A new initiative of Jewish book club PJ Library is striving to help interfaith, single-parent and unengaged families with young children enhance Jewish learning and create deeper connections with the Jewish Atlanta community.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta has launched PJ Baby in part to connect people with synagogues, preschools and other local organizations and make them feel more comfortable attending events they may not know about.
“There is often this notion that the community is not very welcoming for people who live in the city or those who are just moving to Atlanta, but we want to help change that,” said Nathan Brodsky, Federation’s PJ Library engagement associate.
The program targets families with children under age 3 who live in areas that may have a Jewish presence but not necessarily a community. The key to the program are people identified as PJ Baby Connectors
“We were looking to cast a wide net to see which areas would create the best connectors,” Brodsky said.
Since its launch in mid-October, PJ Baby has found connectors Ana Rodriquez in Smyrna/Vinings, Abbey Adler in Johns Creek/Alpharetta and Leah Stinson in East Roswell/Norcross, based on similar interests and values.
The women hosted a fall sensory play date in November and plan to schedule more programs. Each connector has free rein over the types of events she hosts, Brodsky said. “We’ve found that families are eager to make a connection and looking for something Jewish. It doesn’t have to be a Shabbat program or related to an upcoming holiday but can be as simple as a play group in the park.”
While some families and areas have been receptive to PJ Baby Connectors, Brodsky said other neighborhoods have taken a bit longer and are surprised that the program exists. “I think people want to make friendships but are also curious about what the program is, what it looks like and what it could be.”
He said he expects to expand the program to more areas.
Stinson said it is too soon to determine whether the program has affected her involvement in the community, but she looks forward to getting more people to join from her neighborhood.
“When you live far away from synagogues or are not really affiliated with one, it is helpful to have Jewish people around you and host events that you are normally removed from,” she said. Stinson plans to host a weekend Chanukah party for families and hopes it will help generate more personal relationships.
“We were looking for great people that would help bring the community together and found three strong connectors which could tackle that challenge in a way that would be receptive toward that,” Brodsky said.
“At the end of the day, we are looking to build Jewish communities in different areas so individuals have someone to call, whether it’s to get a cup of coffee or to join them for tot Shabbat.
“We are not trying to connect the families to everything but just what’s right for them.”