New Haven’s PJ Library offers free books for Jewish children
By Judie Jacobson
When it comes to childhood memories, are there any more enduring than those made at close of the day when parents and children cuddle up to share a bedtime book?
Harold Grinspoon thinks not.
“Parents and children have warm memories of that special time right before bedtime, where snuggled together, they end the day with a book,” says the noted Massachusetts philanthropist.
“Reading stories and listening to music are among the most powerful and nurturing early childhood learning experiences.”
Last winter, Grinspoon, through the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, decided to “turn these special moments into Jewish moments” by launching The PJ Library, an initiative that aims to nurture a healthy Jewish identity in young families by bringing Jewish children’s books and CDs into the homes of Jewish children free of charge.
Now, The PJ Library n PJ stands for “pajamas,” -- originally introduced in Western Massachusetts, has been brought to the Greater New Haven area by local businessman Andrew Eder, who was excited to discover it while working with Grinspoon on another project. Eder approached the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven with the idea.
“When (Eder) brought the idea to us, we immediately said ‘let’s do it’,” notes Elizabeth Edelglass, director of the Federation’s Department of Jewish Education Library, who is administering the program. “We believe this is a great way to bring the joy of Judaism into the homes of New Haven families” approached the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven with the
Jewish families with children ages six months to three years who participate in The PJ Library receive a Jewish children’s book or Jewish CD every month for 12 months at no cost. The books and CDs have been carefully selected by children’s literature and music experts, with a focus on Jewish stories, heritage and values that do not carry any particular denominational slant.
Each book and CD is accompanied by a guide to help families use the selection in their homes. From time to time, parents will also receive a parenting book, such as the highly praised “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee,” by Dr. Wendy Mogel. Participating families will also be invited to attend holiday story-readings and other special programs aimed at bringing young Jewish family together.
To celebrate the start of the program, says Edelglass, Federation is hosting a pajama party on Jan. 10 for young families who are already enrolled in the program, as well as those who are interested in signing on.
“There are approximately 60,000 Jewish births in the United States annually, but relatively few are being welcomed to the Jewish community,” notes Dr. Mark Rosen, a senior research associate at the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish studies at Brandeis University in Waltham, MA and advisor The PJ Library.
“If the Jewish community reaches out to young Jewish couples when they have a child there is potentially a three- to five-year window for influencing their future educational choices and the Jewish identity of their children.”
For more information or to register for The PJ Library, visit www.pjlibrary.org or www.jewishnewhaven.org, or call the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven at 203-387-2424, x330.
The PJ Library Pajama Party will be held on Wednesday, Jan 10, at 7 p.m., in the DJE library at the JCC of Greater New Haven, 360 Amity Road, Woodbridge. Storytellers will be high school students from “Theater Workshop Improv” class at MAKOM, along with their teacher Marcie Steinberg.
The party is free, but registration is a must. RSVP with the child’s name and age by Jan 1. to Elizabeth Edelglass, (203) 387-2424 ext. 330 or firstname.lastname@example.org