Aug 30, 2019

New Grant Helps PJ Library® Build Russian-Speaking Jewish Community in South Palm Beach County – Special Author Event Helps Kick Off New Programming

An important group of South Palm Beach County families raising Jewish children now has exciting new opportunities to participate in Jewish life. Thanks to a competitive grant recently awarded to PJ Library® in South Palm Beach County, an array of special activities for Russian-speaking Jewish (RSJ) engagement are in the works.

Russian-speaking coordinators Marina Goldberg (left) and Julia Orel (right), with Elana Ostroff, local PJ Library Director (center)

PJ Library in South Palm Beach County is one of only seven RSJ Engagement Grant recipients in the country. The winning initiatives are designed to build social connections among Russian-speaking Jewish families and engage them in Jewish life, friendships, programming and learning. Activities might include Jewish holiday celebrations, cultural outings, informal gatherings, Shabbat dinners, programs for parents, and more. There are even a number of PJ Library books available in Russian.

The RSJ Engagement Grant is a partnership initiative of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, which operates the worldwide PJ Library program that provides free books to 640,000 families raising Jewish children all over the world, and Genesis Philanthropy Group, a global foundation focused primarily, but not exclusively, on developing and enhancing Jewish identity among Russian-speaking Jews worldwide. A survey of previous RSJ Engagement-grant funded projects found that nearly all families connected socially, talked about Jewish traditions and values after programs, and recommended the programs to friends.

“We are honored to receive this grant, and thrilled with this opportunity to expand our role in the community with cutting-edge programming to welcome and include our Russian-speaking Jewish families,” said Elana Ostroff, local PJ Library Director.

“Through PJ Library, nearly 2,000 local families are receiving the wonderful gift of top quality Jewish books at home every month. In addition, hundreds of our tweens are part of PJ Our WayTM, the next chapter, and more than 5,000 children, parents and grandparents enjoy PJ activities large and small all across the community every year.”

Two PJ Library moms, Marina Goldberg and Julia Orel, both from West Boca, have begun to work with Ostroff to coordinate the Russian-speakers programming.

Goldberg moved to the U.S. from Kiev, Ukraine as a child with her family. “There was almost no opportunity to learn about Judaism there, and it was not ‘cool to be a Jew,’” she says. “It’s so important to reach out to Russian speaking Jewish families. They are mostly unconnected to Judaism, but once they connect with great activities, they are drawn to such fun ways to learn.”

Also originally from Ukraine, Orel came to the U.S. five years ago from Crimea. “I love how PJ Library offers so many ways to understand Jewish life and heritage, and the Jewish world,” she said. “Without opportunities earlier in our lives, so many of us want our children and ourselves to learn everything we can.”

Author Boris Fishman

Special Author Event for Adults Coming Up September 24

PJ Library in South Palm Beach County invites everyone to an enjoyable evening of particular interest to those with Russian or Eastern European heritage on September 24 at 7:30 pm. Soviet-born, acclaimed author Boris Fishman will speak about his book Savage Feast/A Memoir with Recipes. A family story, an immigrant story, a love story, and an epic meal, it explores the challenges of navigating two cultures from an unusual angle. Held on the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County campus, 9901 Donna Klein Blvd., Boca Raton, the night will also feature wine, cheese, and special delicacies from the book, with dietary laws observed. The cost is $18 per person. Reservations are required at jewishboca.org/author.

For more information about PJ Library, its new Russian-speakers programming, or the author event, email pjlibrary@bocafed.org, call 561.852.6080 or visit jewishboca.org/pjlibrary.

The author event is made possible with the generous support of PJ Library of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation in partnership with Genesis Philanthropy Group, the Jewish federation of South Palm Beach County, Leon and Toby Cooperman Family Foundation and the Jewish Women’s Foundation.