The PJ Library has been a very successful program in Louisville. The program, which provides free high quality Jewish books and CD for children ages six months to six years, has enabled the Jewish Community of Louisville to reach out to families across the community, affiliated and unaffiliated, observant and secular, and engage them in the program.
In fact, the JCL’s PJ Library program, with 327 children from 241 families enrolled, is so successful that Outreach Coordinator Allison Schwartz was invited to be one of the presenters at the national PJ Library Conference in Baltimore last month.
Schwartz was part of a panel that discussed “Connecting PJ Families to the Jewish Community: The Concierge Model.”
She said members of the panel stressed “the importance of personal contact and welcoming everyone, not just PJ Library families, and transforming those contacts into deeper engagement with the community in whatever capacity works for them.
“I presented on the range of offerings Louisville has for every stage,” Schwartz continued, “and went over community collaboration, building support amongst the preschools and synagogues and trying to come together as one to bridge all the gaps in our community so everyone can find their place, wherever it is.”
The JCL’s Ambassador Program is a prime example, Schwartz explained. “Each ambassador commits to making personal contact – a phone call, coffer or a lunch date, and to attending one JCL event with a newcomer, so they do not go alone. They also are committed to opening their homes for a holiday mean – either inviting the newcomers to their homes or finding spots for them.”
Karen Kohn and Julie Marks are co-chairing the Ambassadors Program.
Schwartz also had the opportunity to hear ideas from other communities, and hoped to be able to initiate some of them in Louisville. “I would love to provide training for our community agencies in areas like using social media for outreach and community building.”
Other communities have also installed PJ Library bookracks at local Jewish libraries. Schwartz hopes to be able to do that in Louisville, too.
There were approximately 200 people at the conference, representing PJ Library communities from across North America.