|Tuesday, March 23, 2004
By ANDREW GLAZER
Englewood Mayor Michael Wildes
and the rabbi of Englewood's largest Orthodox Jewish congregation
recently met with Leonia Mayor Laurence Cherchi to discuss extending
a symbolic religious boundary, or eruv, into Leonia.
The nearly invisible perimeter
- usually defined by plastic ties or fishing line fixed to utility
poles - allows observant Jews to conduct activities, such as carrying
keys and pushing a stroller, that are otherwise forbidden on the
Englewood's eruv, and those
in other North Jersey municipalities - such as Teaneck, Paramus,
and Passaic - go virtually unnoticed by non-Orthodox residents.
Real estate agents say a rising demand to live within eruvin has
driven home prices skyward.
But in nearby Tenafly, the
establishment of an eruv ignited a very long and loud battle between
the borough's Orthodox Jewish community and elected officials who
objected to the use of utility poles.
Cherchi, perhaps wary of
inciting controversy, would not confirm Monday morning that he had
met with Wildes and Rabbi Shmuel Goldin of Congregation Ahavath
Torah. But in an e-mail sent later in the day, Cherchi suggested
he would endorse the proposal.
"If the issue of establishing
or extending an eruv was proposed by an Orthodox Jewish group needing
it, I would bring it to the Leonia council and I believe they would
approve the eruv," the e-mail said. "This approval would merely
accommodate the religious needs of the Orthodox Jewish group."
Both Goldin and Wildes said
talks were in early stages and stressed that there were no specific
plans about where the boundary would extend in Leonia.
"Nothing is clear and there
has been no official decision," Goldin said. "All there has been
is a statement of interest."
The Tenafly Council, which
voted against allowing eruv markers because of a borough ordinance
prohibiting any fliers or objects on utility poles, has spent more
than $150,000 defending itself from a subsequent lawsuit filed by
the Tenafly Eruv Association, members of the local Orthodox Jewish
The Borough Council has been
discussing a settlement since last summer, when the U.S. Supreme
Court refused to hear Tenafly's appeal of a lower court's decision
that allowed the eruv to remain.
Wildes said Englewood has
long accommodated its 750 Orthodox Jewish families by repairing
broken eruv markers and extending the eruv's boundaries to include
new families, he said.
At least two members of the
Leonia Council, Barbara Mitrani and Arnold Trachtenberg, said they
would support an extension of the eruv into Leonia.
"I talked to a bunch of people
in Tenafly, and no one seems to say it's a problem," Trachtenberg
Councilman Anthony Puzzo,
saying it was the first he had heard about the proposal, declined
to comment. Council members Mary Heveran and Elizabeth Dwarica could
not be reached.