Jordan and Becca with their favorite books from PJ Library, a program that sends Jewish-themed books to children across North America, including regional communities in Ontario and Atlantic Canada.
It’s funny, but on the same day that Federation asked if I would participate in the PJ Library program, I was rearranging our children’s bookshelves. Like most young families, we have lots of children’s books that my eight-year-old, Jordan, and five-year-old, Becca, love to read. But when we started receiving Jewish books through PJ Library, they earned a special place in our collection.
PJ Library, a program funded in part by Jewish Federation, sends out beautiful, age-appropriate Jewish books to thousands of children—all for free. Every month, Jordan and Becca eagerly await their personalized envelopes, tearing them open and running with their new treasures to me and my husband, Eric, for story time.
Reading PJ Library books together has really helped our interfaith family learn and grow in Judaism and Jewish values. The first book we received, Joseph Had a Little Overcoat, quickly became our favorite. It tells the story of a Jewish farmer who retailors a striped overcoat into smaller and smaller items. It’s based on an old Yiddish folksong, so it taught them about Jewish culture, and they loved the story’s award-winning illustrations.
When Jordan and Becca began to age out of the program, I decided to take them to a few PJ Plus events I’d read about, like a challah cover-making workshop and a Havdalah ceremony. Eventually, I started planning and hosting events on my own, including a community-wide Chanukah party. Some families that attended were like mine, with only one Jewish parent. Others families had two. But we all had one thing in common— the desire to bring Jewish learning to life for our children.
At dinner the other day, Eric was reminiscing about our PJ Plus Havdalah, so Jordan and Becca brought out their braided candle and spice box. We ended up having our own ceremony right there at the dinner table!
As we lit the candle and watched the wax drip down, we inhaled the spices and smiled. Our story began with books, but PJ Library has become so much more to us. It’s about connecting families like ours to the Jewish community, to our Jewish story, and to our Jewish future.