State Senator at Odds with Jackson Council Over Orthodox Eruvs

Abandoned poles on West Commodore Boulevard could soon lead the owner of the property to a $1,000 fine and up to 60 days in jail.

JACKSON-New Jersey State Senator Samuel D. Thompson advised Jackson Township Council members and Mayor Mike Reina against waging a battle with the Orthodox Jewish population in Jackson over the installation of a public eruv, according to a document released by Jackson Township.

“I am advised residents in Jackson have requested approval of the township governing body to construct an Eruv in the municipality and that you now have this matter under consideration,” Thompson wrote in a letter drafted to Jackson’s governing body.  “For those making this request, an eruv significantly improves their quality of life while allowing them to respect certain tenents of their religion.”

Thompson added that the required attachments to utility poles are hardly noticeable and therefore would not impact other residents unless they were merely attempting to make an issue where none should exist.

He told the town council that a Tenafly councilman who once fought eruvs in his own town now looks back on the fight as a losing battle that was costly to his community.

“in the years since the eruv has gone up in Tenafly, there has been virtually no negative impact,” former Councilman Joseph Salvatore told the Asbury Park Press. “A lot of the fears never materialized…it was much ado about nothing.”

Photo: New Jersey State Senator Samuel Thompson poses with the Jackson GOP, despite their differing positions regarding the growth of Orthodox Judaism within the township.  By Jackson GOP, Facebook.

That legal battle cost Tenafly $350,000 in legal fees.

“I would strongly recommend you take Tenafly’s lesson learned to heart and grant approval for the eruv,” Thompson told the mayor and council. “It will do no harm but assist in bettering the lives of some of your residents.”

The council ignored Thompson’s plea and eventually removed a loophole in the township code that would have allowed for the construction of an eruv in the weeks after the Jackson Eruv Association presented their plans to build one to the township.

At the time, an ordinance in the township stated that no objects could be placed in the public right of way without express written consent from the “township committee”, identifying a defunct body within the township.

Township Council President Ken Bressi changed that ordinance to remove the ability for a citizen to request objects placed in the right of way.

The new ordinance was voted into law by Bressi, councilmembers Barry Calogero, Robert Nixon, Anne Updegrave, Scott Martin and signed by Mayor Michael Reina.

Last week, New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino issued a stern warning to Jackson Township after it had filed civil rights charges against the town of Mahwah in North Jersey.

“Our message to those public officials in Mahwah who are leading or following this misguided charge is meant to be loud and clear: We intend to hold you accountable. Our message to local officials in other towns who may be plotting to engage in similar attempts to illegally exclude is the same: We will hold you accountable as well,” Porrino said.

The AG’s office last week would not confirm whether it would be filing a suit in Jackson against the council, but also did not rule out the option.

You can read the letter here.

Main photo: One of many undocumented right of way violations within the township of Jackson, New Jersey.


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