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PJ Library Selected for a Pilot Endowment Program
“PJ Library is an entry point into our Cincinnati Jewish community. If it went away, it would eventually affect everything from participation in Jewish youth groups to participation in all aspects of Jewish life in Cincinnati,” stated Devra Silverman, Youth & Family Programming Specialist at the Mayerson JCC.
PJ Library is free to all families raising Jewish children six months to 8 ½ years old, and now includes a program for older children, PJ Our Way, which allows children ages 8 ½ to 13 to choose high quality titles each month from a kid-friendly and safe website. Participating families receive an age-appropriate book in the mail every month that reflects Jewish themes, including values, culture, traditions, and holidays. They are also provided information on local Jewish programming, including an active local PJ Library Cincinnati chapter, which hosts multiple events for families throughout the year. Families are also provided access to music, activities, and online resources. “There is no barrier to entry,” said Rick Lefton, Director of Development at the JCC. “There is no reason why any Jewish family in our community shouldn’t sign up.”
PJ Library is a program open to members and non-members of the JCC, and it has grown from 400 subscribers to 900 subscribers in the past few years. “It’s important to us that this program continues to be free for families,” Lefton said. “We have a growing subscription base which is great, but each subscription costs about $40 annually. The need for increased funding pushes us to find ways to raise more money for this vital program.”
PJ Library Cincinnati was originally funded by the Fisher Family and is currently funded in part by Anne Heldman, the Harold Grinspoon Foundation (HGF), and the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati. Cincinnati’s PJ Library is one of four PJ Library programs across the nation to have been selected to participate in a new Grinspoon Foundation Life & Legacy initiative.
“The Grinspoon Foundation is providing our community with incentive dollars to establish a PJ Library endowment fund so we can ensure this program is available for future generations,” said Debra Steinbuch, Director of Planned Giving, Endowments, and Create Your Jewish Legacy (CYJL) at the Jewish Federation. “If we get 20 legacy gifts for PJ Library in 2020,” said Steinbuch, “the Grinspoon Foundation will give us a $10,000 incentive grant to go right into this endowment fund. Then in the second year, we can earn another $10,000 by getting people to confirm their gifts. These incentive grants will seed the endowment; it’s a win-win for this program.”
“PJ Library receives an incredibly generous gift from our wonderful supporter, Anne Heldman,” said Lefton, “but we are looking to secure long-term funding. Since the Grinspoon Foundation created both CYJL and PJ Library, they’re looking to marry these two together for this particular project by using the CYJL infrastructure to run an endowment campaign for PJ Library. It’s a wonderful opportunity, and we are thrilled to have been selected for this new initiative.”
The Grinspoon Foundation is invested in PJ Library on every level, providing funds to PJ Library programs around the country and now piloting this program to help PJ Library run its own endowment campaign. The Grinspoon Foundation’s mission to leverage philanthropy to encourage others to invest in Jewish life is clear and inspirational through this initiative.
Since its launch in 2005, PJ Library has delivered well over 60,000 books to families in our community. “We have a lot of people who grew up Jewish but didn’t grow up with the traditions, or who grew up in interfaith families,” said Marisa Phillips, PJ Library Cincinnati Program Professional. “For many people, these books are their entry point to get involved in the community and understand Jewish traditions, values, and customs.”
According to a 2016 PJ Library impact study, 80 percent of families using PJ Library say they are now attending local Jewish community events, 67 percent say they feel more connected to their Jewish communities, and 94 percent say they feel supported by PJ Library to add or build upon a Jewish tradition in their home.
“When we had our first child,” said PJ Library subscriber LeeAnn, “I started looking at religion differently, and we started to figure out how we wanted to raise our daughter. We knew we wanted her to have religion in her life.” LeeAnn converted to Judaism, her husband’s religion. “The PJ books are the ones most frequently selected for bedtime, and I’m learning a lot of things along with her.”
“Whether or not families eventually join the JCC is not the goal,” said Lefton. “PJ Library exists so families can explore their Jewish roots and find a way that is meaningful to them to incorporate Judaism into their daily lives.”
PJ Library of Cincinnati is a program of the Mayerson JCC in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, thanks to generous funding from Anne Heldman, the Fisher Family (founding sponsor), and the Harold Grinspoon Foundation.
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