By Michele Justic
The news shocked the community: Levi Yitzchak Wolowik, the adorable, endearing, wise-beyond-his-years son of shluchim Rabbi Zalman and Rebbetzin Chanie Wolowik had passed away unexpectedly in his sleep on a Shabbos evening in Adar, a month normally reserved for joy and celebration. The usual rituals were performed and hundreds came from all over to pay their respects to the Wolowiks. Among the memories and emotions evoked, one feeling continued to tug at the Wolowiks–some good must come out of this tragic loss. With careful thought and planning, Chanie delved into the idea of creating a Jewish library that focuses on creating a fun environment for children–a testament to the fun-loving, intelligent, and learned son they missed so terribly.
There was no time to focus on the challenges and drawbacks as Chanie raced to the finish line with her new partner, Lisa Hawk, a mother in the community concerned about the availability of positive reading material for children. They devoted themselves heart and soul to the plan and welcomed aboard Bracha Margolin, known in the community for her intelligence and unmatched work ethic, to assist. Four years ago last week, the library opened–a glistening, colorful, unique environment which welcomes children to the fun world of Jewish learning. Opening weekend was packed as Five Towners and visitors from other communities marveled at this new enterprise, enjoying the facilities but also wondering about the library’s future. Could a nonprofit institution survive in the high-end retail district of Cedarhurst? Would children want to return on a regular basis? Would the library planners be able to maintain this Land of Oz?
Four years later, the thousands who came to participate in the library’s anniversary and pre-Chanukah party on Sunday, December 7 can unanimously answer, “Yes!” Whether due to the tenacity of the library founders, the generous support of the community, or our own version of a Chanukah miracle, (probably all of the above!) the library has thrived over the years, offering programs, clubs, activities, and more for various ages on a regular basis, in addition to access to a wealth of Jewish knowledge and “kosher” toys in a fun atmosphere.
Referred to as “An Event 4 The Books,” the dreidel-like plan featured balloon-twisting, juggling, comedy, and light show from Juggler Keith, a special fire safety-themed story time with Fireman Jason, a standing-room-only author presentation and signing from Cam Jansen author David Adler, and a video presentation of “Maccabees: A Live Chanukah Adventure.” Chanukah-themed crafts and exciting raffles were also offered.
Surprisingly, a random sampling of the moms present revealed that many of the attendees were not current members of the library. The attendees marveled at the incredible offerings and warm environment. One mother noted that she became a member last year at the Chanukah event and her children enjoy coming once a week to enjoy all the offerings. The Mommy and Me program, A Little Curious, Mac N’ Cheese Book Club, Homework Helpers, and a new Tehillim club, in addition to weekly story-times make for a fun schedule the children of the community look forward to.
The Levi Yitzchak Library welcomes everyone, but membership is encouraged as a way to best utilize all of the library’s services, and more importantly, to help this library continue in its mission and ensure this institution exists for our children and grandchildren to enjoy for years to come. At this time of year, when you consider gifts to buy for your children, and tips for those who help you in your community, keep in mind the Levi Yitzchak Library. A donation to the library is a gift to your children and a way to thank the library staff and volunteers for keeping this dream alive. Donations of all sizes are welcome, and sponsorship options can be found at www.lylibrary.org/dedications.asp.
On Chanukah, we focus on keeping the light going, despite other struggles. What better time to dedicate your resources to a great light in our community: the Levi Yitzchak Library. v
By Michele Justic