Louisville Chosen as Pilot City for PJ Our Way

The popular PJ Library program was conceived by Harold Grinspoon and is funded by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation in partnership with participating communities. It is a key program in Grinspoon’s effort to build strong Jewish identities.

It is so important that Grinspoon Foundation representatives visit communities that have PJ Library programs on a regular basis. Cynthia Mann came to Louisville on October 26 to meet with PJ Library Director Jennifer Tuvlin. While she was here, she also met with the Jewish Community of Louisville Board of Directors and briefed them on the program and announced that Louisville had been selected as a pilot community for a new program, PJ Our Way.
Mann, who was a reporter for the Jewish news service said it was a privilege to cover significant Jewish stories for JTA (the Jewish Telegraphic Agency), and now “I’m helping write one of the most significant Jewish stories, PJ Library.”

She said, “PJ Library is more than a program. It’s a strategy.” When free, high quality Jewish books and CDs arrive in people’s homes from the time their children are six month old through age 8, there are lots of opportunities for family learning.

The books arrive at the time when parents are deciding what values and identity to teach their children. While reading the books together, she said, “children share questions and responses, and something magical happens. The family’s Jewish identity develops and their family practices start to change.” They might add challah to their Friday night dinner or mount a mezuzah on their doorpost.

Since the books arrive in the mail, there is no barrier to participation. The books arrive in envelopes that identify them as gifts from the JCL. As trust grows with each gift, the door opens to invite families to participate in events.

Mann had high praise for the programs Tuvlin does. Within the last few months, Louisville’s PJ Library has had a fashion show and tea party, apple picking and a Sukkot party.

Since everyone likes receiving free books, PJ Library also serves as an outreach tool. Forty percent of the families participating in the program were previously unknown to the Jewish community, she said.

Almost 10 years ago, Mann explained, Harold Grinspoon, then 86, heard about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Books, which gave books to impoverished children. First he partnered with Parton, then he developed the same kind of program for Jewish families.

Today, the program has grown so much that it has delivered close to 15 million books around the world.
Mann said the Louisville program is strong with a current enrollment of 291 at the time of her visit (enrollment reached 300 this month), and more than 25,325 books have been distributed.

The Grinspoon Foundation is now developing a program for children ages 9-11, and Mann announced that Louisville has been selected as a pilot community for PJ Our Way. Initially, this program will be free to the community, and it is launching this month. Participating children will get to choose one of four books each month. They will also be part of an online community where they can communicate with other PJ kids.

Louisville’s selection, Mann said, “is a tribute to you and to Jennifer Tuvlin.”

She concluded by thanking the Board for partnering with the Grinspoon Foundation on PJ Library.

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