Federation Family Impact Manager
Q: You came to Federation to manage PJ Library, but the job has expanded. How has family engagement become the focus?
Nathan: I started working with PJ Library at Federation about four years ago. Back then, we facilitated 50 programs and had a subscription cap supporting 2,500 children with monthly Jewish-themed books. We were able to look at the impact of PJ Library and see it as a strategy for family impact and outreach in Atlanta, a huge shift in vision. I remember sitting on a couch of our co-chair’s home, discussing what it would look like to try something different, and we talked about what would make our first Summer Series successful.
Years later, we’ve changed so much. We’ve added new initiatives, like PJ Connectors who run neighborhood gatherings. We’ve started community-wide programs like our Sweet Summer Series which begins its third year in June. And we’ve expanded our professional team to support our growing impact. Through all of this, we remain focused on improving over previous years and still growing PJ Library subscriptions. We’ve now grown more than 40% over the last four years to support 4,400+ Jewish children every month!
Q: Talk about the innovative work PJ Library is doing to build community and leverage partnerships.
Nathan: I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we view Atlanta as both a large community and a small one. Our community-wide efforts, like our annual concert with The Davis Academy and Book it to Shabbat, our weekend retreat at Ramah Darom, demonstrate the strength of a large community. At the same time, we’re looking at Atlanta’s micro-communities where families want to connect with others like themselves. We now have five PJ Connectors who work with families raising young children in neighborhoods ranging from Smyrna and Brookhaven to Dunwoody and North Fulton. Each PJ Connector supports in-person connections and also manages a virtual community on a private Facebook group that reflects the uniqueness of the neighborhood.
We love partnering! About 50% of all of our experiences are created in partnership with synagogues, preschools, Jewish organizations, and non-Jewish organizations. For anyone who is interested in partnering with PJ Library, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s chat!
Q: How is PJ Library transmitting its values across the community through events in new places and spaces?
Nathan: Sometimes combining Jewish education and being welcoming is a challenge. To bring lessons learned from PJ Library stories to life we’re also doing programs in existing public spaces. It’s part of a strategy to create more Jewish places and make them accessible. For example, we recently focused on the value of derekh eretz (treating all with respect) through sing-alongs at several Jewish assisted living facilities. We focused on the value of Shabbat (resting and rejuvenating) by having Tot Shabbats in the park or in partnership with synagogues. The beauty of PJ Library books is that each person has their own unique takeaway moments. One family read the story Mitzvah Pizza and then brought the story to life by doing a mitzvah (good deed) so that someone who is hungry can have a slice of pizza.
The lasting effect of PJ Library can be seen through the work of three students at Atlanta Jewish Academy who brought the PJ Library story of Raisel’s Riddle to life. For their chagigah (school play), these students created an original play, inspired by their favorite PJ Library book. Maayan Starr, the show’s co-producer, said that they chose this story because it is a “cool take on Judaism that kids can relate to and connects Judaism to the real world.” We at PJ Library are proud to inspire Jewish moments like these throughout Atlanta and for years to come!