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Monday, July 22, 2019

Lisa Ben Haim of Highland Park speaks at the July 2 borough council meeting. (Credit: Harry Glazer)

Henry Schanzer of Edison of speaks at the July 2 borough council meeting. (Credit: Harry Glazer)

Ruth Kalton of Highland Park speaks at the July 2 borough council meeting, as her husband Mark listens. (Credit: Harry Glazer)

Borough Council President Phil George, left, and Mayor Gayle Brill Mittler listen to the Jewish community speakers. (Credit: Harry Glazer)

Jewish community members in Central New Jersey aren’t letting a setback put them on the sidelines.

The Highland Park Public Library decided to go ahead with a public reading of the children’s book “P is for Palestine,” despite considerable opposition from the local Jewish community. In response, members of the Jewish community from Highland Park and Edison gathered and spoke out at the July 2 Highland Park Borough Council meeting to express their principled opposition to a taxpayer-supported entity conducting an event that is so clearly divisive.

The Jewish community speakers represented several synagogues in the area and worked as a coordinated team, with each speaker addressing specific aspects of the situation: One explained the symbols and code words such as “I is for Intifada,” in the seemingly innocuous book; Another spoke of the record of bigoted statements by the “P is for Palestine” author Golbarg Bashi; A third spoke of the different principled reasons why the Jewish community opposed the event and another examined the membership and motivations of the anti-Israel group that suggested the event.

The group was articulate and well organized, working from a packet of carefully assembled bullet points and background information. Their presentation gave the mayor and borough council a number of good reasons to take a closer look at the library’s decision.

By Harry Glazer