Please join me in raising a glass to congratulate the Federation of Northern New Jersey’s Joy Kurland, plus Rabbi Paul Jacobson of Avodat Shalom in River Edge and Rabbi Neil Tow of the Glen Rock Jewish Community Center.
They join the ADL in demonstrating just how the strength of an organization can make headway where an individual is ignored. Both the ADL and the federation have succeeded brilliantly in helping the troubled Palisades Park Public Library to gradually crawl out of the dark ages concerning the Jewish people. Here’s the story:
Last summer on this Letters page (Aug. 23), I reported how the ADL succeeded in getting the library to replace its offensive “Religions” plaque. For years, it listed Christian or Non-Christian as the only options. Now, post-ADL, the new plaque simply says “Religion.”
However, the library, which claims in its mission statement that it practices diversity, has the only known permanent mural of Santa/Xmas tree on the walls of a children’s library in a government building. The library never commemorated the Holocaust, but instead seemed to put the plight of the comfort women as the most significant event in all of WWII. They even used the library to raise money for Korean women (who live in Korea.)
These points may have been unknown to Ms. Kurland when last Labor Day, as part of an outreach project with Bergen County’s Korean community, she and the rabbis got involved with a run between the Comfort Women monument in Hackensack and the one outside the Palisades Park Library. The small Jewish population of Palisades Park was not happy with this involvement. (The event was felt to be disrespectful to Labor Day and residents resented paying for police overtime on a day when they should have been off.)
Quick to remedy the situation where possible, Ms. Kurland and Rabbi Jacobson did a tour of the town, which once boasted a large Jewish population. They reached out to the Palisades Park Library. Once the worst of the winter snows were over, Ms. Kurland and both rabbis attended the March library board meeting. They were made very welcome by the nondiverse board. The board agreed to join with other local public libraries in commemorating the Holocaust. A first! Bravo!
This week, Ms. Kurland delivered a number of books, posters, and memorial candles from the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs, courtesy of Rabbi Tow. The library was given a poster with details of the Holocaust Commemoration taking place in Wayne on April 27. The Library Director has asked Ms. Kurland and the rabbis for a suggested list of Judaic books to be added to the library. (As the library buys lots of Korean language books, the local Jewish population is waiting to see if the library pays for the books or whether they expect the Jewish community to keep donating freebies.)
I’ll be happy to report on any future headway this successful trio might make.
With elections coming up, even the controversial Santa mural may have a new role. Palisades Park is such a strictly Democrat-run town that there’s no Republican opposition. For those who claim that the Democrats take the Jewish vote for granted, look no further than the walls of the Palisades Park children’s library. This Santa may end up helping the Republicans.