Choice is key part of PJ Our Way, an extension of PJ Library that enables kids to build leadership skills and create their own experiences, says the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta’s family impact manager, Nathan Brodsky.
After Brodsky noticed that other communities had created design teams that allowed kids to have fun and practice Judaism in ways that are meaningful to them, he was inspired by Chicago’s PJ Our Way to launch the program in Atlanta.
Every month, kids ages 8 to 12 select one of four Jewish-themed chapter books to read and discuss with other Jewish kids who may share similar interests, such as watching sports or just playing and having fun.
The first meeting of the Leadership Squad, the title the kids came up with after brainstorming names, took place March 4 at Atlanta Rocks! Each child was asked to climb and reach a leadership value posted along the rock wall.
Because the Leadership squad runs alongside the “When I Grow Up” series in March, April and May, Brodsky said, the kids will meet twice, once beforehand to help with programing and once after to debrief on what the next series should look like. There are 15 members in the group, which will meet again in June.
Since the squad’s inception, Brodsky said, the response from parents has been positive and somewhat overwhelming. Several parents have expressed appreciation for the program, he said, because their children might not have been enrolled in a religious day school or because they are one of three Jewish kids their age. Brodsky said the program is low barrier and that the first event was free.
What’s neat about the programming, Brodsky said, is that parents have an opportunity to interact while their kids get to know one another. “It was very impactful for me to see that parents are also benefiting from the program.”
Participants must apply for PJ Our Way, driving demand among parents eager to enroll their child. Brodsky said, “For now, there is a lot of interest, which means that this is something right and something people are looking for.”
PJ Our Way includes the “When I Grow Up” series, which helps children view adulthood through a Jewish lens and focus on Jewish professions the kids might see as career paths in life. “We want to get that kid that is super into food, likes science or is artistic, and are trying to create a diverse range of experiences to attract a diverse group of kids,” Brodsky said.
Registration for the first event, including a trip to the Weather Channel’s Cobb County headquarters and a meeting with a Jewish meteorologist, filled in less than two days, Brodsky said. But enrollment is open for explorations of the careers of illustrator and chef.
Brodsky said that having a choice empowers kids and that the programs help them create something for themselves. “Kids are intelligent, strong and mighty, and to enable them to make a great choice and the right decision is one of the main reasons we are doing this,” he said. “We are supporting kids to choose their own Jewish journey and giving them options of what that can look like.”