Louisville’s Jewish community has been participating in the Grinspoon Foundation’s PJ Library program for five years. The Jewish Community Center just celebrated this milestone with a Rick Recht concert.
The Grinspoon Foundation chose to mark the occasion, too. Grinspoon’s Program Officer Beth Grafman came to Louisville to provide the Jewish Community of Louisville Board of Directors with an update on the program and the relationship Louisville’s program has with the Foundation.
PJ Library provides high quality, free, Jewish books and CDs to children from 6 months to eight years. When parents read the books with their children, they often spur conversations about Jewish values, holidays and practices; and those discussions lead to increased Jewish practice and community involvement.
Grafman reported that the Grinspoon Foundation is delighted with the partnership it has with Louisville, and she called us a model community that successfully uses the books as a strategy for engaging Jewish families.
Currently, the JCC has enrolled 233 children and is reaching about a third of eligible children. Through Jennifer Tuvlin’s efforts, she said, the Grinspoon Foundation hopes to increase that to 50 percent. Tuvlin is also continuing Louisville’s practice of providing programming to bring PJ Library families together several times a year.
Others who have contributed to the success of Louisville’s program are Marsha Roth, who has been chair since PJ Library started here; Becky Swansburg, who co-chairs the program; and Mona Schramko, who co-chaired the program before Swansburg.
Roth is also an accomplished storyteller and Grafman called her a “treasure in this community.”
To date, Grafman said, 20,404 books have been given to children in Louisville. Louisville has invested $74,000 in the program and Harold Grinspoon has invested $101,000 and endowed it “as a partner for as long as you will partner” with the Grinspoon Foundation. She presented JCL President and CEO Stu Silberman with a large replica of a check representing that $101,000 investment.
Harold Grinspoon created the program to fill a void and engage young families. He gave $125 million to the project, and with the additional funding from partners, PJ Library is about to give away its 5 millionth book.
Today, Grinspoon partners with more than 185 communities in the U.S. and sends 130,000 books a month. A parallel program in Israel, Sifriyat Pijama distributes 200,000 books a month. It is also being launched in Australia and Argentina, and soon will be in Russia, Argentina, England and France. There are even plans to start an Arab language program in Israeli schools.