Duo represents Federation at national PJ Library conference


Volunteer Aleah Mathews (l) and JFGO's Jennifer Cohen.

Two representatives of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando joined more than 200 participants from seven countries who gathered April 10-12 in Baltimore for the 8th Annual PJ Library Conference.

Jennifer Cohen, JFGO's director of Outreach and Engagement, and Aleah Mathews, volunteer co-chair of JFGO's Shalom Families committee, represented Greater Orlando at the conference.

PJ Library, a program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation that is administered and subsidized locally by the Jewish Federation, delivers free age-appropriate Jewish books and music each month to families with children ages 6 months to 8 years. Shalom Families is a Federation outreach program that engages young families in regular events that incorporate PJ Library books and lessons.

The goal of the April conference was to share knowledge, make connections, grow local programs and build friendships - all with the purpose of creating stronger bonds among Jewish families in local communities and around the world. 

The conference kicked off with a warm welcome from Harold Grinspoon, the founder and visionary of PJ Library, and foundation President Winnie Grinspoon. Since its inception eight years ago, PJ Library has sent 13,940,728 books to families raising Jewish children. The Grinspoon Foundation estimates that at least 1 million people (children, siblings, parents, grandparents and caregivers) will have had contact with the 435,695 books sent out in April alone.

In Central Florida, about 500 families receive PJ Library books and music each month. This fall, Orlando's PJ Library program will celebrate its 6th birthday-and its 25,000th book delivered.

At the conference, Cohen and Mathews had the opportunity to meet and share ideas with representatives of other PJ Library communities in various networking groups. The opening session culminated with a presentation by keynote speaker Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, author of the book "Nurture the Wow: Finding Spirituality in the Frustration, Boredom, Tears, Poop, Desperation, Wonder, and Radical Amazement of Parenting."

Cohen said the conference offered opportunities to learn and engage at virtually every turn, through workshops, strategy sessions and more.

"Every minute of the day was spent learning-even during meals," she said. "The meal table sessions gave us the chance to speak with various program professionals in very small groups on a wide range of topics-everything from social media to grant applications."

Cohen said her experience at the conference confirmed that the Orlando Federation's PJ Library/Shalom Families program is doing an effective job of building meaningful, lasting relationships among families.

"Aleah and I certainly came away with some wonderful new ideas, but it was also great to see how far our local PJ/Shalom Families program has progressed," Cohen said.

One impact that the Orlando PJ community is having at the national level, Cohen said, is that PJ Library is now featuring photos of Orlando's local programs and PJ Library families in their marketing collateral.

"The national PJ Library program highlighted our community in their December issue of PROOF Magazine, and when you visit the PJ Library website at PJLibrary.org, you'll see photos of some of our local children and families," Cohen said.

Mathews said the national conference was both rewarding and motivating.

"Attending this conference was an absolutely energizing experience," Mathews said. "Grasping the scope of how absolutely vast this organization is was truly eye-opening. PJ Library connects with so many Jewish families in so many countries, and I loved witnessing the amazing talent of so many connected to PJ Library."

See more on the PJ Library Orlando Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/PJLibraryOrlando.


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