Monday, March 27, 2023

Much has been said about the eruv controversy. We watched in horror as the Upper Saddle River city council conducted their community “open house.” It was painful to even conceive of the fact that the thoughts expressed by so many of the participants were openly anti-Semitic. We are talking about people who live a mere 15 miles from our communities. This has little to do with a small piece of wood being attached to a pole.

Frequently, after we moved to this community, we were asked whether we were affected by anti-Semitism in Quebec. It surprised us, as in all the years we were living in Montreal we never felt the slightest bit of prejudice toward us. The conflict in Quebec has only to do with language. The French Canadian majority feels strongly that they must maintain French as their native language, and violently reject the possibility of English taking over as the primary language being spoken. Hence, French signs being twice the size of English signs, offices needing to answer their phones in French, product ingredients must be listed in French, etc.

It is reasonable to assume from prior history and experience locally that as much as the communities of Mahwah and Upper Saddle River go to the court system to combat this issue, they will not stand a chance constitutionally of winning their case. However, we should realize that the actualization of a verdict in favor of an eruv does not in any way alleviate the issue. What indeed can be done to eliminate these feelings of hate? How many times have we ourselves commented on the rude habits of some of our Jewish brethren? There is no such thing as waiting in line, parking rules are only for other people, including double parking wherever and whenever one desires, garbage need not be put into a receptacle solely for that purpose, loud conversations, and in some cases obvious distaste for those other than themselves, showing a total lack of respect. We cringe whenever we see such behaviors being exhibited. Understand that we are not ridiculing an entire population of people, yet there are enough of them that are causing the dislike that they are shown.

The Anglo communities involved have no idea of the chesed, tzedakah and overall warmth that can be felt in a chassidishe velt. Aside from Hatzolah, which each day rescues, saves and ministers to anyone in their time of need, rarely do they see any type of concern for the “outside” world. It is understandable, on the one hand, that the chassidim need the insulation of their communities to maintain their separate ways, but on the other side of the coin they come across as being arrogant and separatist as a result. We cannot think of any way to ease these tensions. We remember when fears were high in Crown Heights as the community became more and more black. Slowly, new members of the community became integrated into what was a predominantly Jewish area, and neighbors learned to share kindnesses with each other. We wish that could happen in the Bergen County communities, but, unfortunately, the animosity is so great and the lack of interest so high that we cannot see it happening easily.

Upon looking for solutions, which we indeed do not have, we consider the ultimate responsibility of every Jew, as unthinkable as it for so many, to realize that our home that will belong to us forever is Eretz Yisrael. We are also strangers in a land that is not intended to be our permanent home. Life here is easy for most, but let us not forget that just 15 miles north of us a lady decried and related to the town council meeting in Upper Saddle River that she just returned from Miami and found that “they [Jews] are everywhere.”

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