Books for 11,000 Baltimore School Children

Jews have been known as the “people of the book” for generations. It is a name we wear with pride. Its consequence is continuity, its legacy imagination.

For generations, Jews also have affirmed a commitment to the mitzvah of tzedakah.

Women’s League for Conservative Judaism will be linking these twin Jewish values of study and tzedakah at its biennial convention, slated for December 12-15, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland, when women from around the world will personalize the convention theme of celebrating community. In so many impoverished areas, such as inner-city Baltimore, children’s books are a luxury item, last on the list of household priorities, a far cry from its members’ own communities where children can own dozens, if not hundreds, of books.

To begin to bridge that gap, funds collected through Women’s League’s newest initiative, Books for Baltimore: Building a Reading Community One Child at a Time, will purchase at least one book for every child in the third grade and pre-kindergarten in the Baltimore City public school system. The titles, chosen in consultation with local reading specialists, reflect the children’s reading levels and cultural interests.

Thanks to a generous gift from the Rona Jaffe Foundation, we met our original goal of 7,000 third-grade reading books and were able to extend our goal to providing pre-readers to 4,000 pre-kindergarteners.

Women’s League is asking every one of its members to contribute to this community building project. Members — and their friends and families — can donate through their sisterhoods, or directly through Women’s League, which will be processing all of the funds and purchasing the books at a discount from Scholastic Books. The books will be presented to students and representatives from the Baltimore City Public Schools at the convention on December 15.

Director of Education Lisa Kogen says of the project: “We are sensitive to the fact that our members are deluged by requests for financial support from various organizations and causes, often daily. But the goals of the Books for Baltimore project, which is a true reflection of our core values, are specific, finite, and attainable. The members of Women’s League can make a real difference.”