Most Jewish children in North America have family origins in Eastern Europe, yet are barely aware of the richness of their Yiddish cultural heritage stretching back through a thousand years of history. Much of North American family and community Jewish culture is in fact Yiddish culture: religious customs at home and at synagogue, folk melodies, food, humor, and more.

Through Tam – Tastes of Yiddish Culture for Kids and Teens, KlezCalifornia brings a tam (“taste,” in both Yiddish and Hebrew) of Yiddish culture to Jewish youth in grades K-12 at religious schools, day schools, and Jewish day camps. We want them to become enthusiastic about Yiddish culture, and to see it as a vibrant part of their own Jewish lives.
KlezCalifornia  has developed and tested 26 lesson plans of 45-75 minutes, and made 95 presentations to students in 25 schools. Links to the lesson plans are below. Students have fun, while engaging with Yiddish culture as it enriches North American Jewish life today, and learning about its origins (and the family origins of many students) in Eastern Europe.
A comprehensive article in In Geveb — A Journal of Yiddish Studies provides a fuller description of the Tam project.

A story about Tam"Kids learn a bisl about Yiddish culture from the experts" was published in the J, The Jewish News of Northern California (Jan. 26, 2018).
If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, you may invite KlezCalifornia to send one of our experienced presenters to your classrooms. Or you may download these lesson plans at no charge to use in your own classrooms. We are also working with independent Jewish educators around North America who want to bring these lesson plans to multiple schools in their communities.
The Tam program is supported during the 2018-2019 school year by grants from The Natan Fund, Marinus and Minna B. Koster Foundation, The Koret Foundation, and Chaim Schwartz Foundation, program service fees from participating schools and camps, and in-kind contributions from KlezCalifornia. Past funders also included Workmen's Circle/Arbeter Ring of Northern California.

We also would welcome your tax-deductible donations to support the Tam program. Please refer to the Tam program in the “special instructions” box.


KlezCalifornia sends experienced presenters, working with teachers to ensure that our lesson fits into the school's curriculum in Jewish history, art, music, or contemporary Jewish life. The lesson plans are sufficiently detailed that the regular classroom teacher could to present most of them, were he or she ready to. The first presentation is at no charge; after that, we charge a modest fee.
  • Thanks for your excellent presentation. I really enjoyed it and think you have a really fine project and hope you manage to connect to more Jewish educators over time. — Barry Holtz, Professor of Jewish Education, Jewish Theological Seminary
  • “Tam: Tastes of Yiddish Culture for Kids and Teens" is a fantastic educational program – just what’s needed to get young people interested in their East European Jewish roots. Judy Kunofsky is a skilled educator and presenter. Her workshop was a smash success. It’s a delight to see a product that can easily be applied to the classroom, and that will get students started on their Yiddish journey.” — David Fishman, Professor of History, Jewish Theological Seminary
If you are a principal, teacher, parent, or student in a Jewish educational institution, please contact  KlezCalifornia at 415.789.7679 or [email protected] to schedule a presentation OF a Tam lesson, or a workshop for educators ABOUT the Tam lessons. Also please sign up for our special Tam email list.


Classroom teachers may download, print, and use KlezCalifornia Tam lesson plans in their own classrooms without restriction, including modification for their own purposes. Independent Jewish educators may also use the lesson plans, including in presentations to schools and camps for which they receive a fee, and including modification for their own purposes. Otherwise no one may copy or publish KlezCalifornia Tam lesson plans in any form without express permission. References to Tam lesson plans should cite "Tam: Tastes of Yiddish Culture for Kids & Teens, a program of KlezCalifornia," and link to KlezCalifornia.org or KlezCalifornia.org/tam.

We would appreciate hearing about your experience using any of these lesson plans or portions of them. Contact [email protected] or 415-789-7679. 

B. Strategies, Introduction, and Basic Content, for All Lesson Plans

C. How to Approach Schools about Tam and Build Partnerships

1. Intro to Yiddish Language & History (grades K-12)
What is Yiddish and where did it come from? Students listen to and learn a simple Yiddish song, a few Yiddish words and phrases and see how Jewish values are conveyed through songs. They learn a bit about 1,000 years of Jewish history that was lived in Yiddish.

2. Learn A Bisl Yiddish (grades K-12)
Yiddish words in English, simple Yiddish phrases, holiday names, how words in other languages made their way into Yiddish.

3. Why Yiddish Shares So Many Words With Other Languages (Every Language Does) (grades 7-12)
How and why all languages change.

4. Where in the World are Bobeh and Zeydeh? Jewish Geography and the Languages of Our Ancestors (grades K-12)
Students look at their roots, including where their ancestors came from, languages their ancestors spoke, and origins of their own family names and personal names.

5. Yiddish Customs in North American Jewish Life (grades K-12)
Yiddish words, phrases, and customs in American synagogue and home life.

6. Making Bobeh Proud: What Do You Know about Ashkenazi Jewish Food? (grades 5-12)
Discussion of what makes food Jewish (or Yiddish), followed by a cooking lesson with Shlishkes Recipe.

7. Yiddish Culture in North American Life (grades K-12)
Yiddish words in English, food, humor, American institutions created by Yiddish-speaking Jews, klezmer influences on jazz.

8. Overview of "Yid Lit:" Yiddish Literature Lesson Plans (grades K-12)
What can a Yiddish short story help us learn about Jewish life? We read (in English) a story by Isaac Bashevis Singer, Sholem Aleichem, or I.L. Peretz. We read a full story or a shortened version of some Sholem Aleichem stories prepared by Citizen Film. Ten separate lessons, with different stories and discussion questions:
    1. A Tale of Three Wishes by Isaac Bashevis Singer (4 pp.) Why do we do mitsves and what do we "get" in return? (grades 3-6)
    2. Miracle of Hoshano Rabo by Sholem Aleichem (10 pp.) How does faith in God influence how we deal with life? (grades 10-12)
    3. If Not Higher by I.L. Peretz (4 pp.) Gmiles khesed, acts of human kindness (grades 5-12)
    4. No More Kapores, Or, The Chickens Went On Strike by Sholem Aleichem (number of pages depends on which book is used) What do we do with Jewish traditions that feel outdated? (grades 4-8)
    5. The Parakeet Named Dreidel by Isaac Bashevis Singer (# pages depends on which book is used) How do Jews deal with loss of a possession? (grades K-3)
    6. If I Were Rothschild by Sholem Aleichem (1 p. summary) The obligations of wealthy Jews. (grades 7-12)
    7. My Brother Elye’s Drink from “Motl the Cantor’s Son” by Sholem Aleichem (1-1/2 p. summary) How to deal with poverty. (grades 7-12)
    8. The Pot by Sholem Aleichem (1 p. summary) One traditional portrayal of Jewish women. (grades 7-12)
    9. On Account of a Hat by Sholem Aleichem (1 p. summary) Do people judge you based on your appearance? (grades 7-12)
    10. Conversation between Tevye, Chava, and Golde in “Chava by Sholem Aleichem (3 p. summary) The challenges of growing up in the modern world. (grades 7-12)
9. Intro to Klezmer Music (grades K-12)
Klezmer was originally Jewish wedding music. It tells us about the lives and celebrations of many of our ancestors. Prepare to listen, learn, and maybe dance!

10. The Language Debates: What Languages “Should” Jews Speak? (grades 7-12)
What languages are you studying and why? We'll explore these issues through historical Jewish debates about language.

11. Jewish Lives in Yiddish Song (grades K-12)
Listen to, sing, and discuss Yiddish songs on any of five themes to find out about the lives and history of Yiddish-speaking Jews:
    1. Children’s Songs (grades K-3)
    2. Songs about Shabes (grades 3-6)
    3. Growing Up (grades 7-12)
    4. Exploring a Repaired World (grades 9-12)
    5. Yiddish and the Sounds of Protest (grades 9-12)
12. Yiddish Life in Painting & Photography (grades 7-12)
Explore paintings and photographs from or about Eastern Europe for clues to Jewish history, and today’s customs and practices.
    1. Artist & Image List
    2. Artist Bios
    3. Accompanying Images
13. Reaping in Song: The Weekend and Yiddish Protest Culture (grades 7-12).
The American fight for workers’ rights began in union halls and picket lines — in Yiddish! We'll discuss, and sing about, how speakers of Yiddish, strikers, poets, and industrialists collaborated to give us the two-day weekend