PJ Library brings the values of growing up Jewish to life

Sept 2023
Maggie Norris

My husband and I were living in Youngstown, Ohio in 2011, while he was completing his residency program, and were ecstatic to find a small Jewish community with an active JCC, Jewish day school and several synagogues.  In an effort to become more active in the Jewish community, I began working at the local JCC in its after-school program, where I incorporated Jewish themes and holidays into the almost non-existent curriculum.  So I was thrilled to learn about PJ Library, a subsidiary of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, which provided free books for Jewish kids from infant to aged nine.  We had an infant son, and I signed him up without hesitation.  Before long, we started to receive age-appropriate Jewish books. We also signed up for a children’s program held in the Youngstown JCC Library, and had a blast. At that time, I was not aware of how exactly PJ Library worked and who was funding this amazing endeavour, but I was immediately hooked on the whole idea. 

When we moved back to Hamilton in 2013, our subscription to PJ Library moved with us, and we continued to receive numerous books for all of our children. So, you can see why, when I was offered the position of Program Professional for PJ Library Hamilton-Wentworth, I enthusiastically accepted.   

In May of 2023, I was our community’s representative at the international PJ Library conference, which was held in Massachusetts. The vibe was positive and supportive and the energy electric. I was inspired by the incredible philanthropy, community support, and unwavering commitment by so many professionals and parent volunteers in Jewish communities large and small across North America and overseas.  

I returned to Hamilton with renewed vigour, committed to ramping up our programming, and finding a way to enroll any family who expressed interest in signing up.  

PJ Library started off 2023 with a bang, as we re-introduced in-person programming after the pandemic.  Over the next several months, we put PJ Library back on the map in Hamilton through fun offerings such as a movie and pizza night, Purim party, matzah baking with Chabad Hamilton, and more.

All our programs include story time with PJ Library books and crafts. We also make appearances at community events, camps, and schools.  It’s been wonderful  seeing many of the same smiling faces returning to PJ Library events and seeing children light up when they recognize the signature blue and white logo. 

PJ Library is devoted to connecting families and providing children’s books and programs focusing on fundamental themes and core values that are essential to growing up Jewish. 

The best part?  Last March, we were able to eliminate our wait list and almost double our enrolment, thanks to generous local donors and the Arogeti family grant we received from the Harold Grinspoon Foundation. But, as word gets around about our excellent programming centred around Jewish values and holidays, our wait list is once again increasing. Sponsoring a family for a year of PJ Library books costs less than $100, which goes towards receiving books and offsetting the cost of programming. Individual programs can also be sponsored and goods donated for activities and crafts.  Your support can enrich PJ Library in Hamilton and ensure that every child that wants to subscribe, can do so.  

When I see the potential that PJ Library has in our community, I get really excited.  When I see grandparents reading PJ books with their grandkids at our intergenerational programming, I see the value of this incredible organization. When I see children making friends and connecting with other Jewish kids, I feel hopeful that we can continue to help the next generation see the worth of Jewish learning through books and social engagement. Spread the word about PJ Library and see how you can contribute to the growth of Jewish learning for our children! For more information or to receive our monthly newsletter, email mnorris@jewishhamilton.org, visit pjlibrary.org or hamiltonjcc.com, or call 905-648-0605 ext 307.