When her daughter Hannah started Jewish preschool, returning home every day eager to learn more about her heritage, Moorestown resident Michelle Litwick went to her local library seeking books to supplement Hannah’s school learning.
Litwick left practically empty-handed, discovering very few materials beyond a few children’s books on Chanukah.
But now, thanks to collaboration between the Moorestown Jewish Association, the Moorestown Library System, and the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey, the children’s library is stocked with hundreds of Jewish-themed books on a variety of topics, from classic folk tales to stories about the festivals. Many of the books that have found their home in the lending library are gently-used selections from PJ Library, a national book and Jewish family engagement program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, local philanthropists, and the Jewish Federation, that sends high-quality, age-appropriate Jewish books and music to local families each month for free. The books were donated largely from families whose kids have aged out of those PJ Library selections.
“This infusion of books has really plumped up our selections, particularly our numbers and range on holidays,” said a grateful Jennifer Dunne, Moorestown’s children’s librarian.
For Litwick, the chair of MJA’s Tikkun Olam committee, the need was obvious. With the growth of Moorestown’s Jewish population in recent years, Litwick knew more and more young families would be interested in such books.
“When my daughter started going to Kellman Brown Academy, I wanted to read stories to her about Purim, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and other holidays,” said the mother of two. “I ended up paying to get a card for the Cherry Hill library.”
After approaching the main librarian and Jewish Federation, the plan emerged.
A large number of the books came from one source: Bags of Books. This non-profit organization created by Alexa Grabelle, a freshman at Eastern High School, collects used books for distribution in communities in need.
“In the process of collecting books for my organization, Bags of Books, I came across many donations of Jewish books which did not fulfill the needs of the schools Bags of Books serves,” she explained. “I reached out to PJ Library to see if they had any ideas of who could benefit from the books. I was pleased to learn that the Moorestown Library wanted to create a Jewish section using the books that Bags of Books collected.”
Litwick said the library is still accepting donations and would particularly welcome cook and craft selections as well as stories about holidays other than Chanukah. “On behalf of MJA, I would like to thank all the volunteers for helping to build this project,” she added.