Introducing new PJ Library Coordinator Carrie Fink
Carrie Fink was recently hired as the PJ Library Coordinator at JFCS. PJ Library is an international award-winning program designed to strengthen Jewish identity by sending Jewish-content books and music on a monthly basis to children from age 6 months through 8 years. PJ Library also hosts regular community events for families. Read below to learn more about Carrie’s background and what her goals are for PJ Library Minneapolis.
Why did the PJ Library Coordinator position appeal to you?
I am a PJ mom! We’ve been in the program since my oldest son turned 6 months old and we’ve loved the book deliveries. Both sets of my kids’ grandparents were part of the special grandparent offer as well, so we are fortunate enough to have the PJ books all over. When I learned the position was open I was so excited – I was feeling ready to move back into non-profit work with a focus on community engagement. I am an avid reader and, as a parent, love being able to share book excitement with my children. Plus, I used to be a Big Sister in JFCS’ Jewish Big Brother/Big Sister (BB/BS) program, so I knew great things about the agency.
What is your background?
I previously worked for the State of Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development for six years in a variety of roles within the employment and training division, most recently managing a federal grant. Before that, I worked at a few non-profits and focused on both youth engagement and workforce development. I grew up in St. Paul and currently live in South Minneapolis with my husband and two boys, ages 3.5 and 1.
In meeting community members since you’ve started in this position, what do families tell you they like best about this program and what feedback has most surprised you?
First of all, families are shocked that the books are indeed free! Families like that it’s an easy, accessible way to bring Judaism into their home. I’ve enjoyed hearing parents tell me their own household PJ traditions. We’ve also received a lot of positive feedback about the inclusivity demonstrated in the books they receive. The characters in the books represent all different types of Jewish families, and for some, this is the first time they see a book about Jewish values or Jewish holidays that actually reflects their family. Just like with my kids, each family ends up with certain books their kids love to hear over and over. Other families have brought the books into their classroom story times to share with their classmates and help expose them to Judaism.
I was surprised to hear that some families were hesitant to join, or felt that they couldn’t because they weren’t “Jewish enough.” PJ Library is for anyone raising Jewish children: for some that means the parents grew up attending synagogue regularly, and for others it means they’ve married into a Jewish family. Regardless of affiliation or upbringing, kids are eligible for a subscription so long as they are being raised Jewish.
The Minneapolis PJ Library program is celebrating its 10th birthday next month – how do you see the program growing and evolving in the next 10 years?
I’ve learned from being a PJ recipient, and also now as Coordinator, that PJ Library is not just the books – that the books are a vehicle for community engagement. We have a robust calendar of programs throughout the year allowing families to connect with one another and their Judaism. This year we plan to create a Parent Advisory Board to help guide our programming and strategic direction, and then ask the parents to serve as program ambassadors to help with outreach.
We also plan to partner more consistently with JFCS’ Family Life Education program. We’re hearing that parents are thirsty for information throughout the lifecycle of parenting and we want to offer a platform for parent education that is accessible and reasonable. We also plan to offer more opportunities for families to connect with each other in their own neighborhood, for example, by hosting a small group of nearby families for Shabbat dinner or hamantaschen baking. Additionally, as a response to feedback from our local families, we’re excited to infuse more family volunteering and engagement as a core value in our programming. Overall, every family is in a different place in their Jewish journey and we want to be part of that journey in whatever way feels right.
PJ Library is celebrating its 10th birthday on Sunday, Nov. 11, with a celebration at
J-HAP in Golden Valley! Bring the whole family to celebrate the 10 years that PJ Library has been in Minneapolis. Decorate aprons and participate in Cupcake Wars, where bakers will be judged on taste, style, and presentation! Click here for more information and to register for the event.