KlezCalifornia’s project “Tam  Tastes of Yiddish Culture for Kids and Teens” offers a flavor of Yiddish culture through stories and songs, motivating them to grow into heymish Jewish adults. (Tam means “Taste” in Yiddish and in Hebrew.)

Our goal is to enrich K-12 Jewish education with Yiddish culture. We want to ensure that Yiddish culture is included in the curriculum of every Jewish day school, religious school, and camp in the San Francisco Bay Area, or at least numerous schools of each denomination. We hope to be invited by schools to do one or two presentations a year for grades for which Yiddish culture fits into their curriculum. We believe it is important that children in K-12 grades become enthusiastic about Yiddish culture (and Yiddish language) and see it as a vibrant part of American Jewish life. 


If you are a principal, teacher, parent or student in a Jewish religious school, day school, or camp, and would like to learn more (including the learning objectives that guide our presentations), or schedule a presentation for your students, please contact us at 415 789 7679 or tam[at]klezcalifornia.org.


Yiddish culture encompasses the ideas, values, practices and customs of over 1,000 years of Jewish community life beginning, at first in Eastern Europe and then spreading to Israel, North America (U.S. and Canada) and Latin America (particularly Argentina). The Holocaust nearly destroyed this culture. In contemporary Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) communities there is some continuity with these traditions; however many non-Haredi Jews have little exposure to Yiddish culture. 

Fortunately, Yiddish culture has been experiencing a revival over the past forty years around the world, and can provide an innovative way to engage in Jewish life, enabling Jews of all affiliations (including none) 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. 


In the early years of Eastern European Jewish immigration to the U.S., young Jews continued to have some connection through their families and Jewish education with the language, melodies and traditions of the “old country.” This no longer the case. Today’s Jewish children frequently have little familiarity with Yiddish culture. For most in this generation, even their grandparents do not speak Yiddish. And most Jewish educational settings exemplify the witticism of the teaching of Jewish history as jumping “From Tanakh to Palmakh,” i.e., skipping the two thousand years between the compilation of the Talmud and the periods of the Holocaust and creation of the State of Israel. 

Yiddish culture, through its incorporation of artistic, emotional, and intellectual elements, 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. As young people become interested in Yiddish culture, they find activities that multiple generations can – and do – share. Whether they pursue klezmer music, singing, dance, theater, food, Yiddish language and literature, humor, or paper cutting, they connect with Jews of all ages. 

At each of our twelve Yiddish Culture Festivals, we have offered high quality workshops for children ages 6-12. Kids and their parents have loved these youth programs, but we have not reached many. We have realized that it will be easier and more effective to bring Yiddish culture to where young Jews already are (religious schools, day schools, and camps), rather than relying only on them coming to us. 


The goal of “Tam – Tastes of Yiddish Culture for Kids and Teens” is to enrich K-12 Jewish education with Yiddish culture. The project focuses on Jewish day schools, religious schools and camps.

Over three years, we have created thirty-two activities (5-90 minutes each, totaling eighteen hours) that can be delivered by someone knowledgeable about Yiddish culture and experienced in working with young Jews. We hope to be invited by schools to do one or two presentations a year for grades for which Yiddish culture fits into their curriculum. In the pilot program, we present each activity three times and revise it in response to student and teacher reactions. In some activities, students listen to a Yiddish song, sing along (at least with the chorus), perhaps dance, and discuss Jewish life in Eastern Europe or a Jewish value embodied in the song. They learn melodies and get a feel for the Yiddish language by listening (even learning a few words). These programs can be presented repeatedly over time by classroom guests or by regular teachers using our activities. Summaries of the activities are follow.


Pilot program for grades K-6. KlezCalifornia developed activities and corresponding learning objectives for kids in grades K-6, reviewed by Jewish educators. We pilot-tested the activities for grades K-6, making sixteen presentations to 220 kids 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, and in-kind contributions from KlezCalifornia. 

YEARS 2 & 3: SEPTEMBER 2014 - AUGUST 2016 

Continuation of presentations for grades K-6, plus pilot program for grades 7-12. KlezCalifornia is developing activities for grades 7-12, under the name "Tastes of Yiddish Culture of Teens." We continue to offer classroom presentations for grades K-6 and have developed many additional activities for those grades. Work in Year 2 is funded by a grant from The Natan Fund, through their program for Emerging Models of Jewish Connection, and renewed support from the Chaim Schwartz Foundation.


Continuation of presentations for grades K-12, plus pilot program for Jewish camps and adult education. In Year 4, KlezCalifornia will offer classroom presentations for grades K-12 throughout the nine-county Bay Area at a modest fee, and explore including Yiddish culture at Jewish summer camps. 

Post-baby-boom Jewish adults, as well as Jews by choice of all ages, might also have missed out on Yiddish culture. Therefore in Year 4 we plan to explore work in adult education. 

We will also seek Jewish educators in other large metropolitan areas who would like to introduce this project to their communities.