Tam – Tastes of Yiddish Culture for Kids & Teens
 

OVERVIEW

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 where they already are: religious schools, day schools, and Jewish day camps.

KlezCalifornia has created and tested twenty-six 45-75 minute lesson plans. 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 most students in the room) in Eastern Europe.

Subjects of the lessons are: Intro to Yiddish language and history; Yiddish words you already know; Yiddish culture in your family, in North American Jewish Life, and in North American general community life; Ashkenazi Jewish food, Yiddish literature in translation (10 stories); Intro to klezmer music, Jewish lives in Yiddish song (5 lessons, each with three songs); Yiddish life in painting and photography; The two-day weekend and Yiddish protest culture; and Language Debates: What languages “should” Jews speak?

The program’s goal is to enrich K-12 Jewish education with Yiddish culture. We want to ensure that Yiddish culture is included in the curriculum of many Jewish day schools, religious schools, and day camps (of all denominations and none) in the San Francisco Bay Area and throughout the U.S. and Canada. We want children in K-12 grades to become enthusiastic about Yiddish culture and see it as a vibrant part of their own Jewish lives.

By the end of the 2016-2017 school year, we will have presented ninety-three lessons to students in several dozen schools of all Jewish denominations (and none).

LEARN MORE & SCHEDULE A PRESENTATION

KlezCalifornia secures invitations from schools and sends experienced presenters to deliver the lessons. We hope to secure invitations to present at least once a year to classes for which Yiddish culture fits well with the schools’ curriculum in Jewish history, art, music, and contemporary Jewish life. The lesson plans are sufficiently detailed that a “regular” classroom teacher would be able to present most of them, were he or she ready to. We do first presentations to a school or camp at no charge; after that, we charge a modest fee.

If you are a principal, teacher, parent, or student in a Jewish religious school, day school, or camp, please contact us at 415 789 7679 or tam[at]klezcalifornia.org to learn more or to schedule a presentation for your students.

WHAT IS YIDDISH CULTURE?

Yiddish culture encompasses the ideas, values, practices, and customs of a thousand years of Jewish community life. It began in Eastern Europe and then spread to Israel, North America (U.S. and Canada) and Latin America (particularly Argentina). The Holocaust nearly destroyed this culture. While there is some continuity of these traditions in contemporary Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) communities, which are relatively small in Northern California, the majority of non-Haredi Jews have little exposure to Yiddish culture. 

Fortunately Yiddish culture has been experiencing a revival around the world
over the past forty years. It can provide an innovative way to engage in Jewish life, enabling Jews of all — or no — affiliations to celebrate together. It has particular appeal for musicians, those seeking multi-generational activities, and interfaith families. Yiddish culture offers non-traditional opportunities for creativity and engagement apart from “hot button” issues that might divide Jewish communities and keep some young Jews from choosing to affiliate. 

WHY YIDDISH CULTURE FOR KIDS?

Most Jewish children in North America have a Yiddish heritage — i.e. many branches of their family came from Eastern Europe – but are barely aware of the richness of this historic culture stretching back over 1000 years. 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.

Yiddish culture offers a novel connection to Jewish life for today’s young Jews through which they can enrich and expand their Jewish identities, building on the yerusha (inheritance) of many American Jews and avoiding the “hot button” issues that drive some young Jews away. Accessible to Jews and non-Jews alike, Yiddish culture provides something for everyone in interfaith families and for non-Jews who find Yiddish culture compelling (some of this generation’s best klezmer musicians are non-Jews). While Yiddish culture used to be “old”, it is new again, now seen as counter-cultural, something that would have astonished our grandparents.

TAM PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT

YEAR 1 (ACADEMIC YEAR 2013-2014)

Pilot program for grades K-6. 
KlezCalifornia developed activities and corresponding learning objectives for grades K-6, which were reviewed by Jewish educators. We pilot-tested the activities for grades K-6, making sixteen presentations to 220 children in eight schools and at one community event: 
  • Congregation Kol Emeth, Palo Alto
  • Congregation Netivot Shalom, Berkeley
  • Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, San Francisco
  • Congregation Sherith Israel, San Francisco
  • East Bay community-wide Tikkun Leyl Shavuot
  • Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School, Palo Alto
  • Lisa Kampner Hebrew Academy, San Francisco
  • Palo Alto School for Jewish Education, Palo Alto
  • Temple Sinai, Oakland
Work in Year 1 was funded by grants from the Chaim Schwartz Foundation and the Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring of Northern California, presentation fees from participating Jewish schools, and in-kind contributions from KlezCalifornia. 

YEARS 2 & 3 (ACADEMIC YEARS 2014 - 2016)

Continuation of presentations for grades K-6, plus pilot program for grades 7-12. 
KlezCalifornia developed activities for grades 7-12, under the name "Tastes of Yiddish Culture of Teens." We continued to offer classroom presentations for grades K-6, and developed additional activities for those grades. Work in Year 2 was funded by a grant from The Natan Fund Program for Emerging Models of Jewish Connection, renewed support from the Chaim Schwartz Foundation, presentation fees from participating Jewish schools and camps, and in-kind contributions from KlezCalifornia.

YEAR 4 (ACADEMIC YEAR 2016 - 2017)

Continuation of presentations for grades K-12, adult education, geographic expansion. KlezCalifornia is offering classroom presentations for grades K-12 throughout the nine-county Bay Area at a modest fee, and developing inclusion of Yiddish culture at Jewish summer camps. As of the conclusion of this academic year, we will have made more than 90 presentations to kids in grades K-12.

We have reached out to Jewish educators in other metropolitan areas to introduce this program to their communities. We have identified interested presenters and/or organizers in Ann Arbor, Morgantown, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Syracuse, and Winnipeg. Please contact KlezCalifornia if you are interested in being part of this program!

Recognizing that many post-baby-boom Jewish adults, as well as Jews by choice of all ages, have also missed out on Yiddish culture, we are exploring work in adult education.

Work in this school year is funded by grants from The Natan Fund, The Marinus and Minna B. Koster Foundation, and by program service fees from participating schools and camps.

LESSON PLANS