"We Read to Know We Are Not Alone"

“Mummy, will I get a Christian egg?” my 5 year old innocently asked me. I looked down in to my shopping trolley consisting of some last minute Passover preparations; matzos, horseradish, grape juice… and some chocolate eggs for the Easter party we were going to the next day. 

I have two daughters, a 5 year old and 1 year old. My children’s father is agnostic, with atheist tendencies (though supportive of myself and our children’s beliefs). My eldest embraces her Jewish identity (though this is was mostly categorised by those who eat pork and those who don’t!).. She enjoys going to synagogue and the Jewish festivals and she also enjoys eating chocolate eggs. 

I love the diversity within my friendship group and the countries, cultures and lifestyles my children get to experience through them. In the UK as a whole, we live in a largely Christian world: school holidays rotate around the main festivals and shops are filled with the relevant cards and decorations. So where does our Jewish identity fit in to all of this and how do I offer this to my children whilst not ‘banning’ then from all the experiences their friends are having and talking about, such as Christmas parties, the school nativity and Easter egg hunts?

I live in a non-Jewish area, my daughter is the only Jewish child in her school. Our local library which we visit regularly, has no books on Judaism beyond the dry, factual books where we learn about Jewish people as ‘them’ and not ‘us’. Our local synagogue is 45 minutes’ drive away, and though we attend the children’s events and services where we can, often life (swimming lessons, birthday parties, distance etc) interferes.

When I heard about PJ library, I wasn’t too sure what it was beyond some free books for kids on Judaism - great! I’m the sole wage earner for our family and money is tight. In addition,  I wouldn’t really know where to look for such books, so I signed up. 

WOW. What an amazing organisation.

The books arrive addressed to Kaya (my daughter) meaning she has her very own post. They are not always based around a festival, in fact Avi the Ambulance, a recent book about the Israeli emergency services, is one of her favourite books. She is going to be ‘an ambulance doctor or a ghost buster’ when she grows up, she hasn’t decided which yet.

The books tell stories of the festivals and the ethos of Judaism in an appealing way as if you were reading any other book. Kaya is learning and getting involved in the story without feeling like she is ‘being taught’. PJ library helps me talk about Judaism to my 5 year old in a way that she wants to hear about it. Since we have subscribed, her knowledge and involvement in her religion has increased. To quote Shadowlands ‘we read to know we are not alone’- there could not be a more apt quote.

Whoever the founders, organisers, drivers are of PJ library, you guys are amazing. Thank you for helping me bring both the understanding and the ‘us’ in to my daughter’s understanding of her Jewish faith.

 

Vicky lives in Leeds with her partner, their two daughters and their dog. They live an active life and love to get outdoors. Vicky’s main hobby is Brazilian Ju Jitsu, Kaya loves to create and junk model and Neeve will dance whenever she hears the faintest beat.