407-645-5933 ext. 236 marisa.west@shalomorlando.org

When it comes time to announce an upcoming PJ Library program, I always pause and wonder, “Will this program be special enough? … Will people come?”

A lot of thought goes into the words we use when we announce an event. We’re asking a young family to trust us with their precious time, and if they do, we will provide them with a uniquely Jewish experience and an opportunity to make meaningful new connections with other families.

Even before a program is promoted through email and social media, we are fortunate to have a wonderful team of parent volunteers behind the scenes making plans to guarantee its success. Take, for example, our recent Sweet Fresh Starts and New Beginnings for Rosh Hashanah at Mead Botanical Garden.

At this program, 23 families were welcomed by the smiling faces of our wonderful parent committee, including Oshrat Molayem, Kim Saffran, Melinda Helbraun and Dikla Meitis, who also organized a Rosh Hashanah family card exchange. Lisa Schrieber shared her incredible yoga teachings for a “Fresh Starts” Rosh Hashanah-themed family yoga, followed by a delicious apple and honey picnic breakfast that was packed with love and enthusiasm the day before by Fiona Anavi. The picnic breakfast was sponsored by Dr. Edward and Phyllis Zissman. Fiona also took portraits of children during the program, and just in case we ran out of picnic breakfasts, Oshrat made sure the kids had extra healthy snacks. Even Mead Garden invited us to enjoy the park at no cost!

One of the most rewarding aspects of our family events — indeed, the overarching goal of these events — is when we foster lasting, meaningful connections. Clearly those connections are strong among our parent volunteers, and that camaraderie is contagious! We know we are fulfilling our mission when we see families connect, forge new friendships, find a comfortable way to fit in Jewishly, and then continue on their personal Jewish family journey into the larger community. Knowing that we were there for them when they needed us feels like a warm hug, and it gives us momentum for the next family program.

We also believe it’s our duty to maintain and nurture the connections we have helped to create, so we make sure to stay in regular contact with our families. Each month, our PJ Library families (now 700+ families receiving a book each month!) also receive a special PJ Library e-newsletter. In addition to letting them know about our next program and sharing photo memories of our events, we also share a young-family community calendar, which features contributions from synagogues, Jewish day schools and other organizations. In October, for example, there are 10 additional programs available in the community for young families, and we love that we are able to connect these families to other Jewish organizations all over Central Florida! Last month, we redesigned our newsletter. You’re invited to take a peek, and also “like” and follow us and our upcoming events on Facebook.

Thank you for supporting Federation’s PJ Library and giving us the tools to help create the connections that make our Jewish community bigger, stronger and more vibrant!