By Cindy Mindell
WEST HARTFORD – Hundreds of Jewish families throughout Connecticut are already familiar with PJ Library, a community-engagement program that mails free, high-quality Jewish children’s books and music CDs to children up to age eight on a monthly basis. The brainchild of Massachusetts-based Jewish philanthropist Harold Grinspoon, PJ Library aims to strengthen the religious and cultural identity of Jews everywhere, especially those who are children of mixed marriages, hesitant about setting foot in synagogue, or who live beyond traditional Jewish communities.
An offshoot of the program, PJ Goes to School, will be the focus of the fifth annual Regina Miller Jewish Education Workshop, an initiative of the Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Hartford.
The Feb. 10 program includes a Purim workshop for parents and families, and a seminar for educators on using PJ Library at school and at home.
Nationwide, the program boasts more than 100,000 active subscriptions, with nearly four million books mailed and close to 300 books on the PJ Library reading list. Organized and implemented on a local, communal level in communities throughout North America, PJ Library is made possible through partnerships with philanthropists and local Jewish organizations. In Greater Hartford, the program is made possible by the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford, advised by the Zachs Family.
PJ Goes to School works to enhance the Jewish content of the classroom and to engage families in conversation about Jewish values by using PJ Library books as a catalyst. Reaching some 250 classrooms in 11 PJ Library communities, the program provides PJ Library books, related resource guides, and professional-development opportunities for educators. The Feb. 10 workshop is designed to provide opportunities for teachers, parents, and families to learn how to make effective use of these materials at school and at home.
The workshop is named for University of Hartford professor emerita Regina Miller, a Greenberg Center board member and a founder of the center’s joint program in education and Judaic studies.
Past workshops have explored the connection between Jewish education and various disciplines and tools – technology, music, and art among them. Community partners include the Commission on Jewish Education and Leadership, the Mandell JCC, and Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Hartford, Hebrew Academy, and Hebrew High School of New England. Like all Greenberg Center programming the annual education workshop is designed to engage both University of Hartford students and the community at large. “We thought a program on how to use Jewish children’s books in an educational setting would be tremendously helpful for teachers who use the books in school and for parents and children reading these books at home,” says Dr. Avinoam Patt, the Philip D. Feltman Professor of Modern Jewish History at the Greenberg Center and director of its Museum of Jewish Civilization.
Workshop facilitator Lisa Litman is director of PJ Goes to School. She joined PJ Library after 10 years as co-creator and director of An Ethical Start®, a values-based curriculum created for JCC Association. In the ‘90s, as a teacher and Judaic-programming consultant, she created and played “Captain Tikkun” as part of “Captain Tikkun and the Land of Zohar,” a series of educational musical sketches geared toward young children and families.
The Fifth Annual Regina Miller Educational Workshop featuring Lisa Litman, director of PJ Goes to School will be held Sunday, Feb. 10, at the Mandell Jewish Community Center of Greater Hartford, 333 Bloomfield Ave. in West Hartford.
“Using PJ Library at School and at Home”
1 – 3 p.m.
For parents and families:
PJ Library Purim Workshop
3:30 – 5 p.m.
Admission is free. For more information or to register call (860) 768-4964 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.