Taylor KnightFeb 14, 2018, 1:30 pmFeb 15, 2018, 8:00 am

Montvale approves settlement in lawsuit over construction of religious markers

Orthodox Jewish group took borough to court after mayor issued a stop order on eruvs in the community

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MONTVALE — Montvale’s Borough Council has approved a settlement with the Bergen Rockland Eruv Association over the construction of rruvs in the borough. On Tuesday night, both parties agreed the the Orthodox Jewish group will now be able to expand its eruvs into Montvale.

Mayor Mike Ghassali said Montvale will also pay $10,000 in legal fees to the eruv association. In return, the borough will be protected from lawsuits filed by the eruv association for two years.

Many people in Montvale on Wednesday said they did not want to comment on camera on the matter. When asked why, they said they do not agree with the settlement, and would "have nothing nice to say."

However, Yossi Gestetner, an activist in the Orthodox Jewish community, says he's happy with the outcome, but wishes things were handled differently so residents did not feel this way.

“I think it would be productive again for people within the orthodox community and also people within government and elected officials to work better on having people understand, you know, what is an eruv and what does it do and what does it not do, rather than relying on crazy comments online and on social media to drive the conversation,” Gestetner said.

The debate began last year when Montvale Mayor Mike Ghassali issued a stop order on eruvs. They are white PVC pipes on utility poles that symbolically extend the boundary of the home to allow Orthodox Jews to carry certain objects outside of their homes on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays

The eruv association then sued before the eruvs could be built in the borough. The group claimed the borough was taking away their ability to fully and freely practice their religion.

Mayor Ghassali says that under the agreement terms, the eruvs will be constructed in the northern part of Montvale. They will run along parts of Upper Saddle River Road, Fox Hill Road, Lark Lane, and Wren Way.

The agreement is pending approval by the Bergen Rockland Eruv Association. Montvale is the third Bergen County town to face a lawsuit from the group. Mahwah reached a settlement last month and Upper Saddle River is currently in negotiation talks with the eruv association.

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