Residents of Mahwah, a town in New Jersey have raised concerns about an Orthodox Jewish community just across the New York border which plans to expand. More than 200 people gathered to support the removal of an eruv last month. The opposition to the expansion was met with criticism, the concerns of which lie with antisemitism.
The town of Mahwah is reconsidering implementing a new law which limits its parks and playgrounds to New Jersey residents alone. The law was initially proposed when residents complained that cars with New York license plates were being parked near the border.
However, the county’s prosecutor ordered the police not to enforce it after Mahwah’s police chief suspected that people reporting the violations were targeting Jews.
Rabbi Moses Witriol, a frequent liaison between Mahwah’s police force and the Hasidic community found the move perplexing, “What’s your real target and agenda here?” questioning the motives of the council members who were for implementation. “It’s a park for kids to play. Are we going to differentiate between which kids can play?” Additionally, an eruv marking in the same area was also vandalised the week before; with some targeting the Jewish community with antisemitic posts in an online petition protesting against the Erev.
Some signatories to the petition described Jews as thinking they “can do whatever the hell they want”, imploring residents to “keep them out”. Another called Jews “things”. Another signatory wrote “they are clearly trying to annex land like they’ve been doing in Occupied Palestine. Look up the satanic verses of the Talmud and tell me what you see”. Multiple people described Hasidic Jews as detracting from the “quality” of the community, or “taking over illegally” in other areas. These are all blatantly antisemitic comments, and of the 1200 people who have signed it, most seem to be expressing views which see religious Jews as little more than pests who must be kept out.
The eruv dispute arose contemporaneously with the park ordinance issue; deepening Jewish concerns that this may be an antisemitic incident. Supporters of the measure however say they are being unfairly depicted as antisemitic; their interests simply lie in the wellbeing of their town.
The Mahwah Council President Rob Hermansen issued a statement saying Mahwah residents began complaining earlier in the year about vehicles from New York occupying parking lots at Winter Pond, a recreational area close to the town’s train station. He went on to say that the ordinance was to curb the number of people from outside the town using parks, not to target Jews.
Mr Hermansen made further assurances, stating that “the principle behind this ordinance is very simple, in Mahwah, Mahwah residents come first.” He also condemned the anti-Semitic comments made online, and the town is now looking to release a second ordinance that clarifies how the ban might be enforced.