PJ Library Sukkot Party

PJ Logo“Read to your kids!” we’re told–and how wonderful if those books (and music) show up in the mail once a month, for free. No need to worry about due dates, either, because the library you’re building up is yours to keep. And the books (and occasional music and videos) are age-appropriate for kids 6 months to 8 years old, all on Jewish themes.

That’s the PJ Library–a great program started by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation as a way of getting, and keeping families engaged with their Jewish heritage. The program is national, but managed locally. Here in the Ithaca area, it is managed by the Ithaca Area United Jewish Community, which administers and supports the program financially.

My daughter has been getting the books and music for almost five years–since she was 6 months old. I’m a huge supporter of the program. She loves getting a package in the mail every month, and PJ Library has managed to find books I never knew existed–and introduced me to some great material!

The IAUJC also arranges PJ Library events several times a year locally–a Purim Carnival, a Sukkot Carnival, and so on. This year, my family volunteered to host the Sukkot Carnival at our home. All one hundred or so subscribing families in the area were invited, along with anyone else in the community, to visit our sukkah, have snacks, do crafts, get some balloon art, listen to music, and generally have a great time.

About 70 people came and enjoyed the crafts and music.

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The carnival was truly a community effort: Marjorie Hoffman created a kid-sized sukkah for our guests to decorate with crafts and s’chach, Miri Birk provided snacks, Dovid Birk led parachute games, Ben Sachs, CJ Glass, and Rima Grunes provided music, the Rubineau and Saar families acted out a PJ Library book, Amazing Pete’s Balloons created what can only be called balloon sculptures for the kids (and a few adults!), and local teenagers helped with crafts and face painting. There was a lot of behind-the-scenes help from Linda Mandel, Sara Kabakov, and others.

What an amazing community!



Purim Carnival & PJ Library Party

Sunday was a very busy day for our family. It started at 9 am, with the TBE Nitzanim class (Hebrew school for the preschool set). If you’ve never watched a dozen 3-5 year olds enthralled by their own re-enactment of the Purim story, you’ve missed out. Their teacher, Nancy, working from her handmade scroll, helped them with the story. An hour flew by, and the kids really learned the story by acting it out.

Afterwards, we listened to the magillah reading for a second time (we’d been at Saturday night services, too). My four year old made it alllllmost all the way through this time.

Then there was the TBE Purim carnival, complete with games like fishing for a “rotten egg” in a bucket of shaving cream and kids could win a prize for answering three questions about Purim correctly. I’m happy to say my daughter won a prize. See, I told you that they learned the story!

Making groggers

Making groggers

Then it was off to lunch, and on to our next adventure: If you don’t know about PJ Library, and you have a child 7 or under (or 8, in some places), it’s definitely worth learning about. PJ Library sends free (yes, free!) Jewish-themed books and music to kids. You sign up, they send you books. In Ithaca, the Ithaca Area United Jewish Community is the sponsor, sharing in the costs to keep it free for local families.

Making crowns

Making crowns

After the TBE party, we went to the Tompkins County Public Library, along with about 70 other people, for the PJ Library party. “Admission” was canned goods, to be donated to a local food bank. There were crafts for the kids, like making groggers, making crowns, and Purim baskets, along with live music and a magician. It was fantastic. And exhausting!