Marsha Roth is a professional storyteller. Using her voice, face and hands, she makes stories come alive for audiences young and old, but she has a special love of working with young children. So when the Jewish Community of Louisville (JCL) brought The PJ Library to the city, it was a perfect match. Roth not only became the program’s resident storyteller, but agreed to co-chair it with Mona Schramko to ensure its success in the city.
“Harold Grinspoon, who started this whole thing is a genius,” Roth stated, “to come up with the idea of providing books to young people and to bring it to fruition. The program is so well organized and the most amazing professionals are working in Boston with this foundation.”
Roth is impressed with the book selection, the implementation of the program, the enrollment procedures and the conferences that bring people from across the country together to share their PJ Library experiences and learn from each other.
Today, Louisville’s program has more than 300 participants ages 6 months-6 years, each of whom receives a free, high-quality Jewish book or CD in the mail every month. The youngsters and their families also participate in a variety of special programs throughout the year.
The PJ Library has opened the door to the Jewish Community of Louisville for many young families. “I love working with all these young mothers,” Roth said. “They’re so bright and have such great ideas. It’s neat to see them come into the community.”
Roth also appreciates the program’s ability to bring people together – Reform, Orthodox, Conservative and unaffiliated. “The PJ Library is its own being,” she stated, “and involves everyone.”
Originally from Columbus, OH, Roth was active in BBYO there and first visited Louisville for a youth group convention. In college, her roommate, who was a counselor at the Ben F. Washer Camp, encouraged her to become a counselor there, which she did.
“I fell in love with Louisville and came back every year. When I graduated, the JCC offered me a position working with children, so I moved permanently to Louisville in 1972.”
“It was so much fun being here and being single,” Roth said. “I ran the Children’s Department at the Center for four years.”
Marcia Roth, now Marsha Roth’s sister-in-law, came to know Marsha through her children who were in Marsha’s program, and introduced her to her brother-in-law, David. Soon, they were married and Marsha left Louisville for Washington, D.C.
They returned in 1979, and Roth became the director of the Jewish Resource Center at the JCC and started storytelling at Hawley Cooke Booksellers. Later, she joined the staff of Channel 15, where she became the birthday lady. Today, she has a contract with the city as a storyteller for the Louisville Free Public Libraries and writes a column for the Courier-Journal about shopping, style or whatever the paper wants.
She has served as president of the Keneseth Israel Preschool Board, chair of the Young Women’s Division of the Jewish community’s Annual Campaign, as an officer with National Council of Jewish Women, Louisville Section, and on the Board of Stage One.
Currently, she is on the Boards of Jewish Family & Career Services and Actors Theatre of Louisville, and has had a little sister through Big Brothers, Big Sisters for eight years. She also served as chair of the Children’s Programming Subcommittee of the JCL’s Program Review Committee that just finished its work.
The Roths have two sons. Jeffrey and his wife, Britt, live in Austin, TX; and Barry lives here.