By Rabbi Yonah Bookstein | Jewish Journal
If you want to help those children learn Hebrew, then sign up today for Sifriyat Pijama, a new program delivering Hebrew children's stories to Israeli-American and other Jewish-American families to read at bedtime.
Just today I was speaking with yet another couple about Hebrew, or rather, the lack of Hebrew, in their lives. They feel alienated from furthering participation in Jewish religious life because they don't know Hebrew, and feel unable to pass on their love of Judaism -- or Hebrew -- to their kids.
For centuries we have worked very hard to pass on Hebrew from generation to generation. And Hebrew has persisted against all odds because it binds together the people who have defied all the odds.
Today Hebrew is THE international Jewish language. The largest single Jewish society in the world, Israel, uses Hebrew. More Jewish books are published each year in Hebrew than in any other language. More Jewish music is released in Hebrew. Most Jewish newspapers in the world are written in Hebrew. More movies with Jewish themes are released in Hebrew. Nuf said, you get the picture.
In my upcoming book, Teach Your Children Well: 50 Reasons To Send Your Child To Jewish Day School, I focus on the importance of teaching your kids Hebrew from a young age. One of the reasons is because Hebrew is the key to understanding who we are, what we believe in, and where we are going.
Thanks to Sifriyat Pijama, the Israeli counterpart of the American PJ Library which has been distributing Jewish values-based books to kids and parents, thousands of Jewish families and kids will have a better chance to grasp Hebrew. If the popularity of PJ Library is any yardstick, this program will be very popular. Jewish parents want to educate their children Jewishly more than any time in the last two generations. PJ Library is so successful that it has franchised across the country, with approximately 170,000 subscribers.
Adam & Gila Milstein, creative and passionate philanthropists who are major sponsors of our Jewlicious Festival, saw the success of PJ Library, and saw a great opportunity to spread the concept to Hebrew. They have launched Sifriyat Pijama from Los Angeles, home to the largest Israeli ex-pat community in the America, together with the Israeli Leadership Council, and the Harold Grinspoon Foundation.
Until today most of these Hebrew bedtime story books were only available in Israel. Thanks to Pijama, they will be distributing Hebrew bedtime stories for free starting this school year to 1,000 families.
The reason they are handing out free books? To strengthen Jewish identity in children.
"We believe that by learning about Jewish values from a young age, and hearing stories in Hebrew," said Adam Milstein said, "Jewish children are more likely to share a strong appreciation and affinity for their shared Jewish culture and language."
How do you qualify? If you have children ages 3-5 year old kids in the United States that wish to read books in Hebrew to their young kids before bed time -- you qualify.
Deadline for registering is July 15th, in order for the registrants to receive the entire set for the 2011-2012 school year.
I'm signing up right now for my kids.