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National Group Works With Local Organizations to Give Free Jewish Books

PJ Library sends children free books every month that are appropriate for every sect, coordinator says.

Three organizations are bringing free Jewish-themed books to children in the Five Towns through their partnership with the PJ Library, a national program implemented through local Jewish establishments.

, the Hewlett-East Rockaway Jewish Centre (HERJC) and in Woodmere recently got involved with the program, which allows Jewish children as young as six months old to be enrolled, with a maximum age that varies from six to eight years old. The program is limited to one child per household.

“We already have over 200 subscriptions,” said Cheryl Karp, PJ Library coordinator at HERJC, which was the first of the organizations to launch the PJ program. “The books are about good deeds and Jewish values, and they’re good whether you are conservative, orthodox or reform. So it reaches out to everybody.”

Karp also supervises HERJC’s PJ Library Parenting Center, created so PJ participants can gather together. 

“We think this is a fabulous program that can benefit families in our community and connect them to Jewish heritage,” said Yulia Gross, PJ coordinator at the JCC. “It’s a great tool for parents to talk to their children about Judaism and about the holidays.”

According to Gross, who is involved in local Russian community services, there is a large Russian population in the area that will benefit from the program.

“Being a children’s librarian at the and an active member of the Congregation Sons of Israel, I jumped at the chance to promote two things I love — reading and Judaism,” said Kathy Buchsbaum, PJ Library coordinator for the temple. “In this time of technology, it is great to get back to basics of storytelling and reading, and this program does that.” 

Temple membership is not required to participate in the book program or related activities, according to Buchsbaum, who plans to schedule PJ Library-themed events beginning in October.

The PJ Library, which carries more than 100 titles, sends each child one book per month, based on their age. A few of these include “Bagels From Benny,” “It’s Challah Time” and “Old MacNoah Had an Ark.” Each one arrives with a reading guide that provides parent/child discussion ideas and activities that will enhance the reading experience.

Occasionally, a child will receive a “Shalom Sesame” DVD in lieu of a book. These videos, produced by the Sesame Workshop, include an activity booklet, games and other resources. In addition, each child will receive a music CD in December.

There are several resources and links on PJ's website (www.pjlibrary.org) that compliment the program, such as suggested reading lists for age groups and topics beyond what the library offers and tips on how parents can enhance reading time with their children. The PJ Library’s goal is to encourage the public’s interest in Judaism and Israel, including interfaith couples and non-practicing Jews.

Over 78,000 children in more than 150 communities in the United States and Canada participate in the program, inspired by Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which sends books to underprivileged children, according to the organization.  

“I love the program, because every month there will be a new and exciting book for the child in their mailbox," Buchsbaum said. "The quality of the books are superb.”

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