MJCC takes reins of PJ Library

PHOTO: Holden Regnier shares one of the PJ Library books he plans to share with children during story time at the Chai Baby Indoor Playground in the MJCC Sportsplex each month.

Mittleman Jewish Community Center’s new role as implementing partner of the Portland-area PJ Library dovetails perfectly with the center’s new strategic plan to enhance youth and family engagement (see related story). The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, which assumed leadership of the Portland-area program in 2011, remains the funding partner.
 “PJ Library is an important part of our ability to engage and communicate with families that are looking for Jewish resources, programs and events for their children,” says MJCC Executive Director Steve Albert.
PJ Library, a program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, has delivered more than 50 million free books to Jewish families. Since the program came to Portland in 2007, more than 4,437 local children have received free books. Currently, 1,385 children from birth to age 8 receive a free book each month. Nearly 300 local youth ages 8½ to 12 choose a free book each month through PJ Our Way.
As the PJ Library’s implementing partner, the MJCC will offer those families more programs and experiences to further their Jewish connections at the J and throughout the entire Jewish community. PJ Library will work with community partners across the community to hold programs.
“We hopefully can connect more PJ Library families to the MJCC who may not be familiar with us, and vice versa,” says MJCC Youth Programs Manager Daylee Shaw.
“PJ Library seems like an amazing avenue for connecting with folks,” adds Shaw.
The MJCC has programming options for children as young as 6 months. Many first-time families or those new to the area will have the opportunity to learn about the youth programs the community center has to offer, including camps, childcare, and other activities and events.
“I am so excited for this opportunity for the MJCC to take on a new family engagement program, and I look forward to partnering with them in a variety of ways,” says Rachel Nelson, who has managed PJ Library since 2015 in her role as JFGP Director of Educational Initiatives. “This is a community partnership to help families connect with the Jewish community and find their Jewish home in Portland.”
PJ Library already has introduced thousands of families to the resources the Jewish community has to offer and has helped families already connected to the commuinty to access free books to enrich their families' Jewish engagement.
“The MJCC is extremely grateful to JFGP for its partnership on the PJ Library program,” says Albert. “While the books are subsidized by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, the cost is still substantial, and the J doesn’t have the financial resources to cover the cost of the books. The Federation’s support of the purchase of PJ Library books is critical to offering this program to the Portland Jewish community.”
Albert calls Youth Programs Assistant Manager Holden Regnier “the point person for PJ Library.”
Regnier will write and distribute the PJ Library e-newsletter, lead story hours and oversee the program in general.
“Youth programs are returning to the good turnout we had before the pandemic,” says Regnier. “This is an opportunity to connect with more families in the Portland area.”
The J will bring back story time to Chai Baby sessions beginning this month, with story hour during the Jan. 5 Chai Baby Indoor Playground. On the first Thursday of the month, the MJCC opens its Indoor Playground from 10 am to noon to nonmember parents/caregivers and their children ages 6 months to 5 years old.
The J will also apply for engagement grants from PJ Library national to help fund additional programs to find new families, build relationships between families, engage them in high-quality Jewish experiences and empower parents to take the lead in their family’s Jewish life.
“This is a great way to promote the J’s camps and afterschool programs to people who are not connected with the JCC,” says Regnier.
“I look forward to working with Holden and the JCC as they grow and expand their young family engagement program,” says Nelson. Through her work with newcomer families and the Portland Area Jewish Educators, she will continue to look out for young families and connect them with PJ Library.
Kids from birth to age 8 enrolled in PJ Library receive a free Jewish children’s book every month, and kids ages 9-12 who sign up for PJ Our Way can go online each month and choose a comic book or graphic novel.
To sign up kids for PJ Library, visit pjlibrary.org/communities/portland. To sign up for PJ Our Way, go to pjourway.org.



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