Today we’d like to introduce you to Jamie Darsa.
Jamie, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Since my very first job out of college, I have always worked in the Jewish community. Growing up, the idea of community was a foundation in my life. My grandparents were holocaust survivors. They didn’t have parents, aunt, uncles, and cousins to meet for dinner or celebrate holidays with so they built an amazing community – and that became their family.
As I grew older, I was faced with the challenge of determining what community meant to me. Like everything, this changed based on where I was in my life. It was the moment that I had my children that my needs became clear. I was seeking a community that was vibrant, relevant and made allowances for my crazy, busy schedule. Working full time and being a mom to two little kids leaves very little extra time – but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
After my daughter was born, I went back to work and navigated the complicated balance between personal and professional life like so many parents do every day. Weekends filled with housework and errands, weeks busy at the office, and making it pick up before the clock struck 5 pm. Thanks to my husband and partner, we made it work. Almost four years later, I had my son, and it became clear that I needed a change in my career path.
I interviewed for a part-time job at JCC Greater Boston doing outreach to Families with Young Children living in the downtown area. I was attracted to this position because it met a need I was craving – a community for families like mine. I instantly loved working at the JCC creating programming that felt relevant and impactful. Also, the place I worked became my community – my kids attend JCC Greater Boston preschool and camps and have made fantastic connections with other children. My husband and I have as well!
After a year of doing outreach in the Boston area, I was given the opportunity to take on the role of overseeing PJ Library in the Greater Boston area, and I have been doing this for the last three years. I am thrilled because I not only get to oversee a program I love but also because I get to help thousands of other families create their own communities and connections.
Has it been a smooth road?
I am lucky to be able to say that my life has been a smooth road without major bumps along the way. I believe that I can create my own path. When the road feels a bit bumpier, I find ways to smooth it out.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with JCC Greater Boston – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
I manage the PJ Library program in the Greater Boston area. PJ Library is an international program that is run by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and JCC Greater Boston implements the program in this region. PJ Library sends free books to families for kids ages 0-11. Each month, children receive a book that is age-appropriate and relevant to the time of year. As kids receive their book each month, families are able to create a library in their home. Books are themed around Jewish values, holidays and culture.
This program is one of the many ways JCC Greater Boston is able to connect with families, regardless of what town they live in or how they relate to the Jewish community. We have the honor of being in nearly 7,000 homes each month in 97 communities. I feel honored to oversee a program that is relevant, accessible and high quality. Families repeatedly report that the program is having a positive impact on the way in which they connect with their children whether it’s through bedtime stories or finding new ways to bring Judaism into their home.
And, this impact shows. The number of families we reach each month is growing fast. In the past six months, we have welcomed more than 1,700 new children into the program and have had a nearly 25% growth in the number of books sent each month. But, PJ Library is much more than the books. Each year, JCC Greater Boston organizes more than 100 programs in neighborhoods throughout the region – drop-in playgroups, holiday celebrations, parents’ nights out, etc so that families can meet one another and create their own communities and connections.
I was a PJ Library parent before I began this job. After my daughter was born, my friend signed her up for PJ. When the books started to arrive, it was a gift. My daughter likes the bright pictures and fun stories, but this was a gift for my husband and me, too.
Learning to be a parent does not come with a handbook, and there are so many new things to figure out. Getting these books each month helped us develop what role Judaism would play in our family. It was the catalyst for many conversations – How would we celebrate holidays? What experience would we want for our children? What parts of our childhood traditions might we want to pass on? Still to this day, almost 8 years later, the PJ books in our home are the most read and most loved. When the envelopes arrive each month, my kid’s race to open theirs and start begging me to read “their” book first.
If you had to start over, what would you have done differently?
I don’t believe in regrets. All of the choices I have made have led me to where I am today. I am fulfilled each day by my loving family and rewarding job. It’s an honor to work with a community that welcomes all people, a community that supports all people, and a community that is mine.
- Address: 333 Nahanton Street Newton, MA 02459
- Website: www.pjlibrary.org/boston
- Phone: 617-558-6587
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org