Last spring, the team at BimBam (formerly G-dcast) approached the URJ’s Families with Young Children staff in their effort to ensure that Shaboom!, the company’s new videos for families accurately reflect Reform Jewish values and philosophies. My colleagues and I were happy to help.
The result of this collaboration – which also included professionals from United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and Jewish Community Centers of America – is two separate video series – one for parents, which is where we contributed ideas and expertise, and another for their children – that can stand alone or work in tandem. They’re designed to appeal to a broad spectrum of viewers who view Judaism through a number of different lenses.
The parents’ series features five short videos, each only two minutes long, in which one parent clearly and succinctly explains a single Jewish concept – welcoming guests, visiting the sick, recognizing the good, giving, or respect – to other parents.
This series is designed to accompany the recently released, new animated series Shaboom!, aimed at 4- to 7-year-olds. The stars of the series are Gabi and Rafael, winged “sparks” with magical powers, and the Plony family, who, in each eight-minute episode, teach kids a Jewish value – the same ones that are featured in the parents’ videos.
This spring, five pairs of parent and kid videos were released:
- "Welcoming Sparks"/Hachnasat Orchim
- "The Best Medicine"/Bikur Cholim
- "Everything is Amazing"/Hakarat Hatov
- "Get with the Giving"/Tzedakah
- "All the Respect"/Kol HaKavod
These videos – with more episodes on the way – are already finding enthusiastic audiences in classrooms and community screening parties throughout North America.
At Temple Israel of Northern Westchester in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., Cherie Marcus’ kindergarteners and first-graders enjoyed the lively and colorful characters in the first episode, which reinforced the class’s earlier lesson about hachnasat orchim (welcoming guests) and set the scene for students to start making invitations for their parents to attend the class Passover seder.
Susan Ellenby, the youth and family community engagement coordinator at North Shore Congregation Israel in Glencoe, IL, collaborated with Rabbi Ari Moffic of Interfaith Family/Chicago to co-host a fun red-carpet premiere party at the synagogue, demonstrating hachnasat orchim by providing attendees with lunch and an art project.
Director of early childhood learning at Temple Beth Shalom in Needham, MA, Ellen Dietrick had this to say: “I think the videos are great -- short, easy to follow, and fun! I love how they make Judaism relevant and are as entertaining to watch as any other children's show. Great addition to the Jewish world!”
According to Ruth Nemzoff, a resident scholar at Brandeis’s Women’s Studies Research Center, and a board member of InterfaithFamily, "Shaboom! is a great way for grandparents to connect with their grandchildren whether they live next door or continents away. It is also a wonderful tool to share Jewish values with grandchildren who are in interfaith families (with the permission of the parents, of course!).”
For our part, my team and I were gratified to see that, as a result of our input, the characters in these animated videos represent the broad, multi-cultural diversity of today’s families. We look forward to hearing more success stories about the many ways that both series positively impact families.
Stephanie Fink, assistant director of the URJ’s Families with Young Children team, points out that the parenting videos appeal to anybody raising Jewish children, whether or not they themselves have a Jewish background. As she says, “Supporting parents in making Jewish choices and helping connect them to synagogue communities is, after all, what our team’s work is all about!”