LOIS GOLDRICH; JACOB BERKMAN
Six years and hundreds of thousands of dollars later, Tenafly finally has a legal eruv, after its borough council approved a settlement with the Tenafly Eruv Association Tuesday night.
Town members have been battling over the eruv a makeshift enclosure around a neighborhood, allowing Orthodox Jews to carry objects outside of their homes on Shabbat and yontif since December ‘000. At that time, a group of the borough’s Orthodox Jews, calling itself the Tenafly Eruv Association, extended the Englewood eruv around Tenafly, subsequently receiving permission from then mayor Ann Moscovitz. When members of the borough council found out, they asked the association to request permission from the borough itself.
Once the request was made public, anger bordering on xenophobia and anti-Orthodox sentiment from those who felt an eruv would facilitate the unlimited growth of the Orthodox community along with anger expressed by those ostensibly concerned that the borough was making a religious commitment, forced six years of legal battling.
The borough council denied the eruv association the right to use its telephone poles to build the eruv which is essentially a border made from wire or other material strung from pole to pole. The association sued the borough, lost in U.S. District Court, then won in an appeal. The borough tried to have that decision overturned by the Supreme Court, but the court refused to hear the case.
Tuesday night, the two sides finally agreed to a settlement in which the borough would pay $3’5,000 in legal fees to the association and the association agreed to apprise the borough of any changes made to the eruv in the future. The vote was 5-0, with one abstention.
Tenafly Mayor Peter Rustin is "very pleased that the issue has been resolved and is proud of the five council members" who voted to approve the settlement.
He believes the issue may have taken a long time to resolve because both sides got "sidetracked." As far as he knows, he said, there has been no other court case brought by a municipality in New Jersey against construction of an eruv. On the other hand, he noted, he doesn’t know of any other New Jersey eruv constructed without the permission of a municipality.
"I believe this will put the tensions to rest and that people will move forward," he said.
Rustin "couldn’t say for sure" if more Orthodox Jews are likely to move into the community because, he noted, "some of the most vociferous opponents of the eruv were Jews."
He’s pleased, however, that people of varying opinions came to the council meetings to "speak their minds." Still, he added, "they probably could have been more polite and more congenial."
Rabbi Jeffrey Fox, religious leader of Kehillat Kesher, located on the border of Tenafly and Englewood, is working to create a more positive relationship between the town and the Orthodox community.
Fox said that everyone in his congregation is very excited about the eruv decision and said he is committed to "building bridges" with the town of Tenafly. He has already met with Rustin to discuss ways in which the congregation and the community can move closer together.
"I’ve invited the mayor to stop by at the synagogue on a Saturday morning," said Fox.