MAHWAH, N.J. -- Several hours after fire destroyed the home of a beloved Mahwah family, a Facebook group appeared to mock the tragedy, several angry residents said.
"A family will be without their home for Christmas, and they think it's funny?” a township resident wrote about the post on "MahWatchwatch."
Created earlier this year in response to what opponents say were hastily-enacted ordinances designed to keep Hasidic Jews out of town, "MahWatchwatch" posted a photo of a burning building barely seven hours after an electrical fire on Saturday destroyed the home of the family that owns the popular Secor Farms.
Superimposed on the shot is a hooded figure stamped with the name "Sbarra" -- apparently referring to recently resigned Councilman Steve Sbarra -- with the comment bubble, "OK. Now I resign...for personal reasons..." above it.
“Whether they thought they were just being clever, based on a statement [last week by Mayor Bill Laforet], is irrelevant," a post shared among township residents and merchants says.
"With the terrible fire just yesterday, this is no coincidence," says Monday's statement. "The mockery is clear.
"Since they assume our town is filled with bigots, this is funny to them," it says. "We love the Secors and their farm...they are great people and this post is gutless and tasteless.”
The Facebook page -- featuring comments by, among others, outgoing Englewood Councilman Eugene Skurnick -- was created after township residents convinced council members to pursue ordinances that prohibited eruvs and banned out-of-state residents from its parks.
Skurnick in one post asked whether Mahwah Council President Rob Hermansen planned to dress as Adolf Hitler in a children's Halloween parade and in another said he hoped military jets flying over the town would "bomb Mr. Hermansen's house."
Teaneck Planning Board Vice Chairman Keith Kaplan has shared the group’s posts on his personal page and “liked” many of them, including the one about the fire, Mahwah residents noted.
New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino filed a lawsuit in October accusing the council of discrimination and demanding the return of $3.4 million state Green Acres funds in response to the proposed ordinances.
This came after Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal -- nominated last week by Gov-elect Phil Murphy to succeed Porrino -- specifically directed township police not to enforce the parks ban.
Township officials said they were trying to limit overcrowding and the trashing of municipal recreation areas.
The council last week took the first step toward rescinding the parks restriction, with a final vote scheduled for Dec. 28, while also permanently tabling an ordinance that would have prevented lechis -- thin PVC piping used to create religious boundaries known as eruvs -- from being attached to utility poles.
Laforet issued a statement during the council meeting which read, in part: "We are witnessing the very arsonists who burned down the building coming back to the scene offering to put out the fire by simply rescinding the ordinances.
"They are hiding from you that if they failed to do so, the Attorney General can come into Mahwah to press civil or criminal bias charges against every single [council member]."
The "MahWatchwatch" post with the burning building photo quoted from that statement.
ALSO SEE: As hundreds of customers -- actually, friends -- continued to flock to their Mahwah farm, the Secor family praised the massive outpouring of love following a weekend fire that destroyed their home.
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