MAHWAH — Police are investigating a fresh case of vandalism to the expanded Rockland eruv, the second wave of damage authorities are probing in an ongoing hate-crime inquiry.
The PVC pipes that mark the Orthodox Jewish religious boundary suffered damage along six utility poles on and near East Crescent Avenue, Police Chief James Batelli said. The vandalism likely occurred sometime between Friday evening and Saturday — the Jewish sabbath — but as early as Thursday, he said.
In response to the latest episode, Mayor Bill Laforet has announced a $1,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the vandalism.
“This criminal mischief act is not representative of the values of our community,” Laforet said.
The eruv appeared to have been struck by some type of blunt object 2 or 3 feet above the ground, causing the white PVC pipes to splinter and fall, Batelli told The Record and NorthJersey.com.
Batelli said no other criminal mischief was reported in the township, leading authorities to believe that the eruv was “specifically targeted.”
The Mahwah Police Department is currently running an open hate-crime investigation that launched in late July after reports of damage to the eruv’s markers on other utility poles.
Repair made swiftly
An eruv serves as a ritual enclosure that erases the border between an Orthodox Jewish home and the outside world. Orthodox Jews within an eruv are allowed to push and carry objects outside their homes, activities otherwise prohibited on the Sabbath. An eruv may not be used, however, if sections are broken.
An Orthodox group from in New York worked swiftly to repair the damage, said Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz of the South Monsey Eruv Fund.
Steinmetz, who called the vandalism a “shame,” said he believes there’s significant misunderstanding about the eruv’s purpose.
“Once people understand what an eruv is actually for, I think a lot of the fear will go away,” Steinmetz said.
The group has conducted weekly inspections of the eruv to ensure it remains intact, he said.
The incident is one of multiple reported acts of vandalism since July against the eruv that travels across the New York state line through Mahwah and Upper Saddle River.
In late July, Upper Saddle River police charged an 80-year-old borough man who was allegedly found removing pieces of the eruv.
Expansion heads to court
The Monsey group in June sought to extend its eruv in Rockland County to accommodate families living along the New Jersey state line.
Attempts to expand the eruv have sparked a fierce backlash, with some residents voicing concern about Orthodox Jews moving across the New York border into Bergen County. That opposition, meanwhile, has led to accusations of anti-Semitism.
Local officials in Mahwah and Upper Saddle River have both formally demanded the eruv’s removal, citing zoning regulations that prohibit signs on utility poles.
Mahwah’s Township Council on Thursday voted unanimously to begin issuing court summonses against the Monsey group. The next day, legal counsel for the group filed suit against the township, calling the summonses an anti-Semitic violation of constitutional and civil rights.
Weil, Gotshal & Manges, a Manhattan law firm, also filed for a temporary restraining order against Upper Saddle River after the borough threatened to strip down the eruv beginning July 26. The motion was withdrawn when Upper Saddle River agreed not to immediately remove the eruv and to give one week’s notice should the borough reverse course.