By Samantha Hain
The Levi Yitzchak Library on Central Avenue, which started out as an idea in the wake of the sudden death of nine-year-old Levi Yitzchak Wolowik, has turned into a blossoming multimedia resource that has changed the way we learn, grow, and come together. In less than three years, the Levi Yitzchak Library has grown to become an integral part of our local Jewish community, serving as a go-to place for learning and fun for different ages, all in the merit of a beautiful young boy who loved learning Torah.
In honor of the Levi Yitzchak Library’s inaugural breakfast, which is being graciously chaired by Ben and Lynda Brafman, this Sunday, October 13, at 9:30 a.m., the Five Towns Jewish Times caught up with the Levi Yitzchak Library to see how they have evolved from brilliant concept to seamless execution.
5TJT: Since its grand opening, how has the Levi Yitzchak Library changed to further enhance our local Jewish community?
LYL: In a short time, the Levi Yitzchak Family Center has become ingrained in the landscape of the community. The library is always buzzing with visitors, both children and adults. It is a great place to find an ever-growing array of Jewish books on a wide range of topics. Programs and school trips facilitate an even greater connection within the community. The Levi Yitzchak Library has become a place for people of all ages to grow, learn, and play in a host of different ways.
5TJT: What are some of the current programs that the Levi Yitzchak Library offers?
LYL: We have a mommy-and-me program called A Little Curious, as well as Book Buddies, which sets kids up with a volunteer student to act as a fun and educational mentor. Other programs include Story Time, Meet the Author events, “Mac” Book Club, children’s holiday workshops, kid’s movie night, contests, and an adult lecture series.
5TJT: Why was it important for you to make the Levi Yitzchak Library a resource for people of all ages?
LYL: We really wanted the library to offer something for everyone, as Jewish learning is an ongoing process throughout one’s life. By designing the library to be kid-friendly, we wanted to encourage children from a very young age to develop a love for books and reading. Reading is the key to developing oneself in order to become a knowledgeable and educated adult. We specifically carry a broad array of picture books, chapter books, and story collections covering various genres. Aside from the thousands of children’s books, we have adult books on subjects like Israel, parenting, the Holocaust, cookbooks, parashah, and hashkafah. You can also find a select group of specialty sefarim, so we can accommodate all types of learning for different age levels.
5TJT: What are some exciting new plans for the future of the library?
LYL: We are very excited to be working on a Homework Helpers program. We hope to also offer tutoring, computer workshops for different age groups, CPR and first-aid classes, and blood drives.
5TJT: Tell us about some volunteer opportunities.
LYL: The volunteering opportunities to help library patrons during normal business hours include cataloging, reshelving books, checkout, and general assistance. Also, our Book Buddies program utilizes volunteers (generally middle-school and high-school students) to read to younger children.
5TJT: What are some of the most popular things to do at the library?
LYL: The children love our giant dreidel pushka! They also love the train in the middle of the library where they can sit, read, and view artwork and books. The computers are also popular, while a lot of children run straight to the puppet theater. There really is so much to do that it is hard to pinpoint one thing.
Our mommy-and-me program is always at maximum capacity. During the summer, we opened a third program to accommodate the additional demand due to the fact that more mothers were off and wanted to spend quality time with their children in a nurturing and warm environment.
5TJT: A lot of schools have arranged field trip to the LYL and others have thrown simchot in the library. How can someone go about arranging a trip or party at the LYL?
LYL: Monday is dedicated for schools to come to utilize the library. We have developed a relationship with nearly every preschool, day school, and yeshiva in the Five Towns and Far Rockaway. Any class is welcome to visit. We have a program developed and tailored to each of the different grades that come for a visit. Any teacher or school administrator can call to arrange a visit. School/camp trips can include story time, creating an original book by the children as both the author and illustrator, a scavenger hunt to learn about a library, a word hunt to create a story, or using the library for a research project.
The library has also become a great place to host birthday parties, upsherins, events, and even bris milahs. The idea for holding simchas at the library was sparked by a member’s suggestion shortly after opening. She felt that the library’s warm and heimish environment made it the perfect venue for celebrating her son’s upsherin.
Parties can include jumbo book reading, balloons, crafts projects, and invitations. Anyone wanting to know more can e-mail info@Lylibrary.org or call 516-374-BOOK (2665).
5TJT: What are you most proud about at the LYL?
LYL: We accomplished a groundbreaking idea for the community and executed the opening in less time than originally anticipated and under the original budget. We strive for excellence and continued growth in both the size and scope of literary offerings and programming.
5TJT: How can one go about becoming member or sponsor of the LYL?
LYL: The library is a great resource for gift-giving. You can purchase a membership for a friend, a teacher, or yourself. You can also honor a loved one’s memory, birthday, or any other celebration by buying books for the library in their honor and we will insert a label.
5TJT: In the past three years, so many people have been involved in making the library what it is today. Can you tell us about some of the people who have dedicated themselves to making the LYL a success?
LYL: We obviously have to begin with Rabbi Zalman and Mrs. Chanie Wolowik, who wanted to honor their son Levi Yitzchak, who was an avid reader. So many people helped turn the concept into a beautiful reality. For instance, Lisa and Barry Hawk were and still are indispensable parts of the library’s daily success, as is program director Bracha Kramer. Amy Shuter and Laurie Adler were the first librarians to get involved. When the library first opened, our collection contained 1,626 books. While that may sound like a lot, we didn’t have enough books to fill our bookshelves, so our clever librarians turned many of the books to face outwards to give the illusion that the shelves were full. Today we have 9,087 books in our collection and we have b’H run out of shelf space. We have therefore extended our library to the basement, where we keep multiple copies of many of our books.
We can’t forget Janice Davis of Janice Davis Design, who designed and facilitated the creation of a warm, friendly, and captivating environment. Also, we must recognize the always supportive Ben and Lynda Brafman, as well as Melly and Rochelle Lifshitz, who hosted and sponsored the preopening fundraiser, as well as the hundreds of donors who gave us the ability to create a Jewish library and family center for the whole Jewish community to love and share.
The Levi Yitzchak Library is located at 564 Central Avenue in Cedarhurst. Visit www.lylibrary.org or stop by to learn more about membership, dedication, and volunteer opportunities. v