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The strength of our Jewish community is our membership. We are blessed by so many warm and caring individuals and families that make our community a great place to live and work. Our member Q & A section seeks to tap into that community spirit and find the mitzvot motivation of our members.

Greg Werstil grew up in New Jersey and lives in Hollidaysburg with his wife Janine and sons Jack and Levi. Greg is the president of the Werstil Companies, a conglomerate of real estate and property management concerns.


Tell us about your experiences with the PJ Pajama Program?  

My experience with PJ Pajama Program, has been excellent.  I get to spend time with my sons, it's exciting!  The program allows me to settle in with my boys and read material with them, that is educational, wholesome, and leaves us all feeling good.  It is a great outline for some good discussion with Jack, my five year old. It is good laughs with Levi, my 2 year old, he tends to think he can prolong bedtime, by feigning hunger. As if it were Sheetz! Unfortunately, here, we try to close the kitchen prior to bedtime.  When we read the book about Hanukah, he insisted that even though our kitchen was closed, he could "go to Grandma Vicki's for Latkes, right now". 

On a personal note I have learned too.  I am a cautious, skeptic by nature on all things charity, and the foundation world.  Harold Grinspoon and Diane Troderman, the financier’s behind PJ Library APPEAR TO BE a role model duo of civility, humanity and productivity. They are also two very sharp business people who are highly focused on improving quality of life for a population near and dear to them.  I was fascinated by their story and legacy in the making. They have assured thru their leadership that this is a cut to the chase, well thought out, well executed program. Quite frankly, it’s inspiring. The process to enroll, the distribution of quality materials and the follow up were so simple and efficient, which speaks to the program having the greatest good.

Has the program met your expectations and how have your children responded to the program’s materials?

The program has exceeded my expectations and I love reading to my boys, even if Janine torments me that I make them wild and can't get them settled down nearly as easily, or at all, like she can.  At 5 and 2 they are like sponges for information, and ask lots of questions. The books help me answer the questions at an appropriate level, which I believe they enjoy. When asked a lot of questions in succession I tend to answer them as if I were talking to a peer, which is discouraging and counterproductive.  The book provides pictures which are wonderful introductions into productive conversation.

Has the program made it easier to introduce Jewish themes into their lives and the home?  Have you learned as well?

Janine has done a remarkable job in consideration of us living in Hollidaysburg PA (and the fact that we choose not to keep a Kosher home or observe Shabbat and the Sabbath on a regular basis), of introducing plenty of Judaic themes into Jack and Levi's world.  I will say that the content PJ Library deliver's is not better than the content Janine and I aggregate between bookstores, parents, and other venues, but it is certainly more age appropriate and engaging.  I believe this will entice the boys into picking up the material we have in our home that will be more appropriate as they get older.  That’s my hope!

What advice do you have for other families with regard to participation with the PJ Pajama Program?

Take advantage, it's great. In my life anything that turns off my cell phone, and gets me with my kids/family is great.  I just came back from Walt Disney World where I saw many parents and children including us, interacting.  While I am aware of not wanting to be a “hoverparent”, I get great satisfaction in influencing my children's world with my values and knowledge.  My children, like your children, and all of us, are learning constantly thru play and interaction, school/work, and social engagement. Having a PJ Library book for a guide is a great thing for this 30 year old guy. How you benefit from participation is up to you!

What is your wish for the future of our Greater Altoona Jewish Community?

My wish would be to continue enabling development of the following; civic contribution, community, heritage, history, culture, and faith. I would like a Rabbi and Cantor (that is all things, to all people) at each Jewish House of Worship whether a Temple, Shul, or Synagogue. I would like the balance sheets to be flush, trusts loaded, and everyone should be healthy and working, or in South Florida.  I also want a Kosher Deli with Mile High Hot Pastrami (1st cut) Sandwiches on good Rye bread, a bagel place too, would be even better.  I am a lucky guy to call Hollidaysburg my home.


  Past Member Q&A's