kids with books 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
How do you teach Judaism to the Jews? According the Harold Grinspoon Foundation,
it’s best done in one’s pajamas, and it’s best to start with the
Along those lines, the multi-million dollar Massachusetts-based
philanthropic foundation, partnering with the Education Ministry, recently
launched a new project aimed at teaching Judaism’s core values to thousands of
Jewish preschoolers throughout Israel by distributing some 360,000 Hebrew
children’s books for free.
“We’ve had some really great feedback
already,” commented Galina Vromen, director of “Sifriyat Pijama
” (Library in
Pajamas) and the Israel representative of the Grinspoon foundation, which five
years ago initiated a similar project, PJ Library – Jewish Bedtime Stories and
Songs For Families – to great acclaim in the US.
“In Israel, kindergarten
teachers are leading this project, and we have seen some really innovative ideas
where they have the children come and read the books in their pajamas, or they
have pajama parties with the parents,” explained Vromen.
The main goal of
the project, tested last year as a pilot for some 3,000 pre-school children in
the North and extended last month to 40,000 children in 1,500 kindergartens
countrywide, is to promote early education literacy and teach children how
Jewish values relate to universal issues.
“We look at Judaism as a value
system and not so much as a religion,” said Vromen. “It could be what Judaism
says about how to treat sick people, or how it approaches the issue of
In addition to the Grinspoon Foundation and the Education
Ministry, Sifriyat Pijama is also supported by The Israel Center for Libraries
and some Partnership 2000 communities in the North. A number of local
authorities too have contributed to the project, which has an annual budget of
$1.25 million a year, with the ministry providing NIS 45 per child per
“In a short time we leapt from 3,000 children during the pilot
phase to some 40,000 children who will take part in the program this year,”
Vromen said, adding, “this project empowers parents with knowledge and tools to
convey Jewish values and concepts to their children in a meaningful
While the books selected for the program have a focus on core
Jewish values, books by authors such as Meir Shalev and Leah Goldberg also place
an emphasis on Hebrew literature, said Vromen.
Each book comes with two
pages of recommendations for family discussion and
Kindergarten teachers are encouraged to organize activities
and programs surrounding the themes of each book before sending them home with
An evaluation of last year’s pilot program showed that 72
percent of the kindergartens conducted activities after reading the book and 11%
held programs together with the parents.
Most of the teachers questioned
in the evaluation said that Sifriyat Pijama increased reading of books to
children, and that more than half the families parents read the books to their
children at home.
“This is an effort to encourage reading in both the
kindergarten and at home, with special emphasis on good literature and the
promotion of values among pre-school children,” said Sima Haddad Ma Yafit, head
of the preschool division in the Education Ministry.
She added that
Sifriyat Pijama was one of the programs in our national project that is focusing
on “The Year of the Hebrew Language.”