PJ Library reaches out to young families

[by Shiela Steinman Wallace]

There are changes in the leadership of Louisville’s PJ Library, the program that introduces children from birth to age 8 to Judaism by delivering free, high quality, age-appropriate books and CD’s to them through the mail.

Becky Ruby Swansburg has agreed to co-chair the popular program with Marsha Roth, one of The PJ Library’s founders in Louisville, and Jennifer Tuvlin has joined the Jewish Community Center staff as the part-time PJ Library Director. Together, they’re working to reenergize the program, reach out to new participants and create engaging events that will help parents and children connect with each other and with Judaism.

In fact, the first new event will be “Coffee, Cookies and Kibbitz” on Sunday, March 24, at 10 a.m. at the JCC in the Children’s Place on the first floor. This will be a pre-Passover meet and greet that includes crafts, a snack and activities. The program is geared toward children age 4 and under and their caregivers, but all are welcome. Tuvlin asks those planning to attend to RSVP to her at jtuvlin@jewishlouisville.org.

On April 14, a PJ Library Story Walk will be part of the Israel@65 celebration.

Roth, a professional storyteller who frequently shares her talents and her love of young children with the community, is a close friend of Swansburg’s mother, Mickey Ruby, and watched her young co-chair grow up. “I couldn’t be more thrilled to have her as co-chair,” Roth said. “She’s just a doer who doesn’t even need to be asked when something needs to be done.

“Jennifer is a real professional who’s already coming up with great ideas,” she added.

Roth described both Swansburg and Tuvlin as outgoing people who will help grow the program through their creativity and by reaching out to people with young children and including them in The PJ Library.

Equally enthusiastic, Tuvlin said, “I have two great chairs who are extremely active in the Jewish community, and we all want to have PJ Library’s presence to increase. I’m very fortunate to be working with Becky and Marsha.”

A native Louisvillian, Swansburg and her husband, Michael Swansburg, are the parents of twins who will soon be turning 2 and have been enrolled in The PJ Library since they were born. It has been such a positive experience for the entire family that she is excited to be working with the program and excited about getting started.
“Every book your child receives will be age appropriate,” Swansburg said, “whether your child is 6 months old or 6 years. So for the younger children, it might be a picture book or a song book.

“One of the nicest things,” she continued, “is many of the books focus on the Jewish holidays, so it’s a wonderful opportunity to start exposing your children to them.”

With Passover starting next week, Swansburg explained, “This months PJ Library book for children adge 1-2 is about the song ‘Dayenu.’ We’ve been singing it with the twins every morning, and my son, Robert, now goes around singing ‘Dayenu,’ which he learned from this book.”

For the Swansburgs, “Dayenu” led to other questions, and they’ve been discussing Passover, Seder plates and the Haggadah. Now when they arrive at Keneseth Israel for preschool, her daughter, Molly will point out the Seder plate in the gift shop.

“No matter how young your child is,” she observed, “the books will provide exposure to Jewish words and holidays and will create Jewish learning experiences in your home and the PJ Library events will let your children learn with other kids in the community.”

“The other wonderful thing about The PJ Library,” Swansburg noted, “is there is no cost for the families that participate. Our Jewish Community Federation has been very generous in making this program available to any family with Jewish children or Jewish grandchildren in the community.”


Swansburg issued a call to action: “If you have children – newborn to age 8 – or grandchildren or nieces or nephews that age, you should absolutely sign them up today. It’s a wonderful program that brings a love of Judaism into your home every month.” And watch for notices of upcoming PJ Library events.

Swansburg is the chief marketing officer at Stonewood Financial, a local financial services firm. She’s a member of the Jewish Community Relations Council and the family belongs to The Temple. She also serves on the boards of the local chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners and the Rauch Planetarium at the University of Louisville.

She earned her B.S. in political science from Middlebury College and her M.A. in communications from Boston University. Following her graduation, she worked for a U.S. congressman and briefly at the White House before returning to Louisville with her husband. She worked for Greater Louisville Inc. before taking her current position.
As a teen in Louisville, she was active at the JCC and participated in both BBYO and NFTY. She also visited Israel with NFTY when she was in high school.

Tuvlin also grew up in Louisville and has been a leader both as a young adult and as a teen. In 2009 and 2010, she co-chaired the Young Adult Division of the Federation Campaign and in 2009, received the Lewis W. Cole Memorial Young Leadership Award for all her hard work. She is a member of the Ben Gurion Society and continues to volunteer for the Campaign.

She’s a member of the JCC, Congregation Adath Jeshurun and National Council of Jewish Women. In the general community, she serves as secretary of the StageOne Theatre board, is a member of Dunn Elementary School’s PTA and has served on its Site Based Decision Making Council.

In the past, Tuvlin was a member of the JCC’s Board and chaired its Early Childhood Department. She was also on the Keneseth Israel Preschool Board and helped with the formation of the merged Sunday School program for Adath Jeshurun, Keneseth Israel and Temple Shalom that today is part of Beit Sefer Yachad.

Although she was born in New York, Jennifer Tuvlin moved to Louisville with her family in 1980. She was very active in BBYO and won the Ellen Faye Garmon Award while she was in high school.

She did her undergraduate work at the University of Michigan and attended law school at Emory University. Before returning to Louisville, she worked as an attorney for eight years, concentrating in reinsurance and coverage law. Today, she works part time for Westlaw, doing legal research.

She and her husband, Jeff, a gastroenterologist, came home to Louisville in 2004. They have three children, Andrew, 12; Ethan, 10; and Jared, 7.


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