Beyond banned books: Dissecting the controversies at the Jewish Public Library

Jewish Public Library, Montreal
The Jewish Public Library in Montreal. (CJN file photo)

The Jewish Public Library in Montreal came under fire last week when it pulled the books of Élise Gravel from its shelves, following a series of social media posts that the Montreal-born author and pro-Palestinian activist made that were critical of the Israeli government. The initial decision came after backlash from Jewish organizations—but, as has become de rigeur, the decision caused an even greater backlash in response to the initial backlash, resulting in the Jewish Public Library rescinding their ban.

The co-hosts of Bonjour Chai were especially keen to discuss this subject. Phoebe Maltz Bovy has written extensively on cancel culture and literature, while Avi Finegold sat on the board of the Jewish Public Library for many years. To dissect the politics and undercurrents of this debacle, they’re joined by Emil Sher, an author of children’s and young adult books, screenplays and stage plays, who is also currently the writer in residence at the Jewish Public Library in Montreal.


Bonjour Chai is hosted by Avi Finegold and Phoebe Maltz Bovy. Zachary Kauffman is the producer and editor. Michael Fraiman is the executive producer. Our theme music is by Socalled. The show is a co-production from The Jewish Learning Lab and The CJN, and is distributed by The CJN Podcast Network. Support the show by subscribing to this podcast, donating to The CJN and subscribing to the podcast’s Substack.