Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City

THE “MAKER” MOVEMENT has arrived. Makers are those who create, innovate, and design for themselves. Parents of young children are drawn to “do-it- yourself ” solutions and ideas. In a world of mass-produced products, being a maker allows parents to craft something meaningful and relevant—even in the realm of Jewish identity formation.

PJ Library parents in Kansas City, Kansas, many of whom consider themselves makers, jumped at the opportunity to create a do-it-yourself Jewish experience with the support of PJ Library Get Together Grants. The grants, offered by PJ Library, awarded PJ Library parents up to $150 to create a Jewish experience for themselves and at least two other PJ Library families.

Empowerment: PJ Library Get Together Grants allowed for the cultivation of leadership and confidence. Most parents have only had the chance to show up and participate in Judaism, rather than design the Jewish experiences they want to explore. PJ Library allowed parents to grow from passively consuming their Judaism to becoming a creator of it.

Experimentation: Families were given the opportunity to try on new traditions and activities, often with new groups of people they might not have engaged were it not for the framework of the PJ Library Get Together Grants. As parents with young children, we are drawn to authenticity, the customizable and unique. We are looking for the right fit when it comes to weaving ancient Jewish traditions with our modern lives.

For interfaith families, checking out a new way to celebrate a Jewish holiday, perhaps by connecting it with a secular tradition, was quite popular—think hitting the pumpkin patch with Jewish friends on Rosh Hashanah or a New Year’s Eve Shabbat dinner.

For families with two working parents, the grants were an opportunity to experiment with a time that was customized for their busy schedules, such as a weekend, evening after work, or the chance for some self-care with adults-only night out.

Making a Community: The creation of community is essential to the strengthening of our Jewishness. Without others around to “do Jewish” with, the sense of peoplehood and connection is lost. More than anything, the grants helped to make a more vibrant Jewish Kansas City. While most people like big parties, and I often program with the goal in mind to fill a room, families are also looking for intimate gatherings.

In Kansas City, because of our smaller-sized Jewish community or the “there’s no place like home” attitude, there is often a disconnect between native and newcomer. Smaller groups give people a chance to make new friends and deepen old connections, or perhaps finish a conversation with a new friend last started when they were chasing their little one around at the large PJ Library Hanukkah party. PJ Library Get Together Grants helped to build and cultivate warm and welcoming communities that go beyond just seeing a familiar face at preschool drop-off, to forming critical connections to being Jewish and building Jewish community.

AMY RAVIS FUREY served as the outreach and engagement manger and director of PJ Library at the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City, where she created robust programming and concierge services connecting young Jewish families to each other and to the Jewish community. Amy is married to Brian Furey. Together they have two children, Michael, 9 and Emma, 6.