By Lori Rubin, Director, Family Engagement 

It was a beautiful day on Sunday, August 2nd at the Elmwood Park Zoo. Over 220 jkidphilly friends attended our 3rd annual jkidphilly Goes to the Zoo program! The sun was shining as families walked around the zoo looking for the animals featured on our Treasure Hunt, which listed 10 animals and their Hebrew names. As our jkidphilly Venturer theme this week is Bikkur Holim (visiting the sick,) we offered a variety of activities that helped our jkids understand how they could participate in this mitzvah. jkids had the chance to make “Boo-Boo Bunnies” or “Boo-Boo Penguins” for when they might need a little ice pack, hear PJ Library stories about sick animals, make “Bear Hug” cards to give to those who need a hug, or cards with tea bags for those who are sick. Even the zoo staff got into the swing of things and incorporated animals who had been injured into a special animal show (and we thank Fort Washington Veterinary Hospital for their generous sponsorship of this program).

What was most interesting to me, however, was seeing families come together to share a Jewish experience in a secular setting. Some of the families were first timers-families who had never before been to a jkidphilly program. Some of the families had been to our zoo program last year, but haven’t been to a jkidphilly program since last summer. Some of the families were “regulars”-families who we see on a ongoing basis. Some families brought grandparents and friends with them. Some had older children; some had younger children, and many had new babies! We had families who came from Bucks County and Lower Merion and all places in between. What we have learned through jkidphilly is that we need to meet families where they are. For those who are working parents, we provide Sunday programs, for those who are stay at home parents, we provide playdates during the day. We host programs in all sorts of venues, some where families already patron and others where they may not have considered before. We appreciate the ability to bring families together on a large scale to build community, to build relationships, and to connect them to Judaism in a low-barrier way.

Our larger events, such as the Zoo and our annual Boker Tov at the Beach in Margate (next one is coming up soon!) bring together hundreds of people that allow them to see themselves as part of the whole community. We seek to build relationships with each individual family, but also appreciate the opportunity to help them build relationships with each other, and with the larger Jewish community of Philadelphia.  Our 2nd Boker Tov at the Beach program of the summer will be on Sunday, August 16th. There, we will gather in partnership with the PJ Library communities of Atlantic County and South Jersey for stories and music and beach playtime!

As we plan our events in the fall, we want to hear from you! Let us know how jkidphilly and PJ Library has impacted your family. Share with us how you connect to the Jewish community. If we can help in any way, the jkidphilly team is here for you!