PJ Library Minneapolis: A year of growth and new opportunities for community engagement

PJ Library Minneapolis has given out more than 100,000 free books over 11 years

 

By Carrie Fink • PJ Library Program Coordinator

 

Carrie Fink

There are PJ Library programs throughout the U.S., but we are proud to say that PJ Library Minneapolis is one of the most generous communities in the country. Unlike some cities, PJ Library Minneapolis has never put a family on a waitlist to receive a subscription, and we follow the “One Book Per Child” model, enabling every child in the family an opportunity to build their own Jewish library.

 

This year, PJ Library Minneapolis saw a significant growth in our subscriptions. More than 1,200 children from 900 families receive books each month totaling almost 15,000 books delivered annually.

 

The PJ Library is a program of Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Minneapolis (JFCS). It is an international award-winning program designed to strengthen Jewish identity by sending free Jewish-content books and music on a monthly basis to children ages 6 months through 8 years. The books are seasonal with the holidays and are age-appropriate, starting with board books for babies and ending in chapter books for the oldest readers. PJ Library has been in Minneapolis for 11 years and has given out more than 100,000 free books to Jewish children in Minneapolis.

 

While books are its foundation, PJ Library Minneapolis has become a successful community engagement program as well, hosting regular community events for families. In addition to the growth in our subscriptions, this past year local Jewish families have had more opportunities to engage with other young families, thanks to PJ Library.

 

We inaugurated a Traveling Havdalah series, offering a monthly havdalah program hosted by four participating synagogues. The Traveling Havdalah brought new faces to local synagogues, new faces to PJ Library, and proved to be an interactive, cozy way for kids, parents and grandparents to finish Shabbat in the cold, dark winter months.

 

PJ families also participated in two meaningful community service events through JFCS’ Hag Sameach program and Good Deeds Day. Families indicated they appreciated the multi-generational opportunities to complete community service projects together and receive education on how to infuse service at home in their daily lives.

 

An important (and adorable!) part of PJ Library is Shalom Baby, which focuses on welcoming parents with children ages newborn to 2 to the Jewish community. PJ Library hosts a semi-annual Shalom Baby Shower, where families with new babies are gifted a variety of baby and parenting items; have a chance to peruse vendors from the community; learn about Jewish resources in the community; and connect with other parents. The shower in February welcomed a record 23 families. PJ Library also hosts monthly Circle Time for Shalom Baby families, which is an informal gathering where we read books, sing songs, play and commiserate with other sleep-deprived parents.

 

JFCS also offers PJ Our Way – the next chapter of PJ Library, for kids ages 8-1/2 to 11. With PJ Our Way, rather than receiving a specific book in the mail, kids can go to www.pjourway.org every month to choose the book they want to receive. Kids can also submit reviews and videos about the books. About 200 kids participate in our PJ Our Way program.

 

This year, PJ Library Minneapolis was selected as a community to offer Get Together grants to PJ Library subscribers. The do-it-yourself model allows PJ families to apply for up to $100 to host/participate in a Jewish activity with other Jewish families. In Minneapolis, 76 grants were approved and 48 events were hosted; allowing families to host Shabbat dinners, holiday events and mitzvah projects. Many of the families that hosted events were less engaged in the Jewish community and living in neighborhoods that don’t have large Jewish populations.

 

Parent engagement plays an important role in the success of PJ Library. A new Parent Ambassador committee was established in the spring, in which PJ Library parent volunteers gather to provide strategic direction for PJ Library and help with program outreach and community engagement. The parent ambassadors help to ensure that PJ Library is reaching as many families as possible. We are pleased with the growth of our program over the past year and excited for what’s in store for PJ Library Minneapolis!

 

For more information about PJ Library or to enroll, click here!