In 2009, PJ Library sent its first book outside of the US and Canada — and the international program has been growing ever since. But how does it work? Here are the five things you need to know.
By Rachel Kozupsky, Director of International Programs
This story appeared in the December 2022 issue of PROOF, a PJ Library magazine.
About three years ago, I received a call from Andres, our amazing partner for PJ Library in Chile. He had just opened the registration for PJ Library en Español, our Spanish-language program, and within two hours, he reached 220 children — the maximum his budget would allow. Unfortunately, he didn't have the funding available to admit the rest of the families who wanted to sign up and was devastated at the prospect of having to put them on a waiting list.
Andres isn't alone. PJ Library programs in Colombia, New Zealand, Australia, and the UK, among many others, have faced the same challenge: There was room to grow but not enough local funding in place to do so.
This dilemma got my colleagues and me thinking. What if we harbored the generosity of PJ Library funders who recognized the need in global communities? Could we clear waiting lists like the one in Chile — and even launch more programs? From those questions, thePJ Library International Fund was created in 2021, and with the generosity of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation (PJ Library's parent organization) and PJ Library donors, it now helps to support programs in more than 30 countries. And as the international fund grows, we're able to reach new families and launch in new communities.
When the PJ Library International Fund launched in 2021, these generous supporters donated to get the fund off the ground.
The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation
Lynne Friedlander and Marc Goldman
Nancy and Jim Grosfeld
Edward and Mary Ellen Loebl
Theodore (z”l) and Maxine Murnick Foundation
David and Janet Polak Foundation
Friends and family of Miriam Remz (z”l)
Dr. Herschel Rosenzweig
Jane and Larry Sherman
Spitz/Tuchman Family Fund
Zellis Family Foundation
Etta and Raymond Zimmerman
How the international fund works
PJ Library relies on anchor support from the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and local partners — both established global philanthropists and organizations — to reach families in more than 30 countries across the globe (outside of the US, Canada, and Israel). But this support still leaves a financial gap of about $1 million, and that's where the PJ Library International Fund comes in. Funds raised are used to ensure that families — no matter where they live and how their community is funded — can enjoy the gift and connection of a PJ Library book.
How the fund is put into action
It's not just smaller programs like Chile that need additional funding to grow: Sometimes our larger regions need support too. In 2020, the head of the Jewish community in Estonia approached our Moscow team. They were eager to launch a program for the Baltic region, reaching families in Latvia and Lithuania as well. The organizational partnership, the strategy, and the Russian-language books were in place, but there was no funding. The international fund changed that, and a few months in, a partner stepped up to generously fund the majority of the now-thriving program. The program now reaches approximately 680 children a month and has plans to reach more. We also hope to organize an educational seminar for local teachers who use the books in their classrooms.
How the fund helps the international program grow
In the past 18 months, PJ Library has launched in five new countries: Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Taiwan, and Paraguay. We are always looking for more opportunities to start new programs. With essential support from the international fund, we are exploring the possibility of expanding into Argentina. It is the largest Spanish market that we do not currently serve. If this happens — and that's a big if — Argentina would double the size of PJ Library en Español.
How the fund makes a difference
When the war started in Ukraine, home delivery to our more than 3,200 PJ Library subscribers became impossible. But through the efforts of PJ Library communities around the world, we found ways around that. We eventually gained access to our book warehouse in Ukraine, forged a relationship with a new printer and translator to continue to produce books, and established locations where families could pick up their books across Ukraine and Israel and throughout Europe. By September, with the support of the international fund, some families displaced by the conflict once again received new Ukrainian-language PJ Library books.
How you can help
Every month, we are so proud to reach more than 36,000 Jewish children who comprise the global PJ Library community outside of the US, Canada, and Israel. The gift of a Jewish-themed children's book in one of seven languages — English, German, Hebrew, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Ukrainian — would not be possible without our generous and committed partners worldwide. Today we are nearly halfway to our annual goal of $1 million for the PJ Library International Fund. We invite you to join us in our journey to connect Jewish families and communities. Email us at email@example.com to learn more.