Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride has arrived in the mail, just in time for the Jewish New Year. The book was free, part of a monthly series called the PJ Library.
PJ Library is a service available to Jewish children in the MetroWest New Jersey area (that includes Maplewood!). Families sign up online, and age-appropriate books with a Jewish them are delivered free to your home.
Andrea Bergman, PJ Library Coordinator in MetroWest New Jersey, is eager to share the news of the program. She explains that the PJ Library "offers free, high-quality Jewish books and music each month to families raising Jewish children ages six months to 5 ½ years old. The program is also available to special needs children over the age of 5 1/2; the parents would need to call me to discuss the appropriate age level."
The monthly book selection is based on a child's age. In September, for example, Apples and Honey (children from six months to two years old) will receive Boker Tov. The next oldest group, Bagels and Lox, will receive All of Me: A Book of Thanks. Challah Toast, 3 and 4-year-olds, will receive Sammy Spider's First Simchat Torah, while the their older siblings receive Sammy Spider's First Day of School. The oldest readers, ages 5 and 6, receive Gathering Sparks.
In addition, explains Bergman, the parents receive a monthly E-Newsletter with more information about the books and local happenings in the Jewish Community.
She emphasizes that the program is free, no strings attached, as a gift from the United Jewish Communities MetroWest to local families. In addition, Bergman sees the books as an entree to Jewish culture. "This is a wonderful opportunity for families who are not yet sure how to incorporate Judaism into their lives now that they have children."
The PJ Library is a project of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation. Its goal is simple: to strengthen the identities of Jewish families and their relationship to Jewish community. Its founder, Harold Grinspoon, is a retired real estate magnate who learned, late in life, that children's books with Jewish themes have become bedtime stardards and go-to favorites. He determined to make such books available to more children, more often.
The young readers who peer into the mailbox may not realize the broader goals. They're waiting for the next book, whether Kippi and the Missing Matzah, The Friday Nights of Nana, or, appropriately, The First Gift, to appear. Then the reading begins, as new books become old favorites.