It All Started with a Book

I had an incredible time last night meeting with our Jewish Federation PJ Library Ambassadors. PJ Library, funded nationally by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and locally by our Federation, distributes Jewish books to children throughout Western Pennsylvania. Over 1,800 children receive books monthly in our region alone. Locally, we developed and instituted the PJ Library Ambassadors Program whereby five individuals, currently all moms, take on connector roles to engage PJ Library families into deeper Jewish engagement with one another. It’s been a smashing success and has now been replicated in other communities. We currently have Ambassadors in the South Hills, Fox Chapel, North Hills (Wexford/Cranberry area) and two in the city.

They were each asked by Danielle West, the local PJ Library coordinator though the JCC, to share one story of how their work has made an impact. Each story was completely unique, and each touched me.

I won’t share all of them but I will share two, both of which took place in suburban Pittsburgh.

One Ambassador had a friend who introduced her to a new Jewish person living in her development. Quickly, our Ambassador began to meet other Jewish families in an area where she didn’t think there were many other Jews. Those famlies created their own Facebook group to connect with one other. These families all got connected to PJ Library. This weekend, the families are putting together their own Purim celebration.

Another of the Ambassadors conducted a program for parents and their very young kids. A young mom came to this program, her first such program. The Ambassador and young mom developed a personal relationship. Fast forward and the mom who came to the program has enrolled her child in Jewish preschool and that mom’s husband has started the process of conversion to Judaism.

I know I am probably getting some of the facts a little confused as I was trying to listen and not take too many notes, but the gist of these stories shows the power of great relationship building and networking.

My wife is a huge Disney fan. And one of the tag lines of the Disney empire is that “It all started with a mouse”. Our work with the Jewish Federation PJ Library Ambassadors program all started with a book. That book opens doors for so many to deepen their Jewish identities and Jewish connections.

Shabbat Shalom and thank you to our PJ Library Ambassadors.

P.S. If you or your family have children/grandchildren not yet registered for PJ Library, or you want to see upcoming programs being offered for PJ Library families, please visit You can also subscribe to Pittsburgh’s PJ Library monthly enewsletter to keep informed of upcoming events of interest.

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