It’s a rematch.
Upper Saddle River has hired two veteran eruv battlers to explore how to respond to the eruv in its town.
They are Bruce Rosen, an attorney who represented Tenafly when it fought against an eruv, and Marci Hamilton, an expert on church/state relations who then was a professor of constitutional law at Yeshiva University’s Cardozo Law School and now teaches at the University of Pennsylvania. Mr. Rosen represented the Westhampton Beach Alliance for the Separation of Church and State and Ms. Hamilton represented the Southampton village of Quogue in their opposition to the eruv to the Hamptons eruv in New York State.
Both those legal efforts failed in federal court, however.
“It’s a fight that’s already been fought, but we’re going to do the best we can,” Mr. Rosen told an Upper Saddle River town meeting Thursday night. “These odds are against us.”
The gathering gave Upper Saddle River residents a chance to vent against the eruv — and out-of-town Jews a chance to defend it.
At the beginning of the meeting, Mayor Joanne Minichetti read a statement laying out the background to eruv controversy.
She reported that the legal battle now is on hold. The borough has agreed not to enforce its takedown notice against the eruv immediately, and to allow the eruv to be repaired. A suit has been filed against the town in federal court in Newark. Upper Saddle River “will aggressively fight to enforce our ordinance,” Ms. Minichetti said
The mayor warned speakers that “This is a matter of excessive entanglement with religion and violation of municipal ordinances. It is not directed at any particular religious group. The governing body will not tolerate or countenance any anti-Semitic or otherwise discriminatory comments at our public meetings and urges residents to avoid any such statements on social media or elsewhere. Such statements will not be helpful to the borough’s position and are totally inappropriate.”
Mr. Rosen later restated this principle in advising how to talk about the issue – and how not to talk about it. “If you’re not careful about this, this can be a quick loss,” he said.
Upper Saddle River resident Steven Young told the gathering that “When it comes to religion, I support however people look at their religion. I have an issue where a town is allowing a religious statement to be committed on my property. If you want to move to this town, you’re welcome. Don’t ask us to conform to whatever your religion is.”
One longtime resident worried that the eruv would be followed by street lights and sidewalks, a loss of the borough’s rural character that drew him 50 years ago.
Another complained that the eruv was demarcated with white PVC tubing on the utility poles. In Tenafly, the markers are made of dark material, and so are less visible. “There’s no PVC pipe in the Torah,” he said.
Another resident said: “This isn’t about religion. This is about real estate in town. Look north to Monsey. They’re not putting money into infrastructure, into schools and parks.
“That’s not American.”
Another resident offered the suggestion that town look into moving utility wires underground. That would prevent power outages during storms — and not give the eruv a pole to stand on.