Jewish families in Orange County want connections to other Jewish families.
Parents constantly search for opportunities to rave (or complain) about their children, techniques to integrate Jewish values into their homes, and platforms to gain knowledge about how to raise a baby Jewishly.
Not long ago, OC parents could drive up to an hour for Jewish playdates. Children often lacked Jewish peers, thinking they were the only Jewish kid between their house and Israel. The community lacked easily accessible facilitated resources.
Enter Shalom Family, a program of Jewish Federation & Family Services. Since its launch in June of 2013, Shalom Family has been a hub of Jewish life for young families. Playing an integral role in families’ Jewish involvement, Shalom Family welcomes parents and children to the community, in accordance with the JFFS goal of increasing involvement at all Jewish community organizations within Orange County serving families with children.
Shalom Family has three core components to its success:
Shalom Baby Baskets are given to new parents. The baskets include baby-gear and community resources like lists of Jewish Preschools and information from local Jewish organizations.
PJ Library is a nationwide to-your-door resource. In OC alone, PJ Library currently reaches over 1,200 families who receive free monthly children’s literature with Jewish age-appropriate content.
Lastly, perhaps the most integral part of Shalom Family’s success, are unique community programs and outreach services.
Stephanie Epstein, NextGen Manager, is the machine keeping Shalom Family running. “It’s important that Shalom Family develops high quality programming for families with children, including parent education,” Epstein says. “This way parents will want to come, and will continue to come, because they will build relationships in the community. Parents schedule playdates not just for their children. They are an opportunity for parents to build their own social network.”
Part of Shalom Family’s purpose is to hold public-space events outside the walls of Jewish institutions to help those who aren’t affiliated participate, lowering barriers of entry.
Shalom Family builds Jewish identity and teaches Jewish tradition in a group setting that is comfortable for families, ensuring a community for tomorrow.
“The communal setting takes pressure off families because they have support in building their Jewish home,” Epstein says. “Parents are looking for spaces where they feel comfortable exploring Judaism with their children.”
Many interfaith families participate in Shalom Family and PJ Library because it creates spaces for non-Jewish parents to grow and learn with their children. “Shalom Family is non-denomination, so all Jewish families feel comfortable,” says Heather Rosenthal, Chair of Shalom Family.
For more information on Shalom Family or PJ Library, contact Stephanie Epstein at Stephanie@jffs.org or (949) 435-3484.
Adam Chester graduated from UCSD with a degree in Clinical Psychology and is the NextGen Outreach & Engagement Coordinator at JFFS.