I first saw the announcement on the PJ Library Professionals Facebook page, a call to action, so to speak. The Houston area was still in dire straits as families were beginning to return to their homes ravaged by Hurricane Harvey. The devastation was unimaginable. Here in Southern California we watched helplessly while viewing scenes of utter destruction flash across our TV screens.
The call went out to all PJ Library Professionals in the U.S. and fifty communities responded with a resounding “count us in!” The ask was not for money, or time or supplies, it was for books, specifically PJ Library books to send to the Jewish Community Center in Houston who would then get them to the PJ Library families who now had none. It was an easy ask. All we had to do was inform our families that if they had gently used or outgrown books, we could find them a new home in Houston.
And so we asked and the books began to pour in. A young father with a baby in the stroller and a toddler by the hand knocked on the door of our Jewish Federation office. “We live just around the corner,” he said, “and I have never been here before.” His little son handed me a bag of books he wanted to give to the kids in the city where there was a “…very big wind!” We hugged and they left.
Over 250 books made their way to our office in Monrovia. The PJ Library office folks gave us very specific instructions about how to divide them into age groupings and exactly how many sets of each age group were requested. Nothing was left to chance, that seems to be the PJ way! We packed our cartons and sent them off just a couple of weeks ago and inside we included beautiful, hand-made bookmarks created by our PJ Our Way Kids Club, each with a message of encouragement or words of love.
As in several of the other communities participating in this grand mitzvah project, we had several books left over which did not fit in the groupings requested. And then, unfortunately, another devastating tragedy struck, only this time a little closer to home. In the fires that ravaged northern California many homes were lost and all the contents turned to ash. PJ Library books are needed there too and as this magazine goes to press arrangements are being made to do another collection and send the books we have to our neighbors to the north.
It’s not by chance that PJ Library administrators happened upon these efforts to try to ease the pain created by a duo of unpredictable acts of nature. Acting justly, giving charitably, treating others with respect, having empathy toward other creatures, being kind are all Jewish values that represent one of the three pillars on which the framework of PJ Library is built and which are reflected in the books which make up the PJ Library library. Jewish Values, Jewish Narratives and Jewish Cycles represent the core content themes of all PJ Library books and through these stories PJ Library strives to help to help bring more kindness and compassion into the world.
Our community heeded the call for help in a very impressive way and I would like to take this opportunity to thank you and to remind us all that, as our sages said in Pirke Avot, “It is not incumbent upon us to finish the work, but neither are we free to absolve ourselves from it.” And, I would like to thank PJ Library for helping us to find a way to do a little world repair.