Bananas and pretzel sticks were all the rage at story time on Sunday morning - and not just because they're awesome snacks. Kids had the run of the Levinson room at the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill, making menorahs by stabbing the little pretzel candles into banana chanukiahs...and then gladly chowing down.
"I think at this point, it's for her to have a good time and enjoy the activities that are associated with each holiday," says Michael Coblenz, who brought his toddler daughter.
PJ Library, an organization that promotes Jewish literacy in the U.S. and Canada, sponsored the story time event. This year, the Hanukkah story was The Hanukkah Trike by Michelle Edwards. The PJ Library began in 2006 with the Harold Grinspoon Foundation out of Western Massachusetts but relies on partnerships with local organizations, like the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.
"It's a lot more than just books," says Lauren Bartholomae, local PJ Library coordinator. "It's really an engagement strategy to bring Jewish families out of their homes and into the community...It starts with the books, but then it really builds from there."
Pittsburgh has been involved in the program since 2008, and nearly 700 families receive free Jewish books for children ages 6 months to 5-and-a-half years old. The program plans to expand to age 8.
"The man who began the program believed that families are having very snuggly moments," says Bartholomae. "No matter how young those children are, why not make those moments Jewish moments. That's how it started."
More information can be found at www.pjlibrary.org.