Quarantine brings unique challenges for families with young children. JCC Greater Boston (JCCGB) is helping families to find the fun—and the connection—wherever they can. Without skipping a beat, this organization that normally opens its doors to thousands of in-person visitors each month has transitioned to an online format.

One crowd favorite is the PJ Library Virtual Shabbat Concert Series, featuring local celebrities Josh Shriber of Josh & the Jamtones and Vanessa Trien of Vanessa Trien and the Jumping Monkeys. The events, live-streamed on Facebook at 9:30 a.m. EST every Friday, regularly draw of hundreds of families, with page views after the event growing exponentially. Realizing the importance of this new online programming, CJP quickly stepped in and provided funding for eight weeks of Shabbat concerts.

Toddlers keep hitting the “play” button

“We’ve offered hundreds of classes already, and we’ve had over 5,000 views, both from real-time participation and from people who watch it after the live event,” says Midge Merlin, director of family engagement and Jewish life at JCC Greater Boston. “The Shabbat concerts are one piece of our broader engagement strategy, which is now just pivoted to the virtual platform.”

To watch the performances without a child present is to miss the point. The performers can see who is virtually attending and give shout-outs to the kids by name, a magical highlight of Shabbat for little ones spending yet another day at home. The comments from parents during the show reveal how much this community appreciates that their JCC is open online, even if their building is temporarily closed:

“Shabbat shalom from Wilhelm. Thanks for doing this!”

“Thank you, Josh. Love from Maryland!”

“Thank you, JCCGB, and your amazing PJ Library team.”

“Thank you for making our morning nicer!”

“Right now, people could be joining any online events or classes, but we’re seeing that people are attracted to the things that feel familiar to them. So many community members who are engaged with us on a regular basis in-person are now continuing that connection online,” says Jamie Darsa, head of strategic partnerships and collaborations at JCC Greater Boston.

Finding your tribe…while staying home with the baby

Another example of JCC ingenuity and CJP collaboration is the new Welcome Baby! From Home program. With in-person visits from our Welcome Baby! Program temporarily suspended, the JCC—with support from CJP—created structured, online groups (facilitated by an early childhood specialist) for parents with infants.

“We realized there was a gap in online engagement for parents with newborns to 1-year-olds. We reached out to CJP and they immediately wanted to help. The scope of our impact would not be the same without CJP,” says Merlin.

The first session quickly filled to capacity, and a second round of meetups is underway.

“CJP and JCCGB share the goal of meeting community needs at all times, regardless of context,” says Merlin. “But during times of crisis when needs significantly increase, the value of this partnership becomes even more clear.”