That's a lotta books
January 10, 2015 5:28 PM   Subscribe

Over the past ten years, an organization called PJ Library Has distributed more than ten million free children's books and music with Jewish content directly to children ages 0 to 8 across the United States. The program is modeled on Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. Not always without controversy, books contain information about Jewish-American culture, Israel, general values, Jewish holidays, and even occasionally mysticism. In 2014 PJL announced a new program to distribute books to Arab-Israeli preschoolers. Sign up here.
posted by bq (21 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
We get these books. They can be corny but on the whole they're pretty wholesome, and some of them are among my kids' favorites.
posted by escabeche at 6:30 PM on January 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


ditto for our girls, a least a couple of the books have been about a family's trip to Israel ('Ella's trip to Israel' being one), painted as a fun and unproblematic destination. I know that they're just kid's books, but I found those a little bit unsettling.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:13 PM on January 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


How successful would such a program be with Muslim content? Would it be legal in the U.S.A?
posted by stupid but undaunted at 7:20 PM on January 10, 2015


How successful would such a program be with Muslim content? Would it be legal in the U.S.A?

Seriously? That's an unfortunately eponysterical comment.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:28 PM on January 10, 2015 [17 favorites]


...by which I mean of course it would be legal in the U.S.A.

Despite the ravings of many morons, there is not now nor will there be any law against being, practicing, or encouraging the practice of Islam in the United States. The First Amendment of the Constitution can, should, and does trump.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:32 PM on January 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


I wish this was available in my area. We've got a synagogue ---barely, but no rabbi (services are lay-led in the winter and they import a student rabbi or cantor in the summer, and they find (pay) a rabbi who's willing to come for the high holidays).
posted by leahwrenn at 7:38 PM on January 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


As long as the kids get a taste of Satan's good news as well.
posted by cmoj at 7:41 PM on January 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm all for books to kids, but if they're books about your religion, that's just proselytizing, and really I don't give any extra kudos for that, even if you throw in a few other books for PR.
posted by snofoam at 8:06 PM on January 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


To clarify, the books are sent to people who sign up for them through their local Jewish community organization, not handed out willy-nilly.
posted by bq at 8:15 PM on January 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


The penultimate link in the FPP has an official of the parent organization saying, We hope The Lantern Library will be a long-term partnership that will eventually serve Arab preschoolers in all state preschools throughout the country

It's unfortunate that none of these articles seem to specify whether the Lantern Library project is distributing Arabic-language books in Israel on the same topics as the ones handed out in North America.
posted by XMLicious at 11:07 PM on January 10, 2015


I'm all for books to kids, but if they're books about your religion, that's just proselytizing, and really I don't give any extra kudos for that, even if you throw in a few other books for PR.


My kids watched Mickey Mouse Clubhouse the other day. They had this big thing about Christmas. Go bang on Disney's door before you decide that a minority culture can't have nice things of its own.

a couple of the books have been about a family's trip to Israel ('Ella's trip to Israel' being one), painted as a fun and unproblematic destination.

You might say the same about a trip to the USA.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:28 AM on January 11, 2015 [13 favorites]


It's unfortunate that none of these articles seem to specify whether the Lantern Library project is distributing Arabic-language books in Israel on the same topics as the ones handed out in North America.

Maktabat Al-Fanoos tries to distribute books from Arab publishers. Looking at the book list for pre-k I see at least one exception that was also sent to both Israeli and American kids: Bear feels Sick. My daughter got that one from PJ Library. This is the same age group book list for American children. Bear Feels Sick isn't a religious book. The books sent out by PJ Library aren't all Jewish except that their themes apply. Taking care of a sick person is a universal message.

A six month evaluation of the program.
posted by qi at 6:40 AM on January 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


We have been signed up for these books since my son was around one... we're on the Orthodox end of the spectrum, so for us it's more of an opportunity to teach Jewish pluralism - half the time the rabbi is a woman, or the family will drive to shul, or the shabbat meal will be sephardic or vegetarian, so it's a good way to highlight the '2 Jews, 3 opinions' element of Jewish culture. We also have a game among the older set of spotting what halachic thing the book will get wrong - there's almost always something, ranging from cute to egregious (often the book is fine but the non-Jewish illustrator will add something in, like someone blowing out the chanukah candles - oy).

I think it's fantastic they are doing this, though I think their (unstated but pretty clear) advocacy of religious tolerance within your own religion will be trickier to pull off with a Muslim audience, since AFAIK there really isn't a thriving Reform or Pluralism movement in Islam yet.

Anyhow, one month they sent us Five Little Gefiltes, so we'll always be fans.
posted by Mchelly at 7:08 AM on January 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


The books they send are mostly crap. I toss most of them (95%) in the Goodwill bin. That said, once in a while they'll send something decent. Joseph Had a Little Overcoat-- that one I kept.
posted by jcruelty at 7:34 AM on January 11, 2015


Go bang on Disney's door before you decide that a minority culture can't have nice things of its own.

I'm not sure why you quoted my comment in yours, since your comment has absolutely nothing to do with what I said. For what it's worth, I do not award extra kudos to Disney or the Gideons, either, but they're not the subject of this post.
posted by snofoam at 7:51 AM on January 11, 2015


snofoam, you don't get PJ Library books unless you sign up for them online, giving your name and address. You have to re-subscribe every year. You should really acknowledge that your first comment misunderstood the circumstances and that this program has no relation to proselytizing.
posted by palliser at 8:24 AM on January 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


Mass media in the USA promotes the dominant culture, which is at least tacitly Christian. Distributing Jewish books to Jewish kids isn't proselytizing; it's supplying a need for culturally-appropriate material. Quite apart from the fact that these books are solicited, of course.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:35 AM on January 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


The idea of Judaism as a proselytising religion is probably pretty amusing to most Jews. It certainly is to me. It's possible to convert - I know exactly one person who did so - but it's not exactly encouraged. It's viewing the religion through a lens that doesn't really apply.
posted by kyrademon at 9:25 AM on January 11, 2015 [11 favorites]


I understand, and I'm well aware that most proselytizing in Judaism basically involves trying to convert people who already Jewish to be more Jewish. I have had the conversation in the subway station, which for me always begins and ends with the question: are you Jewish? The thing is, the real exception is kids, and like other religions, indoctrination of children is part of the religion. Perhaps you wouldn't use the word proselytizing, but that's what it is.

More importantly, I'm not deciding anything for anyone. My comment didn't imply anything of the sort. I also most certainly did not imply that I support indoctrination attempts by other religions. I just think it is like Frito-Lay giving out free books about Cheetos.
posted by snofoam at 2:22 PM on January 11, 2015


Far be it from me to argue with someone trying to change the definition of a word.
posted by bq at 4:09 PM on January 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


I just think it is like Frito-Lay giving out free books about Cheetos.

If Frito-Lay did this, making sure to restrict distribution of these books to people who had requested them, would you think this was a problem? I wouldn't. I might not sign up for those books, but I wouldn't have a problem if someone else wanted to.
posted by Anne Neville at 1:46 PM on January 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


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