PJ Library Takes Hold in the Big Apple

Ari Rojavski, 4 ½, his mother Marina and Harold Grinspoon

With more than 6,000 families in the New York area receiving PJ Library’s free Jewish children’s books, Harold Grinspoon – the Library’s founder and benefactor – will deliver the Library’s two millionth book to a family in New York City today.

PJ Library’s New York footprint extends across every borough, north into Westchester County, and out onto Long Island – including reaching homes in the Hamptons. In its ongoing expansion, the program is bringing together families amid a diverse Jewish community in New York.

An important part of the New York outreach effort is to the city’s large community of Russian-speaking Jewish families – many of whom do not have a connection to Jewish institutional life. It is well-known that Russian-speaking Jews, who comprise about 20-25% percent of the New York City Jewish population, place a high premium on education, literacy and cultural programs so having free Jewish children’s books come into their homes is an ideal entry point into Jewish life. “Engaging the Russian Jewish community is such an important part of building a strong Jewish future,” says Grinspoon.

Working together, Genesis Philanthropy Group and the Harold Grinspoon Foundation will bring The PJ Library to 1,500 Russian-speaking Jews in the first year and 2,400 in the second year in partnership with Edith Marks JCH, Kingsbay Y and Shorefront Y. “Reading to one’s children or grandchildren has always been a tradition of extreme significance in Russian-Jewish households. With books from The PJ Library, different generations will now have a chance to learn about Jewish history and culture together,” says Stan Polovets, co-founder and CEO of Genesis Philanthropy Group.

Since New York’s Jewish population is second only to that of Tel Aviv, one might think that a Jewish engagement program like The PJ Library is not necessary in New York. But, in such a diverse and dispersed city, it is all the more crucial to connect Jewish families to their faith and one another. The prevalence of Jewish culture in the city may be one of the very reasons Jewish New Yorkers take their heritage for granted. The PJ Library gives families a focused time to read Jewish-themed books together even though they may not be members of a synagogue or affiliated with Jewish organizations.

Other significant donors and partners of The PJ Library in New York are the Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life and The Jewish Education Project.