Far From Home
How PJ Library Supports My Jewish Military Family
By Naama Krauz
PJ LIBRARY PARENT
As a Jewish military family, we have had the good fortune of experiencing life in places far from home – Hawaii, Japan, and Germany, specifically. While we have embraced the cultural differences, languages, and customs of each location, there is one area in which we have felt a distinct yearning: a Jewish community. Truth be told, while I eagerly anticipate each move that brings us a new adventure and the opportunity to meet people I ordinarily would never encounter, once we started having children, my heart ached for the chance to give my kids the opportunity to connect to a Jewish community.
Luckily, at our current duty station in Stuttgart, Germany, we have had the opportunity to engage with the Jewish and Jewish-adjacent children associated with the garrison, all of whom are the children of active-duty military members, government employees, state department employees, or government contractors. Over the past two years, I have created a Jewish curriculum for children in kindergarten through bar/bat mitzvah, and together we have baked, crafted, read, and sang our way through Jewish holidays and traditions.
Every Sunday morning, I read a different PJ Library book to my students. Sammy Spider joins our classroom to explain the basic concepts and symbols of different holidays. Dalia and her comforter teach my students about the importance of tzedakah. Estie demonstrates what it means to be a mensch. Benny and his bagels teach my students the importance of doing mitzvot. Bim and Bom help them learn about taking a rest on Shabbat. The lessons we’ve crafted around these books have been endless.
Most meaningful to our class, however, have been the books that so simply yet profoundly discuss the immense task of moving, turning a house into a home, and establishing old traditions in new places. Mrs. Moskowitz teaches my kids that lighting Shabbat candles in a new and unfamiliar place adds warmth and comfort. Adding a mezuzah to a door suddenly transforms a new dwelling into a blessed place, and there is both bitter and sweet to every move.
We are endlessly thankful for the life lessons PJ Library books have lent us as Jewish nomads. As both a mom and an educator, I am grateful for the resources I can use to teach my children, my students, and even the Department of Defense classmates of my children when I am inevitably called upon to teach lessons in the public school setting that revolve around popular Jewish holidays. PJ Library has enriched the lives we are able to lead as a Jewish military family, and although I will continue to yearn for a large and vibrant Jewish community, I am relieved to have the resources I need to teach my children to love their Judaism as much as I do.
SUPPORTING US MILITARY FAMILES
Many Jewish families experience the daily challenges that come with living far from Jewish community – finding Kosher food, celebrating holidays, gathering with other Jewish families, introducing Jewish traditions and values to their children, and exploring and embracing Jewish life and identity as a family.
Jewish US military families stationed around the world know these challenges all too well. But thanks to PJ Library, Jewish life comes to them.
More than 2,000 children of US military families can connect to Jewish values, traditions, and culture through PJ Library books and resources. Parents are further supported when they join the private PJ Library Families Facebook group, which has become a thriving hub for parents whose families don’t live near an organized Jewish community. This year, PJ Library continued the tradition of helping these military families celebrate Passover with deliveries of the PJ Library Haggadah along with a box of Yehuda Matzos. Funding for military families is provided by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and generous donors.