Tam – Tastes of Yiddish Culture for Kids & Teens


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.

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)
  • Yiddish life in painting and photography
  • The two-day weekend and Yiddish protest culture
  • Language Debates: What languages “should” Jews speak?
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 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 eighty lessons to students in twenty-five schools & camps of all Jewish denominations (and none).

The Tam program is funded in the 2016-2017 school year by grants from The Natan Fund and Marinus and Minna B. Koster Foundation, program service fees from participating schools and camps, and in-kind contributions from KlezCalifornia.


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 school's 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@klezcalifornia.org to learn more or to schedule a presentation for your students.


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, 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.


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 North American Jews. 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.


Lesson plans are available now for review (contact tam@klezcalifornia.org), and will be posted here in Summer 2017.