Life is strenuous: There are careers to build, marriages to plan and begin and, most cherished of all, children to raise and give our love and support. It is not easy to juggle all the challenges that life presents us. Indeed, it is even more difficult to thrive without a strong community to provide attention for young families and to have their best interests at heart. At the same time, the Jewish community – as a whole, but also on the local level – needs to do its due diligence to ensure that new families, within the chaos of their lives, have a place to feel warm and secure, a place where their intellectual and spiritual needs are met and where they are not only encouraged to be active members, but also sought out to become leaders with crucial voices on the challenges facing Jews today.

By empowering new families to become active members of the community, we ensure that the values of Judaism will be passed on to a new generation. If the 2013 Pew Study about contemporary Jewish life in America taught us anything, it is that the continuation of our traditions is vitally centered on how we approach community interaction. It is not enough to expect people to show up at a few holiday parties, eat a latke or a bagel and call it a night. Rather, the hard work has to come from within, with the knowledge that engaging young families in a positive and nonimposing manner is the key to retention.

Our respective organizations have been perfectly positioned to provide the succor that Greater Phoenix Jewish community members need to feel connected to a Judaism that is meaningful, a Judaism that is responsive and a Judaism that can be accessed by anyone without regard to their current level of Jewish knowledge. We do this by providing distinctive educational and outreach efforts that bring dynamic thought-leaders to elucidate on issues of Jewish insight (VBM) and by providing free, high-quality children’s literature, music and family programming to families in need all over Phoenix – for free (PJ Library).

While PJ Library and Valley Beit Midrash have been operating at this high level for a while, by combining our resources, we are perfectly positioned to take local Jewish engagement to a new, crucial level. There will be announcements in the coming months about what we plan to do in the community. But we can’t do this on our own. We need your partnership. We need your voices to help guide us on our mission to grow the consciousness of the Jewish people, to nourish the need for spiritual clarity that is so needed in these hectic lives.

What’s needed is the tearing down of barriers, the critical need to make Judaism accessible as well as inspiring; these two qualities are indispensable to the long-term health of the community. And at Valley Beit Midrash and PJ Library, Phoenix, we feel we’ve been doing just that.

Alison Betts is a co-founder and chairperson of PJ Library in Phoenix, and Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz is president and dean of Valley Beit Midrash. Email pjlibrary@valleybeitmidrash.org or info@valleybeitmidrash.org.

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