From PJ To Posters


As soon as next week, a staff meeting at the Shorefront Y in Brighton Beach will begin with a dozen employees of the Brooklyn facility looking at a few posters.

Under the direction of Executive Director Susan Fox, the staff members will examine four full-color, 11-by-14-inch posters that feature striking illustrations and a quote by a prominent Jewish thinker — including Rabbi Tarfon’s dictum in Pirkei Avot that a person is not required to complete a task, but may not “desist from it either” — and stand next to the poster whose theme best summarizes that employee’s beliefs.

The meeting, Fox says, will be the staffers’ introduction to “Voices & Visions,” a collection of new educational artworks commissioned by the founder of PJ Library, the program providing free Jewish children’s books. (As part of the launch, a “Make-A-Poster” contest for children ages 7-12, on the theme “If you see something that is broken, fix it,” will offer an iPad as prizes to the top 12 winners; deadline is Thursday, Oct. 18; entries should be sent as Jpegs to

Each of the 18 new posters includes on one side a quote by such individuals as Benjamin Cardozo, Maimonides and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, and a complementary, specially commissioned artwork by such graphic illustrators as Milton Glaser, Seymour Chwast and Carin Goldberg; on the other side, a “Voices” commentary on each quote and a “Visions” biography of the artist.

The series serves the same educational purpose as PJ Library, says philanthropist Harold Grinspoon, who founded the earlier project in 2005 to distribute free Jewish children’s books and music each month to interested families.

“Voices & Visions” is intended to “start a conversation” about Jewish values and Jewish identity, Grinspoon tells The Jewish Week in a telephone interview.
Some 7,000 sets of the free posters — inspired by the Container Corporation of America’s “Great Ideas of Western Man” that distributed a similar series of creations from 1950 to 1975 — were sent last week to supporters of PJ Library. In coming months, the posters will go to campus Hillels, Jewish federations, synagogues and other Jewish organizations.

Grinspoon calls the $2 million poster series “informal education.” In the plans is a website that will continue the conversations started by the posters.
“I loved them,” Fox says — “One doesn’t need to have a special level of religious observance” or Jewish knowledge to appreciate their messages.

Alex Budnistsky, executive director of the Marks Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst, says he will frame all the posters in the coming weeks and hang them throughout the building. “They are a visual reminder of the values we are teaching the children” who come to the Brooklyn JCC.

The poster chosen for the main lobby will have the Medrash’s statement that “A community is too heavy to carry alone” and Ivan Chermayeff’s illustration of a pair of hands holding a pile of buildings.

“This poster is the ideal message we seek to share with all who come through the doors of the J,” Budnitsky says — “community means shared responsibility.”
Fox says she had to winnow the series down to the four she will share with her staffers soon. “It would take too much time,” she says, “to read all 18” at a meeting.