By Paul Milo

(NJ.com)

MAHWAH– Chief of Police James Batelli said Wednesday the department is treating recent vandalism to a Jewish religious installation as a possible bias crime.

An eruv, wires and piping suspended from poles and similar structures that marks off an area where Orthodox Jews can engage in activity normally prohibited in public on the Sabbath, was recently installed in the township and in nearby Montvale and Upper Saddle River.

The eruv was recently damaged in at least four places, which is being investigated as a bias crime because of the religious nature of the structure, Batelli said. The Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office has been notified, Batelli also said.

We don’t want eruv, Mahwah residents say

About 200 people showed up Monday night to support an order by officials that a Jewish group must remove their eruv, piping that establishes a religious boundary.

Anyone with information is being asked to submit tips to tips@mahwahpd.org.

Even as the criminal investigation proceeds, however, Mahwah officials have also sought to have the eruv taken down.

The Bergen County portion of the boundary was installed by a group in Monsey, N.Y., that seeks to extend it into New Jersey. The group reportedly received permission to install the eruv from Orange and Rockland Utilities, which owns the poles, but Mahwah has argued that the boundary violates local zoning laws prohibiting signs on utility poles.

The township recently set a deadline of Aug. 4 for its removal, joining the two other Bergen communities in requesting that it be taken down.

In addition, a petition calling for the Mahwah eruv’s removal was recently signed by 1,200 people.

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