PJ Library builds community through Get Together grants
By Sarah Beutel
Jewish Federation of Ottawa
Jan. 21, 2019 – In less than two months, 27 grants have been provided to local families to hold informal get-togethers in their homes for their friends. Get Together grants are only one of the latest initiatives of the creative and highly successful Harold Grinspoon Foundation, creators of PJ Library. They invite PJ Library families to “Get Together” with two or more other families and receive up to $100 reimbursement. The grants are available until April 30.
The Grinspoon Foundation also recently launched PJ Our Way, for PJ Library graduates. PJ Our Way was rolled out in Canada in December, providing free books to children aged eight to 11. The aim of PJ Our Way is to allow Jewish youngsters to continue exploring their Jewish identity by reading books on Jewish themes, after they have outgrown the original series. With PJ Our Way, every month kids can choose one book from a selection of four, and they can also submit reviews and comments about the books.
So far, 72 kids from Ottawa are already participating in PJ Our Way.
Currently, there are over 710 children in Ottawa under the age of eight, receiving books through PJ Library. Thanks to the Grinspoon Foundation and local donors who support the program, more than 350 families receive Jewish-themed books each month, and are invited to local events and activities. In 2018, eight events attracted hundreds of families throughout the year. The most recent and largest event was the Chanukah celebration where PJ Library partnered with the Soloway Jewish Community Centre’s Ganon Preschool to host over 150 families.
Whereas once it was the domain of organizations and synagogues to plan and host events as a way to build community, today’s trend, exemplified by PJ’s Get Together Grants, is to put resources and tools into the hands of individuals to encourage them to create the kinds of Jewish activities that are most meaningful to them. From the 27 Get Together grants alone, more than 120 families were invited to a celebrate Chanukah or Shabbat with friends, and more than 60 per cent of these families, as reported by the hosts, included interfaith families.
All of this PJ Library-inspired activity translates into huge gains for Jewish Ottawa! Gains in terms of the breadth of young families reached through the program and thus connected in some way to Jewish life, and also gains for our community in terms of the new networks and community building that is taking place every day as a result of this incredible program.
To help support PJ Library in Ottawa, visit www.jewishottawa.com – and for more information about PJ Library, Get Together Grants, and PJ Our Way, contact Jordan Waldman, Federation’s director of Emerging Gen, at Jwaldman@jewishottawa.com.
Sarah Beutel is vice-president–community building of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa.