Lena’s face lights up each month when the white package with blue lettering arrives. An envelope from THE ASSOCIATED: Jewish Community Federation and PJ Library, it’s a new book to read – and love – with her parents.
The Stolltze family – Claire, Daniel and daughter Lena, 3, – heard about PJ Library shortly before Lena was born. Living downtown, far from the large Jewish contingent in Pikesville and Owings Mills, the Stolltze family was excited about the opportunity to incorporate Judaism into their home. When they originally enrolled there was a waiting list, but Lena started receiving books by the time that she was one.
Claire says she views PJ Library as a way to revitalize lost rituals, Jewish practices that her and her husband’s families didn’t celebrate or participate in.
“We rediscover them through the books,” says Claire.
The family has picked out their favorites, like “Goodnight Sh’ma,” by Jacqueline Jules.
“Our parents didn’t do this with us, this little bedtime ritual, and it’s just really nice,” says Claire.
Lena loves the “Oy, Baby!” CD, which the family received just after Lena’s first birthday. They’ve been playing it in the car ever since and now Lena knows all the words. Claire says she didn’t go to Jewish summer camp, though her husband did. He knows many of the songs and the CD has allowed her to bond with both her daughter and her husband.
The Stolltzes had kids later than many of their friends, but Lena is in a playgroup with a couple of other Jewish children. They also receive PJ Library books. Since some of the kids are slightly younger – and some slightly older – they are able to exchange books and talk about them. PJ Library books also spark conversations for Claire with other mothers at Tot Shabbat or other Jewish events downtown.
“I cannot drive my daughter 45 minutes to a Jewish day school or preschool,” says Claire. “But I am able to learn from the books and to teach my child.”
Claire says she is expecting her second child soon. She can’t wait to open the Jewish world to the baby through the books they have already received and she knows Lena will now also be able to play a role in teaching the baby through sharing the PJ books she knows and loves.
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