PJ Library: The Origins of Philanthropy

by Stacey Battat

PJ Library Professional


This story, Mitzvah Pizza, written by Sarah Lynn Scheerger and illustrated by Deborah Melmon, is based upon a real place called The Pizza Corner in Philadelphia. One day a customer asked if he could buy a slice of pizza for someone who could not afford one. This sparked an idea; the owner bought sticky notes to symbolize pre-purchased slices of pizza. Now he serves free pizza to 30 or 40 hungry people every day! Eventually he hired some of them to work in the shop, further helping them to live independently.


In this inspiring book, Jane and her dad donate money toward pizza for someone who is less fortunate. The book helps to teach our children compassion and mitzvot (often translated as good deeds) and the Jewish tradition of charity, known as tzedakah.


As we enter the High Holidays, there are many forms of mitzvot, or tzedakah, that families can participate in. Prior to inviting your larger family or friends to a holiday, birthday or Hanukkah meal or party, identify a cause and ask your guests to bring something to donate in honor of the occasion. Ask if your local service agency needs food or clothing or something specific you can help raise funds for. As children get older volunteer at Jewish Family Service or help serve at a soup kitchen. Keeping a tzedakah box at home and filling it to recognize accomplishments or good grades is another way to teach children that we value giving to others.


PJ Library is a national family engagement program that mails free Jewish childrens’ literature and music to families raising Jewish children, ages six months to 12 years old. Sign up at PJlibrary.org for children ages 0-8 and PJOurway.org for 8-12 year olds. Our local PJ library is run through the JCC and the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven. Contact Stacey at (203) 387-2424 x317 or pjlibrary@jewishnewhaven.org for more information.

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