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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Saturday, October 21, 2017

International News

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Members of the Jewish community in a New York town that borders New Jersey claim they are the targets of new law adopted by the township that limits the use of a public park to New Jersey residents only. The township is now under investigation for the potentially anti-Semitic move.

Last month, a subpoena was issued by the state attorney general’s office that ordered Mahwah to turn over all documents related to the new banning law. 

Mahwah Mayor Bill Laforet said that the township has submitted the documents, which included text messages, emails and social media posts, before the deadline of August 21. Laforet said, “We’re fully cooperating with the attorney general.”

This is just one of multiple ordinances made by this northern New Jersey border town that many believe are targeting Jews. An Orthodox Jewish community group has filed a lawsuit against Mahwah, after the town tried to halt the construction of religious boundaries, called eruvs, which the group created by attaching white plastic piping to utility poles.

In July, after residents complained about the park facilities being too crowded from the use of New York Orthodox Jewish families, the town created the restrictions on park visitors, according to The Record. 

Concerns were raised by Police Chief James Batelli regarding the legalitiy of the ban. Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir Grewal also told police not to enforce the new law, soon after its creation. 

The director of the attorney general’s Civil Rights Division, Craig Sashihara, said that concerns were raised by the ban under New Jersey civil rights and discrimination laws. Sashihara explained that the discrimination law prohibits “discrimination in places of public accommodation — such as public recreational facilities.”

The council president of the township Robert Hermansen said the discrimination was not the motivation of the ban’s creation. He explained, “We had incidents where Mahwah families could not use the parks,” so the council looked for a way to “put Mahwah residents first.”

According to VIN, “In the fight over the religious boundary, the Bergen Rockland Eruv Association and two New York residents filed a federal lawsuit last month, alleging that the town is violating their constitutional and civil rights. Some Orthodox Jews consider the boundary, called an eruv, as being needed to allow them to do things like carry keys and push strollers on the Sabbath. Mahwah officials, though, said the markers violate local laws that prohibit signs on trees, rocks and utility poles, and they will start issuing summonses next week if it isn’t removed. They haven’t commented on the lawsuit.”

By Rachel Shapiro