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Meet Vivien Dean of Shalom Baby, PJ Library and Little Mensches

Today we’d like to introduce you to Vivien Dean.

Vivien, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa and immigrated with my family at the age of nine to San Diego. I attended summer camp att he Jewish Community Center in East County. I then became a camp counselor at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center in La Jolla. I have always been involved with the center in some form. My three children attended the Nierman Preschool at the JCC and I did not want to leave once they began secular school.

I was introduced to Shalom Baby when my now sixteen-year-old daughter was born. I had an incredible experience meeting other Jewish moms that were in the same phase of life and it was such a bonding, supportive, and inclusive group of women.

In 2011 a position with Shalom Baby/PJ Library became available thanks to a generous grant from the Leichtag Foundation, which allowed the program to expand to North County. This was a perfect fit for me, allowing me to still be a part of the JCC and even more so, give back to the program which paved the way for my Jewish parenting journey.

Has it been a smooth road?
I have been very fortunate to have not encountered any struggles along the way. Working with Judy Nemzer, Shalom Baby/PJ Library/Little Mensches Coordinator has made it an amazing working environment. We work well together and are supportive and encouraging of each other. We make a great team!

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Shalom Baby/PJ Library/Little Mensches at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center story. Tell us more about the business.
Shalom Baby is a nationally recognized program housed at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, JACOBS FAMILY CAMPUS. that was founded sixteen years ago and is funded by Viterbi Family Fund of the Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego, Jewish Federation of San Diego County, Leichtag Foundation, and Harold Grinspoon Foundation, We welcome new babies to the community. Trained volunteers deliver Shalom Baby gift baskets to new parents around the county.

We offer several classes and programs for new mothers and their infants such as Infant Massage, guest speakers, celebrate the Jewish holidays and much more. We are mostly recognized for our playgroups. We introduce moms and their babies with other moms and babies of the same age group. Playgroups are encouraged to meet once a week and are an amazing way to connect with other moms in our community. Weekend playgroups are encouraged so that working moms and dads can meet as well.

Our PJ Library program is also nationally recognized. We have been associated with PJ Library for the past eight years, which helps build a stronger Jewish community one book at a time. PJ Library mails a free, high-quality book or cd of Jewish content to families where one or both parents are Jewish. Books are geared for children ages 6 months to 8 years. Families can participate in programs centered around the values and traditions at the JCC as well as at the Leichtag Commons.

Little Mensches was created to provide younger children within our community (those between the ages of 4 and 8) with an opportunity to “give back” to the community in a hands-on, engaging and fun way. Our mission is to “make the world better one mitzvah at a time.” We organize events approximately once per month. Our goal not only is to teach these young children about giving back but also to make community service a broader part of the entire family’s life. We have held a wide variety of events.

We have put together necessity kits for the homeless; had our children brighten the days of local senior citizens; conducted a beach clean up at La Jolla Shores; worked with children who have special needs; made activity kits and a video card for children at RADY Children’s Hospital; packed food at the Hand Up Youth Food Pantry; made cards for members of the U.S. military and IDF; decorated cookies for local police and fire stations; learned about being kind to animals in the community; and put together school supply kits to donate to children in need.

While our programs are geared towards children between the ages of 4 and 8, we always have younger children at the events, and especially seek out older children to act as “helpers.” Indeed, at every event, we like to have a “big mensches” (usually kids between the ages of 9 and 12 or so) who can work with the younger children, which not only allows them to do a double mitzvah by both participating and helping but also lets the parents mingle and makes it a social event as well.

We are proud of the way we connect the community together by introducing families with children similar in age. Creating meaningful and accessible programming. Providing resources to about the great Jewish Community including preschools and synagogues.

Our concierge services are a large part of what we provide to our families, not only locally but nationally.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Our foundation is solid but each year we make changes and adjust according to the needs of our families and community. We hope to grow from strength to strength.


  • This is a free program provided to our community through local funders.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 4126 Executive Drive La Jolla, CA 92037
  • Website:
  • Phone: 858.362.1352
  • Email:
  • Instagram: Shalom Baby/PJ Library/Little Mensches
  • Facebook: Shalom Baby/PJ Library/Little Mensches
  • Twitter: Shalom Baby/PJ Library/Little Mensches
  • Yelp: Shalom Baby/PJ Library/Little Mensches
  • Other: Shalom Baby/PJ Library/Little Mensches

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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