Sandra Wainer of Monroe was a longtime teacher who felt there were few things as important as educating young children.
So after her death on April 24, her husband, Howard, and daughter, Heather, decided to honor her lifelong passion by establishing an endowed fund in her name for the PJ Library program of the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County.
Designed to strengthen Jewish identity in young children, PJ Library provides Jewish parents of children between the ages of six months and six years with free age-appropriate books or CDs each month, as well as events often tied to holidays, including reading stories, crafts, and games.
Begun more than two years ago, the Middlesex program now serves 550 children, according to federation director of financial resource development Rachel Ingber.
The $36,000 Wainer endowment “will allow us to expand the number of children, parents, and programming” in PJ Library, Ingber said. “Our goal is to be able to make it easy for families to share Jewish stories and music with their children regardless of affiliation or observance level. This is a program so central to our mission, which is to get the next generation to engage with Jewish life.”
The most recent PJ Library event was held during Sukkot at Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick. Youngsters were read a holiday story in the synagogue’s sukka.
Heather Wainer told NJJN that her mother was a fifth-grade teacher in Queens for a number of years before her parents moved to New Jersey. The couple lived in Sayreville, Edison, and Scotch Plains before moving to the Greenbriar Whittingham community in Monroe about 12 years ago.
“She really enjoyed children, and education was a big thing for her,” said the Weehawken resident. “Reading was always important for her, and she was instrumental in teaching me to read before I even started school.”
The Wainers have been strong supporters of the federation. To kick off the federation’s 2009 Monroe Township Inter-Community Council Passover food drive, Sandra, Howard and Heather donated $25,000 to provide kosher meals-on-wheels for Monroe residents. The donation was made in memory of Howard’s parents, Albert and Kitty, formerly of Brooklyn.
Howard Wainer is the former publisher of Whole Food Magazine, a trade publication for health food stores. Heather has taken over running the publication.
“We felt helping children would be the best way to honor my mother, and teaching Jewish children about their religion also was important to us and to her,” she said. “We just felt this was a wonderful way to combine the two.”
Federation executive director Gerrie Bamira called the endowment “a gift that will live forever.”
“The act of creating a legacy empowers you to complete the work of your heart and to enjoy the peace that it brings,” she said. “Howard and Heather are assured that Sandra’s memory and values will continue and the Jewish future will be bright.”
Bamira said the Wainers made their gift thought federation’s newly launched Create a Jewish Legacy campaign, which enables an individual to support Jewish causes they care about and “ensure the continuity of Jewish life after they are gone.”
Federation vice president Keith Zimmerman said members of the Wainer family “have always demonstrated compassion and generosity to those who are less fortunate. I am privileged to know them and to be inspired by them and to be their friend.”