PJ Library Young Chef Program Connects Houston’s Suburbs

May 27, 2020 – Eight-year-old, Autumn Welch, is loving the Jewish Federation’s PJ Library Young Chef program. Her mom, Janessa Welch says Autumn was especially excited to learn how to make Israeli cheesecake. “I loved that it was really geared towards her. She’s never been confident in the kitchen and this was something she could do all by herself,” mom Janessa shared with us.

Young Chef is a post-COVID invention cooking program for the Federation’s PJ Library families that is hosted by Shlicha Hadas Levy who teaches each class.

“Hadas (Levy) was so easy for her to follow and prepared us so we had exactly what we needed. Autumn could do it alone and feel proud of what she made.”

Janessa & Autumn had never met Hadas in person. They live in Conroe and being far outside Houston’s central Jewish community, there aren’t a lot of activities they can participate in. Janessa found out about the virtual chef program through a post from her PJ Library Connector on a north Houston Jewish families Facebook group. The Federation’s PJ connectors work with Hilary Kamin, the Federation’s Community Engagement Director, to plan activities in their own suburban communities so those who live further away feel a part of the greater Jewish community.

“We had done some PJ programs prior to this and we try to participate as much as we can. We completed a Chanukah packet and I read PJ Library Chanukah books at her school as part of a culture night. I’m trying to get more involved and it is so helpful to have easier access to programs. Since we are outside the main Jewish community, virtual activities make us feel a part of it. Frankly, most of the activities we’ve participated in virtually during this COVID quarantine have been Jewish related ones. We’re actually doing more Jewish related stuff than we had been doing before. I hope virtual options continue to be a regular part of programming even after we can come back together. I honestly feel more connected to the Jewish community because there are so many more programs available to me than ever before.”

In the meantime, Autumn keeps asking her mom when the next young chef program is happening. The programs have even become part of her schoolwork. She shares about the PJ Library books she reads and when asked to write about something new she has learned—she wrote about what she’s making and what the Hebrew words mean.

“This is what she wants to talk about and so she is! It’s really important during this time to have a connection to other people and this program has really helped us not only feel connected to people, but to our Jewish community, which we don’t normally have out here. It’s nice to feel like you belong.”