Keren Grinspoon Israel Announces New Executive Director
Outgoing executive director celebrated for career that reshaped the field of children’s literature in Israel
JERUSALEM – Keren Grinspoon Israel (KGI) announced today that it has selected Andrea Arbel as its new executive director, following Galina Vromen’s retirement after 18 years with KGI and the U.S.-based Harold Grinspoon Foundation (HGF).
“We couldn’t have picked a better person than Andrea to build on Galina’s legacy at KGI,” said Winnie Sandler Grinspoon, president of the HGF and member of the KGI board. “In every conversation I’ve had with Andrea, it’s clear that she values our mission and is energized to expand the incredible legacy and reputation that Galina has built to bring good to the world through children’s books.”
Arbel joins KGI at the start of December after 18 years at the Jewish Agency, where she was the director of the partnership unit, responsible for seven international programs, including Partnership2Gether and the Global School Twinning Network, which currently boasts 700 schools globally.
Sifriyat Pijama®, KGI’s hallmark program, is a classroom-based reading-readiness program, operated in partnership with the Israeli Ministry of Education, which distributes high-quality books in Hebrew, carefully chosen to invite discussion on each family’s values and Jewish/Israeli heritage in school and at home. KGI also runs Maktabat al-Fanoos,® which gifts culturally-appropriate Arabic-language books to public schools that serve Israel’s Arab population. Together the programs distribute books to more than half a million children and their families in Israel each year.
“I’m so excited to join this team and to continue to grow and evolve the excellent programs that Keren Grinspoon Israel has already established so successfully over the past decade, in ways that are relevant to Hebrew- and Arabic-speaking Israelis,” said Arbel. “The beauty of the KGI model is that the Sifriyat Pijama and Maktabat al-Fanoos programs bring books directly to children, for them to take home and keep. Quarantines and shut-downs wreak havoc on schools’ curricula, but the love of reading and the conversations these books inspire is not limited to a school setting. Now more than ever, families need support in meeting their children’s intellectual and emotional needs. KGI allows kids and their caregivers to travel the world and discover their heritage from their favorite chair.”
Vromen, KGI’s outgoing founding director, launched both Sifriyat Pijama and Maktabat al-Fanoos. Under her leadership, KGI was selected by the United States Library of Congress as a Literacy Awards Program Best Practice Honoree, in recognition of the organization’s longstanding achievement in the promotion of literacy and in the development of innovative methods and effective practices in the field. “I am proud also that over the years we initiated the creation of about 100 new children’s books in Hebrew and Arabic, underscoring folktales, customs and traditions or revising traditional works with new illustrations. Dozens of these books in Hebrew have been translated to English and other languages for HGF’s signature PJ Library® program,” Vromen said.
“Through KGI, we have created literacy programs that instill not only a love of books, but also foster children’s sense of who they are,” she explained. “We introduce them to books that are unique to their culture but at the same time unite Israel’s diverse population. This means that religious and secular Jews read the same books about Jewish heritage. And other titles, particularly those with universal values, are read across the programs so that kids growing up in an Arabic-speaking town and those in a Hebrew-speaking town read the same books in their own languages.”
“Galina’s role in the success of Sifriyat Pijama and Maktabat al-Fanoos can’t be overstated,” said Harold Grinspoon, founder of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation. “She brought amazing commitment and passion to the task of building a strong culture of reading among Israeli parents and children, and leaves a legacy that we’ll be building on for years to come. Her work with KGI has been incredible and the close ties she has built with the Ministry of Education have been crucial to the success of the programs in developing the language skills of Israeli children. We’re all deeply fortunate to have worked with and learned from her for all these years.”
Since 2009, the HGF has invested more than $20 million in the two programs, matched by Israeli government funding and with the support of partners including Price Philanthropies, The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, The Crown Family and the Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation. Children ages 3 to 8 receive books periodically in preschool and the early elementary school grades. Teachers introduce each book monthly or bimonthly, and each child receives a personal copy to take home and keep. The books contain suggested book-related activities and discussion for parents and caregivers. By the time a child enters third grade in public school, they will have a home library of at least 32 books as a result of KGI’s efforts. In many cases, these are the only children’s books in homes.
Keren Grinspoon Israel (KGI) (Hebrew for Grinspoon Israel Foundation) was founded in 2009 by Harold Grinspoon to promote literacy through the gift of books to the young children of Israel. In partnership with the Israeli Ministry of Education, the Foundation distributes about 3.5 million books in Hebrew and Arabic to more than 500,000 children annually. KGI’s Sifriyat Pijama program is modeled after the PJ Library program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation developed in the United States to share Jewish culture, heritage, and values. In 2014, KGI launched its sister program, Maktabat al-Fanoos, to encourage literacy and a love of reading among Israeli Arab children. The aim is to stimulate a love of books and shared parent-child reading while also strengthening values education and ethnic identity, including language skills. The books are free to 100% of Arab children and 80% of Hebrew-speaking children in Israeli public schools from preschool through 2nd grade.
The Harold Grinspoon Foundation operates programs that strive to strengthen the Jewish community by nurturing new generations, cultivating legacy giving, and investing in experiences that impact Jewish continuity. To learn more, visit: www.hgf.org