PAVE Littles is one of the newest groups within the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle’s PAVE program, which helps Jews in their 30s and 40s find Jewish connections around common interests. Two local women, Lauren Sarnak and Shauna Lester, developed the PAVE Littles concept to create a casual and fun space for Jewish families with young children to connect with each other and share resources. PAVE Littles is unique in the way it is run and organized — completely volunteer-based and less structured than co-ops or other play groups. While PAVE Littles is one group currently, the hope is that over time multiple PAVE Littles groups will develop at the neighborhood level.
“I intended this group to be an informal way for parents of newborns and toddlers to get out and meet each other. I have already developed a friendship with one of the other PAVE Littles families that also recently moved here and we now have play dates once a week. It’s just beginning, but I hope it can become another way for young Jewish families to connect,” says Lester. She and her husband moved to Seattle from Minneapolis in November 2015 with an 11-month-old after her husband obtained a job at Microsoft.
For newcomers to Seattle, it can be difficult to integrate into the Jewish community, especially with an infant in the picture. Clara Cantor, the Federation’s engagement associate for PAVE and affinity groups, says PAVE Littles is a good resource for parents who are among the first of their friends to have children, or who work full time. Both first-time parents and parents bringing a newborn brother or sister home to join the family are welcome to take part in the group.
In addition, PAVE Littles helps new parents integrate Judaism with raising their children. “Having a child is a life-changing event, and it’s one of those things that spurs you to think about what’s important in your life and what you want to be teaching your kids,” says Cantor.
Since PAVE Littles is new, it is still in the development stage. The group has held meetups in local parks, and other activity ideas are in the works, such as attending local Jewish events as a group and meeting in community centers and educational spaces. “We have discussed supplementing the social meetups with educational classes and either bringing in an educator or someone who specializes in something valuable for parenting,” says Cantor.
For new and expectant parents, PAVE Littles is a valuable and exciting stepping-stone to creating a local network of Jewish connections and resources.