By Stephanie Goodling
When Vicki Wax paid a visit to her daughter in New Jersey ten years ago, she had no idea the impact that day would make on her or on the Lehigh Valley Jewish community. Her daughter, Nancy, asked her, “Have you heard of PJ Library?” Wax’s grandson, just five years old at the time, was excited to share a book, “Bagels from Benny,” with her. On the way home, she immediately called her husband, Stan z”l, to tell him that they needed to bring this initiative to the Lehigh Valley. With the partnership of Bonnie and Bobby Hammel and Jean Wiener, they did.
PJ Library is a program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation that sends free Jewish children’s books to families across the world every month. Thanks to the enthusiasm and dedication of Wax, who went on to be the chair starting it off in the Lehigh Valley, PJ Library has now been part of the Lehigh Valley Jewish community for the past 10 years. In October, a birthday party was held to celebrate the growth of this program over the past decade, and Wax was there to read and to hand out the ceremonial 35,000th book gifted in the Valley.
“From the moment I heard about it, I was absolutely enthralled with the idea, the brilliance of it. I’m a former teacher, and I’m a book advocate. I certainly feel my passion is ‘doing Jewish,’ and giving out Jewish books for free for kids, that was in my wheelhouse. And I’m eternally grateful to the Hammels and Jean Wiener who partnered with us,” recalled Wax.
Wax is incredibly proud of seeing how far the program has come in her community ten years on.
“To think that ten years later here we are at our 35,000th book, I get teary when I think about it. This project has had such an unbelievable impact,” she said.
Since it is partially sponsored locally, while other communities at the time had long waiting lists and were only giving out one book per household, the philanthropic families helping to sponsor PJ Library in the Lehigh Valley ensured the funding was there for each child in each home to receive an age-appropriate book every month.
The Waxes actually got to meet with Harold Grinspoon several years ago and learned more about the program and the development of PJ Our Way, which is for kids ages 9-12 who have aged out of the traditional PJ Library program.
“The bottom line is, I always believe, as many of us do, that you get more than you give. I cannot tell you how much pleasure I am truly getting from seeing this program thrive. Ten years have gone by in a heartbeat, and they have led to such an amazing project. Honestly, I think of it as a win-win. It’s a win for us as philanthropists and a win for the kids getting the packages.”
To learn more or sign your family up for PJ Library, contact Abby Trachtman at firstname.lastname@example.org.