CJN Goes One-On-One with: Leah Taylor

Tags: Federation, Family

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Article reprinted with permission from Cleveland Jewish News

For the last six years, Leah Taylor has overseen the PJ Library program in Cleveland as part of her role as senior associate of outreach and engagement at the Jewish Federation of Cleveland.

As a former public school teacher in early childhood education, she enjoys working with families and creating meaningful programming for the Jewish community.

PJ Library is a national program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation that partners with philanthropists and local Jewish organizations, like the Federation in Cleveland, to provide books to families. The Cleveland program is funded by Iris and the late Mort November in celebration of Debra Ann November’s life.

Recently, the program surpassed 300,000 books delivered to homes in Cleveland.

CJN: How would you describe PJ Library to a new family?

Taylor: PJ Library is a program that sends free Jewish-themed books to your home once a month for each child in your home. And through receiving those books, you’re invited to join in on programming that happens once, twice, sometimes three times a month, depending on the month, for families just like yours. It’s a really easy way to connect to the Jewish community that’s a low barrier opportunity for families to integrate Judaism into their home or to explore a little bit more outside of their home and to do Jewish things with other Jewish families.

CJN: What age group does PJ Library serve and how does it cater to each of these groups?

Taylor: PJ Library caters to birth – as soon as the baby is born and has a birth date, then we can start the enrollment – and it goes all the way through 8½ years old. And then once they are 8½, they can register for PJ Our Way, which is for 9 to 12 year olds and is a similar setup, but it’s chapter books for preteens, and then they get to choose what book they want. With PJ Library, you don’t actually choose it, you’re just sent the book.

CJN: How do you reach out to new families to get the word out about this program?

Taylor: We do a lot of partnerships with other Jewish community organizations, which is a really great way to get our word out. A lot of its word of mouth, I think a lot of people are excited to tell their friends, “Once you have the baby, don’t forget to sign up for PJ Library. We get free books to our home.”

We also try to attend different events that we know that we may find families that have young Jewish kids at to make sure that they’re aware and to make sure that all their children in their household are able to sign up as well. Because not everybody knows that every child in your home can be part of PJ Library.

CJN: What are the monthly programs you offer, is there an event coming up?

Taylor: The programs typically are geared around either a Jewish value or Jewish holiday. Most of the time we incorporate one or more PJ library book, which sets the tone for the event. We try to do child-friendly activities, whether it be music, arts and crafts or some sort of mitzvah project, while also catering to the parents where they can learn more about the holiday or Jewish value and feel like they’re leaving with a resource themselves.

We have an upcoming event that is a huge collaboration with 13 other organizations. On Aug. 25, we’re doing a pre-Shabbat celebration for families with young children and all these different organizations are coming together to make a really fun Shabbat experience. It’s the first time we’re doing this, and it’s led through the Jewish Education Center. That’s just one example of how we try to collaborate with other organizations as much as we can because there’s a lot of people doing really wonderful things in our community and we’re happy to help spotlight them.

For more information and to sign-up for PJ Library, visit jewishcleveland.org/pjlibrary

Learn More: Federation, Family