Building Jewish Literacy Book by Book
from The Boston Globe:
1 quiet donor, 2 million books
Harold Grinspoon, a lanky 80-year-old who made a fortune in real estate, starts every morning with pilates, dance aerobics, and a brisk walk. Then he charges into his office by 10, where he drops his parka on the floor near a bookcase crammed with binders.
Each one is stamped with a place name – Iowa City, Silicon Valley, Hoboken, Gainesville – but the binders have nothing to do with Grinspoon’s real estate portfolio. Instead, they are guides to the 125 communities where each month he sends Jewish-themed children’s books to Jewish families, at no cost to the recipients. In four years, he has given away 2 million books.
The PJ Library, as he calls it, is the signature effort in a flurry of charitable giving by Grinspoon and his wife that has exceeded $100 million in recent years, mostly to Jewish causes. They plan to give away a few hundred million more, willing their estate to their foundation to endow PJ Library forever. Grinspoon envisions a day when nearly all Jewish children in North America will have his books in their bedtime rotation.
He is a singular character: a real estate titan with little formal Jewish education who has made it his cause to strengthen the religious and cultural identity of Jews everywhere, in particular those who are children of mixed marriages, who are hesitant about setting foot in synagogue, or who live beyond traditional Jewish hubs.