This is the second year that Minneapolis’ PJ Library has sponsored its Travelling Havdallah around Minneapolis and the suburbs, expanding to five shuls this year, up from four – although one was canceled due to snow. The 2019-20 edition starts on Nov. 23 at Adath Jeshurun, and will also be at Bet Shalom, Temple Israel, Beth El, and Shir Tikvah.
“The synagogue can showcase what it can do for young families, and PJ Library helps bring in families who may never have been in that particular synagogue before,” said Carrie Fink, the PJ Library coordinator at Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Minneapolis. “Or some families came because it’s their home synagogue and they’ve never been to a PJ Library event before and this is just an accessible, easy way. There’s food, crafts, music, and you’re home by 7:30.”
Fink said that the data from a 2016 PJ Library survey shows that a lot of families aren’t going to synagogue, and touts PJ Library’s ability to connect families to Judaism. Half the PJ Library families in Minneapolis have someone in the house who didn’t grow up Jewish, and three-quarters of respondents are interested in getting more connected to local Jewish organizations.
Last year, Fink said the Traveling Havdalah stop at Beth El had 175 people show up, an increase from the roughly 100 that normally attend.
“We didn’t care which synagogue they were at,” said Emily Kramer, a Temple Israel member who grew up at Bet Shalom and went to all three events last year. “I liked bringing (our kids) to different synagogues. It was a chance to talk about the connection to Havdalah and Shabbat, and it was a nice educational opportunity. It’s fun with no pressure.”
Fink said that every synagogue puts their own spin on each event. Bet Shalom, for example, does pot luck. Beth El does a larger, musical Havdalah.
“It’s part of the growing trend that people aren’t necessarily looking for a connection to synagogues because they feel it’s not what they’re looking for in a connection in Judaism,” said Amanda Awend, the director of Shorashim and Young Family Engagement at Beth El. “Partnering with organizations like PJ Library, that has connections with all these young families in town, it lets people in that may not come otherwise.
“I love that everyone brings something different. Bringing people together is all that matters.”