After a successful launch in the San Fernando Valley, PJ Library has expanded into city ZIP codes, signing up 700 new kids over the past two months.
They will join the 65,000 children nationwide who receive a monthly gift from PJ Library of Jewish-themed books and CDs.
The PJ Library was created in 2005 by the Massachusetts-based Harold Grinspoon Foundation, which partners with local communities to pay for the program.
In 2008, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles sponsored PJ Library’s establishment in the Valley, where it signed up a full roster of families in less than a year. This past summer, PJ Library, with additional funding from the Jewish Community Foundation and private donors, officially opened its mailing list to additional residents.
The program has signed up about 2,800 additional kids in Los Angeles and has spots for 1,100 more.
The books are free — no strings attached, said Carol Koransky, executive vice president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.
PJ Library is a way to “specifically bring Jewish values, learning and connections into families,” she said.
Depending on age, kids receive one of five different books each month. October’s book list included “Five Little Gefiltes” by Dave Horowitz and “Jodie’s First Dig” by Anna Levine.
“You get to start your own Jewish library in your home,” Koransky said.
But PJ Library now wants to engage families in “next steps” — book readings, holiday programs and gatherings for parents. The program recently sponsored a trip to the Skirball Cultural Center, where kids got to play at the Noah’s Ark exhibit.
Koransky is convinced the program is making a difference, especially in intermarried families. Last year, she received a call from a non-Jewish father around Chanukah time. He told her that his youngest child wouldn’t let go of her newest book. They were going to take out all the books they had received from PJ Library and light the menorah together.
“It becomes a warm, family-centered celebration that connects them back into doing things Jewish,” Koransky said.
Israel also has a new version of the program, known as Sifriyat Pijama (Pajama Library). The Israeli Ministry of Education is investing $500,000 in the program, an amount matched by the Grinspoon Foundation. Last year 3,000 underserved Israeli preschool children received books every month, and that number is set to expand to 44,000 children by the end of this academic year.