NEW YORK – To help Jews in isolated communities across the US connect with the meaning of Passover, the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, dedicated to enhancing Jewish life, handed out holiday kits that included a box of Yehuda Matzos and a booklet filled with traditions, recipes and songs.
Each box of matza in the kits is decorated with an illustration inviting families to explore their Jewish identity by signing up for the PJ Library, the flagship program of the foundation, which delivers nearly two million Jewish books and music to families throughout North America each year.
“At our core, our work at PJ Library and the Harold Grinspoon Foundation is to engage Jews, to help them live Jewishly and build community, which is why we’re always looking for new ways – whether through children’s literature or through boxes of matza – to meet people where they are and to help them connect with their Jewish heritage,” founder Harold Grinspoon said.
This Passover marks the second year of the partnership between the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and Yehuda Matzos. This year’s campaign also includes videos created by the children showing their own holiday recipe creations made using matza.
Some 570 kits were distributed to families in places without a large Jewish community, such as Anchorage in Alaska, Missoula in Montana and Iowa’s Sioux City.
In some of these areas, matza or kosher food are almost impossible to find, let alone a Jewish community center or a Jewish Federation.
Etan Harmelech, who works on the PJ Library, said that the initiative comes from a desire to participate in tikkun olam, to make the world a better place.
“It’s at the core of our mission,” he told The Jerusalem Post on Friday. “We’re always looking for new ways to invite people into the Jewish community and above all we want to be a resource for parents. Some of the parents really don’t have the ability to transmit all of the knowledge of the holiday, so if we can help them do that by giving them some of the tools, that’s what we aim to do.”
The PJ Library, launched in 2005, provides families with free children’s books that deal with Jewish values and traditions so that parents can transmit them to their children.
“It’s definitely about continuity,” Harmelech said. “We know that the family dynamics of the Jewish world, especially outside the Orthodox Jewish world, are changing, and so there are a good portion of families who belong to PJ Library who may only have one parent who was raised Jewish, but that doesn’t mean they’re not looking to raise their children Jewish.”
Harmelech pointed out that, according to the infamous 2013 Pew Research Center survey of US Jews, while American Jews are increasingly likely to say that they have “no religion,” they also express great pride in being Jewish.
“To give them tools and make them feel more confident in passing those values on to their children is a huge thing,” he added.