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
- “Remove the potential legal burden off of each individual town in Bergen County”
- “Remove the burden on individual Eruv Associations, as there could be a county association”
- “Eliminate the uncertainty surrounding the subject matter by increasing awareness of all county residents”
Let’s take this one at a time:
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:
- Are any of Bergen County’s Jewish residents asking for a County-Wide eruv?
- Is there an eruv association that has asked for help?
- 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?
- if so, what did they say about whether they would find it acceptable?
- if not, why did you make this very public request to the County before doing some basic research?
- How would a County-Wide eruv affect any issues Mahwah is currently facing?
- 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?
- Would Mahwah state definitively, now, that an eruv anywhere within its borders (even without a county-wide solution) is acceptable?
- Are there not easier and more effective ways of addressing stigma and the ignorance and hatred on display by residents?
- 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: