February 21, 2024
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Bergen Rockland Eruv Association Files Suit Against Montvale

The Bergen Rockland Eruv Association (BREA) filed a complaint against the Borough of Montvale on October 18, making it the third such town to have been sued in as many months. The suit, brought by the legal firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, claims that the borough deprived the plaintiffs of their rights and liberties under the US constitution by ordering a halt to the installation of an eruv. Orthodox Jews who live on the New York side of the border want the eruv to be able to engage in activities such as pushing strollers and wheelchairs and carrying books and other items. Parts of Rockland County towns that border New Jersey cannot be included in an eruv, which needs natural boundaries, unless it is expanded into small sections of Mahwah, Upper Saddle River and Montvale. Mahwah and Upper Saddle River are the other two town also in litigation with BREA.

The eruv association had entered into a license agreement with the Rockland Electric Company in June of 2015 to expand the eruv in Montvale and construction was planned in conjunction with the Montvale police department. The mayor at that time, Roger Fyfe, stated on the borough’s website that an eruv is virtually invisible, serves the ‘secular purpose of accommodation,’ and that the construction is a private agreement with the utility company.

On the afternoon of July 10, 2017, Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz, BREA’s community representative, learned that the current Montvale mayor, Michael Ghassali, had ordered Police Captain Joseph Sanfilippo to stop work on the eruv. The borough is using an ordinance against “litter” to support its rejection of the eruv.

The suit charges that the borough’s actions are not supported by any local, state or federal law and that it has “unlawfully interfered” with the utility’s private contract with the eruv association. In bringing this action to the courts, BREA hopes to resolve the situation with a declaration that there are no laws prohibiting the attachment of lechis to certain poles in Montvale and that municipal approval is unnecessary, thereby permitting the free and clear implementation of the contracts.

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