Residents started a petition calling for Montclair Public Library to stop Jewish Voice for Peace from using meeting space at the library. (FILE PHOTO)

UPDATE: (11 a.m. Sunday ): Montclair Public Library, in a statement from the library director, confirmed that the open conversation would take place Sunday, and stated the “Board concluded that there was no basis to cancel the event, which is not a library program, so it should be permitted to proceed as scheduled.”

UPDATE: (10 a.m. Saturday): Third Ward Councilor Lori Price Abrams writes:

I understand that the Board of the Montclair Public Library will be convening a special meeting this evening 11/11 at 7pm, to reconsider a request by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) to hold a meeting in its space. As a public space in our community, the Library is bound by its commitment to offer all patrons a safe and welcoming environment and to that end must sometimes assess the nature of programming in its space.  I thank the staff and board of the Library for taking the time to consider whether our community library is the appropriate space for a gathering hosted by Jewish Voice for Peace. JVP nationally has made public their view that Israel, a country of nearly 10 million people and the homeland for the Jewish people, does not have a right to exist and that Israel itself is the “root cause” of the horrific terrorist attack against innocent civilians on October 7th.  As a general matter, I believe that even speech with which I disagree deserves an airing, and that our community benefits when all voices are heard. However, I do not support the use of public space for purposes of incitement or advancement of damaging hate speech. I support the right of our public Library’s staff and board to determine the best path for the community. I note that my comments are offered as an informed and concerned resident of Montclair, as this matter is not the purview of the Township Council.

Montclair’s Civil Rights Commission is calling for the cancellation of an event, described as “a conversation on the Israel/Palestine situation,” scheduled to take place Sunday in a meeting space at Montclair Public Library, after receiving complaints from residents about the organization holding the event.

The group, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), an anti-Zionist organization, have led protests in Manhattan calling for a cease fire in Gaza. The Northern New Jersey chapter was started in 2016.

Christa Rapoport, commissioner and chair of the Montclair Civil Rights Commission (CRC), said while the CRC is all about free speech, there is a limit when it comes to what takes place in a publicly funded institution.

“The Civil Rights Commission of Montclair is deeply distressed by the loss of life in several conflicts globally. We want to emphasize our support for respectful behavior and conduct by all parties in Montclair that wish to express their views relatively to these global conflicts including (but not limited to) Sudan, Ukraine, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Middle East. Within Montclair, there is no tolerance for hate speech, violence or terrorism (or support of these).”

“With regard to Jewish Voices for Peace, the organization made clear their support for Hamas on October 7,” said Rapoport, referring to the organization’s statement calling the Israeli government’s policies toward Palestinians a form of apartheid.

Rapoport said an “inflammatory event organized by a group that has supported Hamas is not appropriate in the library.”

Lauren Berman is one of the residents who doesn’t want the event to take place.

“I am extremely alarmed to learn that the Montclair Library is hosting a Jewish Voices for Peace event this weekend,” Berman wrote in an email to the Montclair council members and the town manager. 

“You signed a resolution against antisemitism. This is an antisemitic group,” Berman added.

“The event flyer shows support from groups that have very clearly called for the elimination of the Jewish State, another clear concern around rising antisemitism. This event involves hate speech against a protected class in our town.”

Jodi Rudoren, a Montclair resident and editor of The Forward, a national Jewish media outlet, does not agree with the CRC.

“A group of people should not be cancelled or banned based on what they say,” said Rudoren regarding JVP. “They have said and done some things that are clearly inappropriate, offensive, and they may have crossed some lines, but they are not a terrorist organization. They are basically staging protests that have a message many find difficult to hear. That’s not a reason to ban them from civilized discourse.”

“Everyone has to feel comfortable being able to go to the library without regard to identity, but difficult-to-hear speech, offensive speech, and even hate speech is protected by the First Amendment,” said Rudoren. “I want to go to a library where people who radically disagree can respectfully listen to each other and engage. I hope we can get there.”

“Even if I despise every word they say, it is much better that they are allowed to say it,” she added. “It’s very hard to absorb all the death since October and the terrible atrocities that have happened since. But cancelling or screaming at people is not doing anything to save anyone’s life in Israel and Gaza.”

On Friday afternoon, JoAnn McCullough, president of the Library Board of Trustees, said she had heard from residents who shared concerns about the event. With the library director out of town and unreachable, McCullough checked with library staff and was told the proper procedures according to library policy had been followed in response to approving a request for use of a meeting space.

“We are a free public library, and according to our mission, we are open to all people and all voices,” said McCullough.

McCullough said library staff did not find any evidence that the organization would incite violence or act as a hate group, but added she did not know the exact process for approving requests for meeting space.

Montclair Local has not yet been able to reach the event organizer or members of the Montclair council for comment.

Liz George is the publisher of Montclair Local.

Join the Conversation


  1. The JVP aside, Christa Rapoport did a swell job of delegitimizing an already marginal Council body.

  2. The Chair of the Montclair Civil Rights Commission trying to take away the rights of people that she is appointed to uphold. WOWZA.

  3. Note Montclair resident, Jewish Forward Editor and former NY Times Israel bureau chief Jody Rudoren’s defense of allowing their event, positioning this within the story as only a free speech issue.

    And yet, JVP is a group of some Jews but mostly not, who have effectively justified the Hamas violence against Israeli Jews calling it “legitimate resistance.” They and other supporters of the event also clearly support “from the River to the Sea,” which means the removal of all Jews from that area.

    So, the takeaway is that they defend and support violence directly against Jewish Israelis. Not just a free speech issue.

  4. The correct thing to do was to cancel this event. Institutions must fully understand who these groups are before booking these events. I’m glad people spoke up in town. Any group that supports Hamas, a terrorist organization, is way, way out of bounds, let alone questioning the legitimacy of a sovereign state. People here making snide remarks here should consider how they would feel if there was a group supporting ISIS invited to the library.

  5. No, Martin Scwartz. The takeaway is the takeaway of free speech by the appointed head of…wait for it…wait for it…the MONTCLAIR Civil Rights Commission. Appointed by our elected Council. Another one of those rights we sometimes want to withhold, but still accept…because it is a right.

    And here is the ‘OMG, what is Our Elected Council going to do about this?’

    Christa Rapoport, commissioner and chair of the Montclair Civil Rights Commission (CRC), said while the CRC is all about free speech, there is a limit when it comes to what takes place in a publicly funded institution.

    The “while the CRC is ALL ABOUT free speech…” is a keeper. Thankfully we have appointed people to tell us where & what those limits are. And thankfully we have our Council appointed government appendage to tell us what free speech is ALL about except when our lil’ old local government official tells you they really didn’t mean ALL.

    That takeaway?

  6. Martin I will extend you latitude to connect the whole book banning thing with the free speech issue at these public venues.

  7. Montyxxx the single most ridiculous comment that has been so haphazardly tossed around for weeks is that people who stand for peace, a ceasefire, or simply wanting a free Palestine are somehow pro-Hamas. No one who stands for peace would ever be “pro” any group who kills innocent people. So please stop the spread of that nonsense.

    And yes – the fact the the town council appoints someone who obviously has no tolerance for people that don’t subscribe to her beliefs, are complicit. I would expect a strong comment from them immediately and action to remove her from her position .

  8. “I note that my comments are offered as an informed and concerned resident of Montclair, as this matter is not the purview of the Township Council. – LPA”

    Good to know that the Council will not be threatening to withhold the $510,000 in discretionary supplemental funding to the MPL. Or pull back any promises of help on capital funding. Or that it has no say in which books are removed from the shelves.

    But, this part from the MPL’s home page has me confused:

    The Montclair Public Library is governed by a 9 member Board of Trustees, appointed by the Mayor who serve for 5 year terms. By statute the Mayor and Superintendent are also members of the board. New Jersey law gives the Library Board the power to “do all things necessary and proper for the establishment and maintenance of the free public library in the municipality” (N.J.S.A. §40:54-12). It is independent of Montclair Township and was established by a vote of the residents on April 12, 1893.

  9. And feel free to reconcile the argument for a recent change from a mayoral-appointed school board to an elected board. And everyone is putting pressure on the Council to cough up $3MM+ from the General Fund…because the voters didn’t conduct their due diligence or didn’t want to…or actually did. This is why our mouths have two sides, yet we don’t have to go to the Y to exercise them.

  10. With council people like Lori Price Abrams and a Chair of the Civil Rights Commission like Christa Rapport, I can see why many Muslim and Arab citizens don’t feel safe walking on the streets of Montclair anymore.

  11. I have to recuse myself from this discussion. I did not know the MPL’s policy is to only accept criticism from library card holders. That is on me. My ignorance is no excuse. I hope the rest of the non-card holding public respects the Board’s policy and also know we will gladly support whatever the decision of library card holders.

  12. Frank Rubacky et. al…I’m a consistent supporter of free speech as you’ve always read and fully against cancel culture, in order to hear the unpopular povs of others. Which is our 1st amendment to our constitution.

    However, this does not extend to hate speech. Speech which directly encourages and justifies violence against other groups (in this case Israeli Jews). And which despite the JVP/JFP masquerade as being FOR peace — they actually support the Hamas violence (called it legitimate resistance). One reason why Columbia University just banned them from all participation on campus. (

    Given the Library Board vote last night to allow their event still, I wonder what would happen if a group called Modern KKK asked for a meeting room? A group whose mission statement called for the removal of all African Americans here now being sent to Africa, to say promote “peace and justice” for the invading white conquerors. And where that mission statement also justified lynching those who did not leave as — “legitimate resistance” by the non-indigenous white population? A Mid-east model morphed and turned on its head.

    Do you think our Library Board would make the same decision?

  13. I would hope so.

    Read the preamble again. One of the big “gets” was ensuring ‘domestic Tranquility’.
    They might have gotten carried away with the ‘unalienable’ label. Whatever. My takeaway is that free speech is to be embraced. Pursued as if the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It is sacred to this democracy of ours.

    Today’s discussion is instilling fear.

    Pure fear under some nebulous definition of hate speech. It’s we all know it when we hear or read it. And who is the we? Is it We The People or just the subset holds the reins of power?

    If free speech is to be feared, should be feared, then I think it no longer meets the unalienable right status. What we should all fear is war. This country will always be conducting one. We are never at peace. It is part and parcel to our society. At the end of each war, the combatants put the away the stick. And then what? We talk until the next war.

    I am a big advocate of free speech. And not just when it suits us. I’m just one POV.

  14. pardonmyfrench. I guess you missed the part about about this being an anti zionist group. Therefore, they do not believe that Israel has the right to exist as a zionist state. I don’t think it is a far reach that they are pro Hamas. But you seem to think you have all the answers. How interesting.

  15. What is wrong with being anti- Zionist? I hope people are recognizing that the world is awake now. Maybe in the past people were not quite aware of what an occupation meant for the Palestinians. But over the past month, they have now seen exactly what it means. People are finally learning words like Nakba and understanding that Palestinians are now living through another Nakba. Thanks to social media, people have now had news delivered in real time with the faces of innocent people being slaughtered just for existing in an occupied nation. People may have not fully understood what the occupation meant for decades, but they are waking up now and they are loudly declaring all over the world that they demand a Free Palestine. No more illegal settlements. No more 50 checkpoints. No more acting like the Palestinians are the problem. Like many occupiers before, Israel needs to acknowledge their wrongs and come to the table and accept that there needs to be a two state solution.

    Back to our local problem. We have someone sitting as the Chair of the CIVIL RIGHTS COMMISSION who tried to take away people’s First Amendment Rights. She needs to step down or be removed immediately. Thanks to the Montclair Public Library for upholding our rights. Hopefully people that were against it will realize that if they wanted to convene to discuss their views that others don’t agree with, they have that right too. The lies that were told to try to shut this down were exposed and it was embarrassing for many. Next time, maybe people should think a little before trying to take away other people’s rights just because they don’t agree with them . Have a nice Sunday.

  16. Pardon,
    I don’t have a dog is this fight but you have made me very curious. Have you ever been to Israel? Gaza? You appear to have first hand knowledge and it would be very enlightening for you to share your experiences with the rest of Montclair. I have zero faith in social media.

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