subject matter

We have asked Councilman May what he means here and based on several responses, it appears to have to do with a public relations effort to support a cross-cultural understanding of what an eruv is and why they are used, so people who have attempted to use opposition to an eruv as a means of excluding certain individuals from their town would have a greater awareness of the issue.

It’s unclear how a County-Wide eruv solves the problem of ignorance and hatred.  But should this council choose to deal head-on with ignorance and hatred, it should start by self-reflecting on how they treat those that oppose their views and why they stay silent when such hatred and vitriol rears its head in their presence**.

Open Questions For Mr. May:

  1. Are any of Bergen County’s Jewish residents asking for a County-Wide eruv?
  2. Is there an eruv association that has asked for help?
  3. Have you spoken to any eruv associations regarding such a large project to find out if they would even accept such a thing before making such a public pronouncement?
    1. if so, what did they say about whether they would find it acceptable?
    2. if not, why did you make this very public request to the County before doing some basic research?
  4. How would a County-Wide eruv affect any issues Mahwah is currently facing?
    1. In light of statements made by the council president that objects to mandates, how would you handle municipalities that still don’t wish to be within an eruv?
    2. Would Mahwah state definitively, now, that an eruv anywhere within its borders (even without a county-wide solution) is acceptable?
  5. Are there not easier and more effective ways of addressing stigma and the ignorance and hatred on display by residents?
  6. Do you feel it is the role of government to move beyond merely granting a religious accommodation when requested, to actively creating them?


* You can see Mr. May’s request to the County Freeholder’s here:

** You can see how the Council treats those opposing their views here:

In Mahwah, the New Year’s Resolutions can be expensive

If Mahwah, NJ thought exclusion and vitriol would be a cost-free endeavor, the past five months have shown them to be sorely mistaken. Ever since the Mahwah Town Council became embroiled in litigation over their creation of ordinances to exclude people they didn’t like from parks (a move they officially rescinded this past week), the topic of costs has been a staple at Town Council meetings.

Residents have questioned appropriated funds for the several law firms representing the Township in the lawsuits alleging claims of animus and discrimination which have been filed by the State of New Jersey as well as a Jewish organization.

And at the last meeting of the year, which took place this past Thursday, the question of costs continued to plaque the council.  Resident Susan Steinberg, who has been an outspoken critic of the Council, again requested information regarding billing and whether extensions to contracts ending in December/January are forthcoming.

But there are now new entries to the costs ledger, Mahwah is now facing which came to light this week.

One additional cost discussed at the December 28th meeting dealt with a $759.87 expenditure by Mayor Laforet and another related to the $17,500 to be made available for the hiring of an investigator to investigate “personnel matters”.  The Council President, Rob Hermansen questioned the $759.87 charge, which the Mayor said related to document production to comply with the subpoena issued by the NJ Attorney General.  He subsequently voted against reimbursing the charge.

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions about eruvs and related lawsuits

LITIGATION: Click here to see the status of all current Eruv related litigation 

BACKGROUND: Click here to see the developments that led to the litigation

You can watch the exchange here: Read More

[BREAKING] [UPDATE] Montvale, NJ working to settle suit over discriminatory ordinances

UPDATE: A stipulation was filed with the court today at 1:37pm extending the deadline for Montvale to respond to the complete through January 31st.

As was reported by, Montvale, NJ is seeking to settle a federal lawsuit filed by Orthodox Jews in Rockland County, NY over discriminatory ordinances that were created in the weeks after a request for an eruv was initiated in the borough.

While no formal court documents have been filed to confirm this, the Record reports that “Montvale and the Bergen Rockland Eruv Association have been negotiating outside of court to come to a “mutually acceptable plan,” Mayor Mike Ghassali confirmed Wednesday.”

Eruv Litigation will continue to monitor the court actions and post documents for the public.  The response to the complaint in Montvale’s Federal Court case is due today.

FAQFrequently Asked Questions about eruvs and related lawsuits

LITIGATIONClick here to see the status of all current Eruv related litigation 

BACKGROUNDClick here to see the developments that led to the litigation

The suit against Montvale was filed on October 18th of this year after attempts by the Plaintiffs lawfirm to settle the issue were unsuccessful.  The plaintiffs also have suits pending against Upper Saddle River and Mahwah, NJ.  The case in Upper Saddle River is set for Oral Argument in NJ Federal Court on Jan. 9th before Judge Vazquez.

In Mahwah, NJ this evening, the Council agenda lists the second and final reading of Ordinance 1820, which will roll back the ban on non-residents using local parks put in place this summer after some residents demanded action against overcrowding in parks by Hasidic Jews.

Mahwah’s Hateful Double Standard

These videos speak volumes.  This is the state of so-called “leadership” in Mahwah, NJ.

The position of elected “council-member” is a sacred public trust. No one that permits such rhetoric to go by un-rebuked, deserves to remain in that position.

One day, these kinds of demagoguery may be met with approval. They certainly were during my grandparent’s day.

BUT THAT DAY IS NOT TODAY! (and tomorrow ain’t looking so good either)

Robert Hermansen, Jonathan Wong, Janet Ariemma, George Ervin, David May and James Wysocki should follow Steven Sbarra and resign.

In this video, the council nods along as a resident calls Jews “an infection”, then proceeds to chastise Michael Cohen, the East Coast director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for merely calling out the hatred and vitriol infused in the ordinances the State of NJ has sued Mahwah for passing.

Read More