A New Jersey town has introduced hateful and highly discriminatory new rules aimed at barring Orthodox Jews from moving in, according to a stunning complaint filed by the state attorney general.
The nine-count complaint accuses Mahwah’s public officials and most vocal residents of using the same tactics employed by “1950s-era white flight suburbanites who sought to keep African-Americans from moving into their neighborhoods.”
The lawsuit takes aim at two ordinances that state prosecutors say were designed specifically to deter Orthodox Jews seeking to relocate from upstate New York, according to NJ Advance Media.
The first edict, which went into effect at the end of July, barred out of state residents from using Mahwah parks and other recreational facilities.
The second, which was introduced but not passed, expanded a ban on placing signs on utility poles to include any “device or other matter.”
The measure would have prevented Orthodox Jews from installing on utility poles a white piping used to create an eruv, a ritual boundary that allows the community members to carry house keys or push baby strollers outside the home on the Sabbath.
The complaint, filed in Bergen County Superior Court, seeks an injunction blocking the two ordinances, as well as the return of more than $3.4 million Mahwah received in state Green Acres Grants.
“The bottom line is very simple — the township council in Mahwah heard the angry, fear-driven voices of bigotry and acted to appease those voices,” Attorney General Christopher Porrino said in a statement, according to NJ Advance Media.
The complaint highlighted those voices, some of which were expressed at a public hearing on June 29.
“I don’t know if you’ve noticed but the Hasidics have made themselves very comfortable in our town parks,” one resident said, according to the complaint.
Another resident offered a suggestion in writing after someone posted about seeing Orthodox Jews in the park while walking a dog. “Hopefully your dog can scare them away,” the person wrote. “They are horrible, horrible people.”
The suit came as little surprise to Mahway Mayor Bill Laforet.
“I repeatedly warned the council of these consequences for months,” he told NJ Advance Media.
Laforet pinned blame on the town’s council president, Robert Hermansen.
“It has been a lonely and painful struggle for me and my family these past several months, having to deal with a reckless and oblivious council president,” Laforet said. “His race-baiting bantering has now bitten him back. His disgraceful behavior is now worsened by the severe potential financial penalties facing the township’s taxpayer.”
Hermansen countered that it was in fact Laforet who pushed for the controversial ordinances.
“Our mayor has an issue with telling the truth,” Hermansen said. “I’m getting tired of the mayor slandering me and my family.”
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