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West Hartford Fifth-Grader Named to ‘PJ Our Way’ Design Team

Ryan Sadowsky. Courtesy photo

Ryan Sadowsky, a West Hartford fifth-grader, is one of 12 kids chosen from throughout the country for the PJ Our Way National Design Team.

Submitted by Michelle Bonner, Mandell JCC

The Mandell Jewish Community Center of Greater Hartford is thrilled to announce longtime member, Ryan Sadowsky, 11, of West Hartford was selected by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation (HGF), in partnership with the Mandell JCC, to join the national PJ Our Way Design Team.

Currently in its fifth year, the PJ Our Way program is the next chapter of the highly successful Jewish outreach program, PJ Library. PJ Library is an award-wining national program created by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation in 2005 that provides free Jewish children’s books each month to more than 165,000 children between the ages of six months and eight years in North America.

A love of reading led Ryan and 11 other team members from across America to earn this recognition, which includes having early access to books, and creating content including videos and reviews. Together the team interviews authors, participates in workshops and leads the conversation amongst their peers.

“We are thrilled to have Ryan on our team,” said Saskia Swenson Moss, who directs the Design Team. “Team members are great role models for tweens who want to connect to Judaism in fun and engaging ways.”

This year was the largest pool of applicants, with 115 candidates competing for only 12 spots.

“I was psyched and surprised to find out I was one of the 12 kids chosen out of more than 100 kids who applied,” says Ryan, who is in the fifth grade at Bugbee Elementary School in West Hartford. “My mom signed me up for PJ Library when I was a baby. PJ Our Way is really cool because I get to choose what I would like to read from a few PJ choices.”

Every month, kids choose a book from a selection of four high-quality titles that have been reviewed by a panel of PJ educators, parents and kids. Kids in the program receive 12 free books every year. “I have been receiving books or CDs each month since I was one or two years old,” adds Ryan. “It feels very special to receive Jewish books. I’ve learned a lot about World War I and II and what it is like to be Jewish around the world and throughout history. I have shared some of these books with my classmates at school.”

“This is a well-deserved honor for Ryan,” says Jane Pasternak, the Family Room Parenting director for the Mandell JCC and PJ Library Professional for Greater Hartford. “PJ Library is an incredible gift and not only fosters a love of reading, but also promotes a deeper engagement with Jewish life.

Ryan is looking forward to having an impact and making some new friends. “Every month, we have a video conference with our coordinator in Israel and the rest of the Design Team who are kids across the United States. I think it will be really fun to be a part of this team and meet kids from across the country. Hopefully, I will get better at making videos, read good books and get others to read my favorite books.”

Ryan began his work with the Design Team in November and will continue through June 2018. He will be responsible for completing a creative assignment based on each book. He and the rest of the team will have one month to complete each book and creative assignment. The six creative assignments produced for each book will include: written reviews, video book, creative and active book polls, and quizzes for the website as well as an option to create blogs for the website.

“This is an awesome responsibility,” says Pasternak. “But Ryan’s is extremely focused and articulate and has proven he’s up for the challenge. He will embrace this opportunity and have something special to share with the community for many years to come. We’re just so proud of him.”


PJ Library is an award-winning program started by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation that engages families in their Jewish journey by providing free Jewish books and music to families around the world. PJ Library has partnerships with philanthropists and local Jewish organizations in more than 200 communities in the U.S. and Canada. For more information, visit www.pjlibrary.org.


The Mandell Jewish Community Center is open to everyone and supported by funds raised by the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, a recipient of funding from the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford, and a member of the JCC Association of North America.

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