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Got "Q"s? We have "A"s (About PJ Library)
By ISJL Education Fellow Hannah Klegon
Around the Jewish community, the buzz about PJ Library has been in the air for years. But, what exactly is PJ Library? How does it work? How do they have all of these free books? And the biggest question of them all, who is PJ? All of these questions went through my head, and I decided to go to a virtual library to get to the bottom of it.
What is PJ Library?
PJ Library is a program started by a Jewish non-profit organization called the Harold Grinspoon Foundation. Established in 1991, the organization has the goal of “enhancing Jewish and community life in Western Massachusetts and around the world.”[i] And that the organization does. From having a program called Sifriyat Pijama (Hebrew for “Pajama Library”)—an Israeli version of PJ Library—to having a program called JCamp 180™—a mentoring program to nonprofit Jewish summer camps—they work to help our Jewish community in numerous ways.
Now, back to PJ. PJ Library sends more than 200,000 books each month to Jewish families. The books are available for children between 6 months to 8 years old. All Jewish families are allowed to be a part of this program, no matter their observance, background, or any other factors. (They also have a program for children ages 9-11 called PJ Our Way™. )
PJ Library is funded by donors that help to make it possible. This includes the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, the PJ Library Alliance, local Jewish federations, and community centers, as well as families who donate funds through a “Pay It Forward” program.
What are the books?
The books are hand-selected by a special Book Selection Committee. This committee’s job is to ensure that the books handed out by PJ Library convey Jewish values, Jewish themes, and Jewish traditions. PJ Library also accepts manuscripts for books written by anyone. It has a list of questions such as, “Will this book prompt family discussions about Jewish topics and lead families to consider making Jewish choices?”[ii] And “Is the text engaging for young children and their parents?” These questions are all taken into account while the Book Selection Committee examines the manuscripts.
Who is PJ?
Lastly, the question we have all been waiting for. Who actually is PJ? Well, PJ isn’t actually a person! (*Mind. Blown.*) PJ stands for pajamas. Books are often (but don’t always need to be) read at bedtime—in your pajamas—so that’s how the name PJ Library came to be.
[i] from https://hgf.org/about-the-foundation/history-of-the-foundation
[ii] from https://pjlibrary.org/books-and-music/how-we-choose-books