JACKSON-The Jackson Township council on Tuesday night met to discuss an ordinance that will effectively block the construction of a public eruv utilizing existing utility poles and wires across some neighborhoods in the town.
The action was unanimously supported by the five member body. An antiquated ordinance on the books in the town had a loophole that could have allowed for the construction of the eruv. It would have allowed the Orthodox Jewish residents in the town to petition the council for permission to enter into negotiations with Verizon to install vertical pvc pipes on utility poles to designate the eruv border.
An eruv is a physical boundary, usually constructed out of vertical support fence posts and a single horizontal wire, approximately 10 to 15 feet in height that surrounds a home. Under Talmudic law, this boundary allows Orthodox Jews to “carry” objects typically forbidden to be brought outside of the home on the Sabbath. Some of these objects include keys to lock their homes, baby strollers canes and even life-saving prescription medicine such as asthma inhalers and epi-pens.
Definition: An area enclosed by a wire boundary that symbolically extends the private domain of Jewish households into public areas, permitting activities within it that are normally forbidden in public on the Sabbath.
Jackson has an estimated 500 Orthodox families living mostly in the eastern section of the township.
The call for the change in the ordinance came just weeks after the Jackson Eruv Association petitioned township officials to allow them to negotiate the installation with Verizon who jointly owns the utility poles with First Energy Corporation.
Last night, the council ratified a change to the ordinance that removes the ability for a non-governmental entity to petition the council for such a waiver or permission to negotiate with the utility companies.
The council has been adamant on keeping eruvs out of the township. Last month, in an effort to enforce the removal of eruvs from the public right of way, the township began enforcing all right of way violations. Orthodox Jews in town began receiving code violations for makeshift private eruvs that had been constructed.
According to reports, hundreds of non-Orthodox also residents received violations for items left in the right of way, including basketball hoops and skateboard ramps in their ongoing effort to keep the township eruv free.
Township code enforcement officials delivered notices of violation to the residents who had right of way violations. While some residents in town were accommodating to the crackdown of an ordinance that was previously rarely enforced, for the common good, many viewed the operation as an invasion of their private property rights.
Hundreds of Orthodox residents of the township showed up at Tuesday night’s meeting to plead their case to the township council, but the body remained strong in their intent to keep Jackson eruv free.
Last month, neighboring Toms River announced they would not fight the construction of a public eruv, but the Jackson council was not swayed and remained true to their doctrine of keeping the incursion of Orthodox Jews from neighboring Lakewood at bay.
Mayor Michael Reina said the enforcement came at the request of the township council through Business Administrator Helene Schlegel after some residents asked why the code enforcement department wasn’t enforcing the right of way ordinances.
Council President Ken Bressi disputed that claim in August, saying he was surprised to find out the mayor’s office initiated the crackdown upon returning home from a vacation.
The ordinance becomes law after being signed by Mayor Reina.
For now, the Orthodox community has been blocked from constructing the public eruv by the township council who has taken a hardline stance against the Orthodox since their arrival in greater numbers two years ago.
If allowed, Jackson would have been the 25th New Jersey municipality to have allowed for the construction of a public eruv. Princeton, Elizabeth, Marlboro, Manalapan, Toms River, East Brunswick, Edison, Highland Park, New Brunswick, Lakewood and others all have allowed for the construction of the eruvs. Most major cities in America also have public eruvs.
The latest ordinance is one of many drafted over the past two years by this council to regulate activities of the Orthodox Jewish population.