PJ Library's Israeli Program for Underserved Preschoolers Triples

Sifriyat Pijama now serving 40 percent of Israel's public preschools.

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- In three short years, PJ Library's sister program in Israel, Sifriyat Pijama, has grown dramatically, providing Hebrew language children's books to the country's neediest preschoolers.

In 2009, the pre-literacy and Jewish heritage program started by serving 3,500 preschoolers in Israel. A year later, it grew to 45,000 children, and this fall, the program will triple, serving 120,000 young children. Sifriyat Pijama will now reach more than 4,000 of the 10,000 public preschools in Israel, youngsters in 100 Jewish communities.

"What's really important is that when you are reaching 40 percent of the public school population with the same books, you really are creating a common heritage in a divisive society where religious and secular children usually do not read the same books," said Galina Vromen, Sifriyat Pijama's Director in Israel.

Another noteworthy aspect of Sifriyat Pijama is that it creates a new market for books with a broad appeal about Jewish heritage and values where very few high-quality books existed before, Vromen said. She has even dispatched a researcher to the National Library of Israel to research out-of-print books and stories. Several are now being brought back into print and newly illustrated through this program.

Sifriyat Pijama has also has prompted the translation of some popular selections of the PJ Library into Hebrew. She cites Bagels from Benny, as one example.  "We are stimulating publishers and children's book authors in Israel to think about creating great story books that introduce Jewish culture, folklore, and values to children in fresh and engaging ways," said Vromen.

The Israel Ministry of Education is offering a 48 percent challenge grant. Sifriyat Pijama program officials are seeking matching donations in the amount of $1 million dollars. All money raised will go directly to pay for more books for children.

The Harold Grinspoon Foundation, which operates and funds PJ Library in North America in partnership with donors and Jewish organizations in 145 local communities, covers partial funding for the books and all of the overhead expenses for Sifriyat Pijama.

Partners in funding Sifriyat Pijama include:

  • The Mitzi and Warren Eisenberg Family Foundation
  • The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation
  • The Goldring Family Foundation
  • Central Galilee-Michigan Partnership 2000
  • Western Galilee-Central Area Consortium Partnership 2000
  • Kiryat Gat-Lachish-Shafir-Chicago Partnership 2000
  • Nesher-Broward County Partnership 2000.

All Partnership 2000 communities are through the Jewish Agency for Israel.

Inspired that the combined programs are now reaching 200,000 children worldwide, PJ Library Founder Harold Grinspoon said, "To witness this extraordinary expansion in Israel in such a short time span affirms that the PJ Library is doing an important service in bringing Jewish stories into the hearts and minds of young people all around the world."