The Tale of a Tree and a Table

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Remember the old brain teaser: If a tree falls in the forest and no one’s there to hear it, does it make a sound?

A tree just fell in the Jewish heart of NJ. Many were right there; they heard it loud and clear. Others not. I am referring to the Highland Park library matter involving a troubling children’s book-reading and heated community debate.

If you are not familiar with what happened, the long and short involve an ABC book about Palestinian culture that references Palestinian attacks on Israelis, among other concerns.

Strategies of Jewish community members disturbed by the book-reading ranged from high-profile interventions to behind-the-scenes advocacy to hands-off approaches intended to quell publicity for the book and its promoters’ aims. 

It should be no surprise there were many different viewpoints across the Jewish collective. The outcome (described on the library’s website) satisfied some, dismayed others. The book’s promoters generated millions of dollars in publicity. Depending on your perspective, you might say, whether or not the book-reading takes place, the damage is done. The tree has fallen. What now?

We have a fallen tree. Let’s use the wood to build a bigger table – and get more community representation around that table. Together, let us strengthen channels of communication and platforms for action both within the Jewish collective and between the Jewish collective and interfaith neighbors – all to navigate differences in a constructive way. 

Focusing on the common values of our diverse community, Jewish Federation is committed to building on its strong foundation of partnerships and programs to advance community relations in the heart of New Jersey and beyond. These values are:

  • We support the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution with all the rights and responsibilities pertaining to freedom of speech and assembly.     
  • We reject all hate, including but not limited to anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. 
  • We foster constructive relations with partners and neighbors of all faiths and ethnicity.  
  • We uphold Israel’s right to exist and support the land, people, and ideal of an Israel striving for peace and justice for all.

Every person and organization invested in stemming hate is welcome – and needed – around the table. Join us.

By Lisa Karasic, the Jewish Federation's Chief Marketing Officer

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