Although my grandchildren's parents are Jewish, they are not being brought up as practising Jews so we value how these books give us a way to talk about Judaism, Israel, the festivals and what it means to be a Jew.
We have always spent a lot of time reading with all our grandchildren but the wide selection of books we have received from the PJ Library has covered both the major and minor festivals, as well as enabling us to introduce important topics in an informal manner. We really appreciate the variety of the books, that they are attractively presented and often use humour to deliver quite a serious message, such as in The Mitzvah Magician when a little boy learns to help his mother at home.
The Sweet Passover and Little Red Ruthie gave us recipes for matzoh brei and potato latkes which have become firm favourites and we love cooking these together. Some of the books have covered more serious issues. Yaffa and Fatima; Shalom, Salaam has an important message concerning both friendship and racism which the children could relate to and were keen to discuss. The Secret Shofar of Barcelona enabled us to talk about the history of the Jewish people and ask them to imagine what it was like to live as a ‘secret Jew’. Latterly, the Concert in the Sand, which fascinated them, brought in the topic of the foundation of the State of Israel as well as allowing us to talk about my father and his love of classical music and the occasion on which I took him to hear the Israeli Philharmonic play in London. Thus reinforcing a sense of family memories and belonging.
While we have enjoyed countless books with our grandchildren, the books from the PJ Library have added an extra dimension to our time together. They have widened their knowledge and understanding both of Judaism and what it means to be a Jew, enriching our relationship with them.
To sum up, in the words of my 6 year old granddaughter, ‘I like these books. They are good stories. They make you think and I like to think’.
Michelle Haynes from London used to work in higher education. Now she devotes herself to developing a love of reading and a knowledge and understanding of Jewish religion and culture, in her grandchildren.
January 15, 2018