HIGHLAND PARK, NJ - A public hearing scheduled for last night to discuss the reading of a children's book that had been an unlikely flashpoint for controversy in the borough has been canceled due to "crowd control concerns."

"The library received feedback from residents, community leaders, and the police department about citizen safety and crowd control of numerous out-of-towners, coming to this meeting," Mayor Gayle Brill Mittler said in a press release Wednesday afternoon.

Brill Mittler said the borough was concerned there would be an influx of people coming to the meeting "from out of town."

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Brill Mittler said that although the library board meeting was canceled, the Highland Park Public Library would go ahead with a public reading of "P is for Palestine."

The plans to read the ABC book, written by former Rutgers Iranian studies instructor Goldbarg Bashi, angered many inside this community that features a large Jewish population. In particular, the book's entry for the letter "I" - "I" is for Intifada - drew outrage for several residents.

The mayor announced that the library would arrange a program around the book “I is for Israel” by Gili Bar-Hillel and Prodeepta Das as soon as possible. 

In a phone interview with TAPinto New Brunswick last week, Brill Mittler said she supported the American Library Association's stance on controversial topics that calls for both sides of an issue to receive equal treatment.

"I realize that this will not please everyone and for some, it sidesteps some deep concerns about the book reading," Brill Mittler said in the statement. "I share some of those concerns. Yet we in Highland Park cannot solve the hotly contested Middle East conflicts. But we sure can show the world how we live in a peaceful, diverse community.

"Going forward I and the Council will be calling on the library to develop a clear and transparent policy on which books are selected for public readings in our community," according to the statement.
Bashi was originally scheduled to appear at the library May 19, but the event was at least temporarily postponed and the May 20 Board of Trustees meeting was rescheduled as the library dealt with this sudden backlash.
In recent weeks, concerned residents put their name on a letter calling for Bashi to be uninvited to speak at the library.

According to a copy of the letter obtained by TAPinto New Brunswick, the residents say allowing Bashi to speak at the library would have been "insensitive to the complexion of the Highland Park community, which includes a large population of Jews. Sections of the book available online indicate that it does not acknowledge the right of Jews to live in Israel and the impact of two waves of terrorist violence (AKA "Intifada"), which killed thousands of non-combatant Israeli civilians, American citizens, and Palestinians. A public reading of this book could rightly be viewed as an insult to Jewish sensibilities."

Brill Mittler, who has been mayor since 2014, defeated Democratic primary challenger Monique Coleman during Tuesday's election by a 59%-41% margin.