MAHWAH, N.J. – Mahwah police were reviewing surveillance video to determine who’s responsible for an outbreak of vandalism to piping attached to utility poles to form a ritual Jewish enclosure known as an eruv, authorities said.
The damage – found in four separate locations – “is being investigated as a hate crime or bias crime because the crime targeted a protected class,” Police Chief James Batelli said.
These are defined as “being against (perceived or actual) race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity or disability,” he said.
“An individual convicted of a hate crime or bias crime is subject to enhanced criminal penalties,” the chief said, noting that hate crimes are prosecuted under the state's bias intimidation status.
Anyone with any information about the crimes can forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org. All information is confidential, Batelli said.
Township residents have been up in arms since the eruv piping was discovered.
Last week, the township zoning official sent a letter to the South Monsey Eruv Fund calling for its removal by Aug. 4 – dubbing it a violation of a municipal ban on signs on utility poles
However, both the Eruv Fund and Rockland Utilities said the work was done legally after the proper documentation was filed and approved.
DAILY VOICE has requested all documentation relating to the eruv from township officials through an OPRA request.
According to Yossi Gestetner of the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council -- a nonprofit group that aims to sensitize media to Orthodox Jewish issues -- six incidents of eruv vandalism have occurred in Mahwah as of early Thursday evening.
There were also 28 found in Upper Saddle River from Wednesday night into Thursday morning, and one in Pomona in Rockland County, he said.
FROM Vos Iz Neias (Yiddish for: "What's News?"):
"Orange and Rockland spokesman Mike Donovan said that the eruv installations are permitted by law and that the company’s poles are often used to hold equipment such as fiber optic cable, security cameras and license plate scanners.
“ 'They pay a fee to be on the poles, the same way that the eruv people pay,” explained Donovan, who said that the company charges approximately $13 per month per pole for the eruv.
"Donovan said that he could not comment on whether or not the usage of the Mahwah poles was compliant with township ordinances, noting that it is the responsibility of those who use the poles to make sure that local law allows them to place equipment on the utility poles.
"According to Donovan, the Mahwah eruv consists of 113 poles, each of which has 22 foot long, one inch wide rubber tubing installed flush with the utility pole. Another 40 poles in Upper Saddle River and 27 in Montvale are currently being outfitted with PVC piping for the eruv."
ALSO: A new Mahwah ordinance that bans outsiders from using township parks violates the U.S. Constitution in several ways and must not be enforced, Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal said Thursday.
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