This week, Israeli Ministry of Education officials are visiting MetroWest (New Jersey) JCC preschool classrooms along with staff from The PJ Library in order to experience first-hand how the program works in the U.S., and its value and meaning to young Jewish Americans and their families. The knowledge will be used to grow and improve their sister program in Israel. MetroWest is currently piloting the PJ Goes to School program in nine schools. Last year, Harold Grinspoon, The PJ Library’s founder, was inspired to pilot a classroom component to the program after seeing Sifriyat Pijama in Israel. Having the Israeli officials see how the program works in the US is an important focus for them during their visit this week.

In North America, The PJ Library program primarily serves 71,000 children by sending free Jewish children’s books to their homes in 140 communities in the US and Canada. Last year, The PJ Library expanded its North American reach into Israel with a sister program in Hebrew called “Sifriyat Pijama” which gives free books to preschool students in their schools. Currently, the program operates in some 70 communities, serving more than 40,000 children. Sifriyat Pijama fits with national goals in Israel to promote reading among young children and to teach children about their heritage.

Haddad Ma Yafit, director of the preschool division of the Israeli Ministry of Education, said that “Sifriyat Pijama is one of the programs in our national project that is focusing on ‘the Year of the Hebrew Language.’ This is an effort to encourage reading in both the kindergarten and at home, with special emphasis on good literature and the promotion of values among pre-school children.” Next year, the ministry has chosen the theme of “heritage,” an appropriate fit for Sifriyat Pijama which specifically chooses books that can be used to learn about Jewish values.