The Friends You Keep

A letter from Winnie Sandler Grinspoon

A few months after the birth of my first child, I received a call from a woman named Marilyn.  We did not know one another, but Marilyn heard that I was a new mom and lived in the neighborhood.  She was forming a mommy-and-me playgroup, she said.  Was I interested in joining?
Yes I was interested!  I was new to town.  My family and friends lived far away.  The days at home were long.  I needed to get out of the house with my baby, and I wanted to find friends among the other exhausted women who were sharing this extraordinary experience of new motherhood.
And so began our weekly playgroup.  For the next few years we met at each other's homes. We watched our babies learn to crawl and walk and run together.  We shared tips and supported one another through colic and teething and all the rest.  Some of us returned to an office and some of us welcomed more children. Eventually school and other activities took over.  The playgroup was no more, but we continued to share a special bond.  We still do.

I was in Los Angeles recently and met two dynamic and engaging young mothers — Jennifer and Yaira — who are involved with The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and PJ Library.  These young women are serving as PJ Library connectors to new moms.  The program, called Community Connectors, is the brainchild of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, and is funded by PJ Library’s National Alliance Partners.
As Community Connectors, Jennifer and Yaira contact moms who have enrolled their babies in PJ Library.  They ask these moms if they would like to meet other new PJ Library moms in the neighborhood. The overwhelming response has been yes.  In the few short weeks that Jennifer and Yaira have been serving in this role, they have arranged multiple playgroups and coffees and connected women through a Facebook group.  Both Jennifer and Yaira report that the response to the program has been outstanding.
New moms crave face-to-face social connections with one another. It doesn’t matter whether they have returned to work outside the home, or whether they are new to town. Young moms everywhere want the same connection I wanted. 
But there is something more here.  Jennifer told us these women, PJ Library moms, want to meet other moms raising Jewish children.  Creating Jewish friendships for themselves and for their children is important to them.  They want Jewish community.  They say as much. 
I told Jennifer and Yaira the story of my playgroup and that I would be hosting our first ever playgroup reunion. I told them what that friendship group meant to me then and of the enduring bond that remains between us. Somehow time has flown by and our babies are in college. Looking back, we see how very fortunate we were to have the friendship, support and guidance of one another while we were busy figuring out how to be, in my friend Karen's words, good and sane parents. We created our own cherished community.

I look forward to hearing how the young moms who connect through PJ Library and the Community Connectors in LA build their special community together.   

Winnie Sandler Grinspoon
President, Harold Grinspoon Foundation

One of the key goals of PJ Library's engagement program is to help parents make social connections. We've all heard the phrase "It takes a village" when it comes to raising children. PJ Library connectors introduce families to peers to share in the triumphs and challenges of raising Jewish children today. Whether a parent is choosing a preschool, figuring out what their family is going to do on a Sunday afternoon, or debating the best approach to teaching their children about values, having a peer group makes all the difference. Over coffee, coloring books, Legos, and Shabbat tables, Jewish families are connecting to each other, and to Jewish life.