By Deb Silverthorn
Even the unfortunate plot twist of COVID-19 couldn’t keep the PJ Library from continuing its story of providing books to inspire, entertain and inform kids from 6 months to 12 years.
“Creativity is my passion and COVID-19 has not stopped our PJ Library,” said Alyse Eisenberg, early childhood specialist and PJ library manager of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas’ Center for Jewish Education. “We want our families to learn and do Jewish and we do that with fun, with ruach and with introductions and a continuum of great age-appropriate Jewish books and music.”
PJ Library, which monthly provides Jewish books and music to children being raised in the Jewish tradition, is made possible by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and is a gift from the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas’ Center for Jewish Education through a generous grant from the Mankoff Family Foundation.
PJ Library packages are sent at no cost to children in families with at least one Jewish parent.
In addition to the monthly packages that are sent, throughout the year Eisenberg hosts several events, including play dates, book reads, crafts events, family retreats and an annual PJ Library Birthday Bash.
As the pandemic persists, PJ Library’s programming has moved home with pickup boxes to continue the fun. The boxes have included themes of Fourth of July, Under the Sea, Kindness and Gratitude, Exploring Outdoors and Fun with Science. Participants receive a monthly newsletter and access to online activities of High Holidays guides and more.
“We have more than 2,000 families engaged in our community and we’re thrilled to welcome more all the time,” said Eisenberg at a Parent’s Night “Out” held all-in, last week. “As families move to town, as new babies are born and as we are introduced to families through our partners, local schools, camps and synagogues and Jewish organizations, the circle gets wider and the joy is greater.”
Susanne Rosenhouse said her children Alex and Becca look forward to each month’s packages and the accompanying programming. “We are so blessed to live in a community that has PJ Library, and more so because we have Alyse. Her skill set of experiential learning makes everything more exciting and meaningful,” said Rosenhouse, whose family belongs to Chabad of Dallas. “As tough as this summer has been, the kids and I have been in awe of the crafts and fun and every book is a treat.”
The PJ Our Way program, for children ages 9-12, provides four choices each month, so that participants can have their choice.
Talia Fisher, a seventh grader at Ann and Nate Levine Academy and a self-described bookworm, has received PJ Library books since she was an infant. Over the summer, she interviewed author Casey Breton about her “Going Rogue (at Hebrew School),” which will be offered in the fall to PJ Our Way subscribers.
“I love reading any time of day and PJ books are great,” said Fisher. “They introduce you to authors and titles you might never know about and I love that I identify with many of the characters and subjects because of the Jewish connection.”
Fisher, a member with her family of Temple Emanu-El, enjoys reading fiction and biographies. She is the daughter of Sarah and Michael, was a member of the PJ Our Way Design Team last year and is currently on its advisory committee helping to provide content for the organization’s website reviews and other resources. Using emojis, special effects and filters, she hopes to inspire other teens to get excited about reading.
“I love that books can take you anywhere,” said Talia, “and that you can take a book anywhere you go.”