Northampton's Holiday Stroll is a decidedly festive gathering. Main Street Northampton is completely shutdown to traffic for three hours, and the cars are replaced with vendors handing out hot chocolate and carnival style games that result in candy canes and Christmas-themed goodies. There is even a giant fire pit for roasting marshmallows for smores, huge firetrucks and snow plows that kids can climb into, music, dancers, you name it. It's a phenomenal family-oriented festival that brings folks from across New England to our beautiful Valley year to year.
It is also, undoubtedly, a celebration of the incoming Christmas season. As a Jewish community member, no part of me feels unwelcome at this lovely event. In fact, my family has attended every year and had a fantastic time. But it occurred to me that, especially this year with Chanukah starting the day after the Stroll, our vibrant Jewish community could and should be represented. And as the PJ Library professional in this area, what better way to get some face time with community members from across the Valley, than at a festival that welcomes thousands?
So I gathered together some Chanukah goodies, a few PJ Library raffle prizes, borrowed a giant menorah from a neighbor, enlisted the help of my friend and fellow PJ Library pro Amy Meltzer, and trotted on down to Main Street. The result was that family after family came by our table to say hello. Passersby were delighted to see our giant, glittery menorah and find out what exactly is PJ Library. Some came over to simply say how much they love receiving our books each month! Non-Jewish festival goers asked questions about Chanukah.
What a fantastic opportunity to speak to so many Pioneer Valley Jewish Community members at once! When I took this job, what most appealed to me was the chance to be a resource to the community. I love getting to talk with parents about what sort of Jewish family gatherings would add the most value to their lives and then working to make that happen. I like to hear who they are hoping to connect with and how I can help them reach that goal. (And I, of course, love helping families sign up to receive free books every month!) Getting to talk face to face with all of you at the Stroll reinforced that I am getting to do what I set out to every day.
But these conversations don't need to end with the Stroll. I'd love to take you, Dear Reader, out for a coffee some time. Or maybe we can get our kiddos together for a playdate. Let's find a time to sit down and chat about how things are going for you here in the Valley. I'm here to listen and help. Never hesitate to reach out directly here.