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5 millionth book delivered by Jewish philanthropist

Harold Grinspoon and Marcie Greenfield Simons read to Natick 3-year-old Jake Kotin.Gretchen Ertl/Handout

SPECIAL DELIVERY: Real estate entrepreneur and philanthropist Harold Grinspoon had little formal Jewish education, and didn’t read to his children due to his struggle with dyslexia. However, the 84-year-old from Longmeadow recently reached an impressive milestone in his mission to help others overcome similar barriers.

On Jan. 30, he accompanied Marcie Greenfield Simons, director of the PJ Library, a nonprofit launched by his charitable foundation, to Natick to deliver the program’s 5 millionth donation, with 3-year-old Jake Kotin and his parents, Erica and Mike , the lucky recipients.

Since its initial shipment of 200 books in December 2005, the PJ (which refers to pajamas) Library has extended its free subscription of an age-appropriate, Jewish-themed book or music CD each month to 130,000 children in 200 communities throughout North America. Grinspoon expects to achieve the same milestone in Israel in the coming months.


PJ Library is sponsored by the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Boston, Combined Jewish Philanthropies, individual donors, and the Harold Grinspoon Foundation.

Grinspoon and Simons arrived at the Kotins’ home last month with a flourish, bearing balloons, a gift bag, cake, and a poster-sized book cover of the story they read aloud to Jake, “The Mystery Bear: A Purim Story” by Leone Adelson.

Erica Kotin said she initially worried about the reaction of her son, who will turn 4 on March 5, but he was entranced by the story and his new friends.

“Kids love getting books, and it’s great for the parents, too, because how many times can you read the same ones?” she said, noting that her family attends events sponsored by the library across Greater Boston. “The Jewish themes open up great conversations about Judaism and religious holidays in a fun way, but we’re also sitting together and reading as a family. That’s so important.”


Although he never expected the extent of the program’s success, Grinspoon said, he aspires to strengthen Jewish religious and cultural identity in other countries as well. Raised “on the poor side of the tracks” in Newton’s Auburndale section, he said, he endured anti-Semitic remarks and was deeply affected by the Holocaust. Grinspoon has also survived tongue cancer, with which he was diagnosed in the late 1980s.

“We are aiming to keep the Jewish heritage alive and strong, for the next generation and generations to come,” he said.

For more information, visit www.pjlibrary.org.

DELAYING RETIREMENT: Elizabeth Fideler of Framingham was at a party two years ago celebrating the publication of her first book, “Women Still at Work: Professionals Over Sixty and On the Job,” when she decided a sequel needed to be written.

“The men were basically saying, ‘What about us?’ ” recalled Fideler, a research fellow at the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College, and chairwoman of the Framingham Public Library’s board of trustees, and Framingham Reads Together. “I had already had the idea and didn’t need any arm-twisting.”

Her new book, “Men Still at Work: Professionals Over Sixty and On the Job,” was issued this month by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Based on surveys and in-depth interviews, the book explores the reasons why so many older men bypass retirement, including the perceived need to provide for their families, job satisfaction, sense of purpose, and economic issues, Fideler said.

While both books profile highly educated seniors who are financially able to retire, the new book compares the genders. The main difference, she said, is that women are not prospering to the same degree as men, due to their typically shorter careers and the gender gap in pay resulting in lower Social Security payments.


Fideler said interest in the subject will continue to grow as baby boomers move into the senior ranks.

“People are healthier on average and living longer,” she said, noting that many also find time to volunteer in their communities, “and I think we’ll see more and more people staying on the job because they want to and they can.”

Fideler will host a book talk and signing events on Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. at Barnes & Noble, 1 Worcester Road in Framingham, and on March 20 at 7 p.m. at Harvard Book Store, 1256 Massachusetts Ave. in Cambridge.

COMPUTING SUCCESS: Kira Gobes of Holliston is a recipient of this year’s National Center for Women & Information Technology Award. A senior at the Advanced Math & Science Academy Charter School in Marlborough, the 18-year-old is among 35 national winners out of approximately 2,300 applicants.

Gobes has studied computer science all seven years that she has attended the charter school. As a sophomore, she competed in the Technovation Challenge, in which teams develop a mobile app and pitch their business to investors. In her junior year, she studied the Java programming language in an Advanced Placement course, was a founding member and mentor for the school’s Girls in Engineering, Math, and Science program, and completed an internship with Content Raven, a Marlborough-based start-up company.


This year, she is a GEMS program leader, president of the student government, a teacher’s assistant in AP Java, and enjoys her game design class so much that she wants to major in the field in college.

Gobes will accept her award at a ceremony next month in Charlotte, N.C. In the meantime, she has joined a Facebook group for award winners.

“It’s great to be part of this community,” she said. “These women are from all over the country, and they’re the same as me, so that’s cool.”

CONSERVATION ROLE: Effective Tuesday, Robert Warren of Newton will become managing director for conservation at the Trustees of Reservations, the nation’s oldest land trust and one of the largest statewide land conservation organizations.

Warren, who will oversee the nonprofit’s conservation protection program, has more than 20 years of experience in land protection and acquisition, strategic government relations, and policy issues management. Most recently, he was director of protection and policy for the Massachusetts chapter of the Nature Conservancy.

“I am thrilled to be joining the Trustees of Reservations and look forward to furthering the organization’s exceptional conservation legacy,” Warren said in an announcement on his new position.

Founded in 1891, the Trustees of Reservations owns and manages 112 properties comprising more than 26,000 acres statewide.

People items may be submitted to cindycantrell20@gmail.com.