KlezCalifornia

KlezCalifornia connects people and communities with Yiddish culture. We are spreading our program “Tam: Tastes of Yiddish Culture for Kids & Teens” to other communities in the U.S. and Canada.

Location: Berkeley , California
Year founded: 2003

Description

Yiddish culture encompasses the language, arts, and customs of 1,000 years of Jewish community life across Eastern Europe. The past forty years have witnessed a revival of many artistic and cultural components of pre-Holocaust life, such as klezmer music, song, food, calligraphy, paper cutting, film, and folklore, as well as short stories, poetry, and theater (in their original language and in translation). Klezmer dance, although almost lost, is being taught again, and enjoyed at community celebrations and weddings. Yiddish culture is the core of Jewish culture in North America (U.S. and Canada), South Africa, and Latin America (particularly Argentina), and thrives under the surface in Israel.

Yiddish culture enriches the lives of those involved. Many events appeal to all ages, bringing generations together. Yiddish culture connects many who are disconnected from other community offerings with the Jewish past and a future they may help create. Accessible to Jews and non-Jews alike, Yiddish culture provides something for everyone in interfaith families. As the heyday of Jewish life in Eastern Europe fades into the distant past, its artistic and cultural legacy will thrive as each generation learns, develops, and teaches.

Through our materials, web and social media presence, events, and publicity about events produced by other groups, we enable people of all ages to actively and intensely engage with and learn Yiddish music and culture. We are spreading our program “Tam: Tastes of Yiddish Culture for Kids & Teens” throughout North America.

KlezCalifornia's major programs:

• Cabarets by the Bay – These multi-performer Cabarets at JCCs are a follow-up to the fourteen Yiddish Culture Festivals we produced 2003-2016.

Tam – Tastes of Yiddish Culture for Kids & Teens – presentations for Jewish kids and teens at religious schools, day schools, and day camps. The twenty-six lesson plans we have created and tested are available for free downloading from our website.

Klezmer and Singing Workshops.

Yiddish Conversation Salons for fluent speakers.

Digital communications, including website with extensive resoures, Bay Area region-wide calendar of klezmer and Yiddish-inspired events (in free monthly e-newsletter), Facebook page and event pages.

Fiscal sponsorship services for programs involving Jewish and related cultures.

Production or co-presentation services for many additional Tastes of Yiddish Culture, including musical and theatrical performances, lectures, sing-alongs, and dance parties.

Tam: Tastes of Yiddish Culture for Kids & Teens

About

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, which stretches back
over 1,000 years. They do not recognize the impact Yiddish culture has
had on their own Jewish lives.

KlezCalifornia’s program “Tam – Tastes of Yiddish Culture for Kids & Teens” gives kids a taste (tam) of Yiddish culture through stories and songs, motivating them to grow into heymish
Jewish adults. Students have fun while engaging with Yiddish culture as
it enriches North American Jewish life today and learning about its
origins in Eastern Europe.

KlezCalifornia
has developed and is testing classroom activities for grades K-12 in
religious schools, Jewish day schools, and Jewish camps. We secure
invitations from schools and send experienced classroom teachers to
present participatory activities which cover many aspects of Yiddish
culture. We hope to secure invitations to present at least once a year
to classes for which Yiddish culture fits well with the curriculum
(Jewish history, arts, contemporary Jewish life, etc.).

The Tam
program is directed by a Steering Committee that meets in person four
times year and communicates regularly via email and telephone:

  • Karen Bergen is a retired Special Education teacher with a Speech and Language background. She directs the Yiddish Choristers in Palo Alto. She was the original Tam curriculum developer and is a Tam presenter.
  • Rivka Greenberg has a B.A. in Judaic Studies and a Ph.D. in Education. Her work has included curriculum development, child development, and parent participation in youth education. She was raised in a Yiddish-speaking household.
  • Joshua Horowitz is an internationally renowned klezmer music, composer, and musicologist. He is founder and director of the ensemble Budowitz, a founding member of Veretski Pass and has performed with and recorded with numerous other musicians. His compositions have been featured in films and awarded prizes. His recordings with Veretski Pass, Budowitz,Vienna Chamber Orchestra, Rubin & Horowitz and Alicia Svigals, have achieved international recognition and he is the recipient of more than forty awards
  • Rosie Kaplan is a native speaker of Yiddish, having learned from her parents, Polish Holocaust survivors, first inGermany where she was born and then in Indianapolis, Indiana where she grew up. Rosie has been involved in Jewish and Yiddish culturethroughout her life, as a religious school teacher, singer in the SanFrancisco Jewish Folk Chorus for many years, chorus member in productions of Di Megileh of Itsik Manger(2014 and 2015), and now a singer with the Nigunim Chorus. Rosie workedfor several Bay Area non-profits for over twenty years as a volunteer administrator. For the last ten years, she has taught English as a Second Language to adults. Rosie co-leads KlezCalifornia’s monthly salon for fluent Yiddish speakers
  • • Anthony Russell is a African-American
    Jewish educator and vocalist specializing in Yiddish repertoire from the
    first half of the twentieth century. He has taught at Congregation
    Netivot Shalom, Berkeley; Kehilla Community Synagogue, Piedmont;
    Berkeley Midrasha (for grades 7-12), and is a Tam presenter.
  • Gerry Tenney is a musician and teacher, singer of Yiddish songs and leader of the band California Klezmer. He has led programs for children for forty years. He is a Tam presenter.
  • Program
    Director is Judy Kunofsky, KlezCalifornia’s Executive Director, who has
    many years’ experience as a teacher, trainer and program manager.

    Contractor
    Tamar Zaken is the Outreach Coordinator. With both Ashkenazi and
    Sefardi family origins, she has many year’s experience in the U.S. and
    Israel as a program director and Jewish educator. Tamar is fluent in
    Hebrew.

    The Tam program is advised by numerous Jewish educators, musicians, and academics.

    The
    four Tam classroom presenters are Karen Bergen, Dave Rosenfeld, Anthony
    Russell, and Gerry Tenney. Dave Rosenfeld is a multi-instrumentalist,
    composer, dance leader, and music teacher. For four years he taught
    music and drama to grades 4-8 at a private school. The other presenters
    are described above. We are currently approaching several individuals as
    possible new presenters.

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    What is the mission and purpose of this program?

    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 American Jewish life.

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    Program Description

    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. We have created and are testing more than a dozen lesson plans, bringing a wide range of Yiddish cultural activities to these venues. We continue to expand the program’s reach in the S.F. Bay Area and are now working to spread the program to other Jewish communities in the U.S. and Canada.

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    Demonstrated Need

    In the early years of Eastern European Jewish immigration to the U.S., young Jews continued to have some connection through their families and their Jewish education with the language, melodies and traditions of the “old country.” This is no longer the case. Today’s Jewish children frequently have little familiarity with Yiddish culture. More precisely, they don’t recognize which parts of their family and community lives are in fact Yiddish-inspired culture, and know little or nothing about other elements of 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 provides young Jews with an additional way to engage with American Jewish life. Distinct from the “hot button” issues that drive some young Jews away, participation in explicitly Yiddish-inspired activities (klezmer music, singing, dance, theater, food, Yiddish language and literature, humor, and more) offers opportunities to connect with Jews of all ages and generations.

    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. While Yiddish culture used to be “old”, it is new again, now seen as counter-cultural, something that would have astonished our parents and grandparents.

    We are now bringing Yiddish culture to where young Jews already are: religious schools, day schools, and Jewish camps.

    Back to Top

    Program Accomplishments

    Year 1 (2013-2014)

    We brainstormed possible learning objectives for grades K-6, circulated them for review to a wider list of experts, including Jewish community professionals and individuals with expertise in general education, and developed several classroom activities to meet those objectives. We made sixteen presentations at nine religious, day, and community schools, reaching 220 Jewish youth.

    Years 2a and 2b (2014-2016)

    Because of illness in one program leader’s family, the program fell behind schedule. We very much appreciate the one-year extension we received from the Natan Fund and Chaim Schwartz Foundations. Our initial focus was on developing and testing lesson plans and learning objectives for grades 7-12. The activities we had tested in Year 1 for grades K-6 were mostly appropriate for grades K-3, and so developed new activities for grades 4-6. As of June 2015, we had developed 32 activities, 5-60-minutes each and totaling approximately eighteen hours of classroom activities. We made 34 presentations.

    Year 3 (2016-2017)

    See discussion below of progress in meeting current benchmarks. We have developed easily usable full lesson plans (for 45-60 minute classes), tested many of them, confirmed interest on the part of many religious schools, day schools, and camps in bringing this material to their students on an ongoing basis, and started to disseminate this program nationally.

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    How do you measure the success of your program?

    The program will be successful to the extent that:

    • Young Jews in numerous religious schools, day schools, and day camps – in the San Francisco Bay Area and throughout the U.S. and Canada – participate in the classroom activities we have designed.

    • The program in the San Francisco Bay Area secures long-term financial viability based on fees paid by schools and camps, and ancillary fees received delivering these lessons to adult groups.

    • National Jewish educational groups (or at least the ones interested in Yiddish) promote the lesson plans we have developed to their constituencies of educators.

    • The lesson plans we have developed are incorporated into the ongoing curriculum of Jewish educational institutions and camps.

    We do not charge schools for our first presentation or for a presentation if we are piloting a new lesson. Many presentations so far have fallen into one of these two categories, and so we cannot yet answer the question of financial viability.

    We believe we have been successful in other respects so far, although much remains to be done.

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    Tam: Tastes of Yiddish Culture for Kids & Teens

    About


    KlezCalifornia’s project “Tam – Tastes of Yiddish Culture for Kids & Teens” gives kids a taste (tam) of Yiddish culture through stories and songs, motivating them to grow into heymish Jewish adults. Students have fun while engaging with Yiddish culture’s origins in Eastern Europe and how it enriches American Jewish life today.



    Back to Top

    What is the mission and purpose of this program?


    The project’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 nation. We want children in K-12 grades to become enthusiastic about Yiddish culture (and Yiddish language) and see it as a vibrant part of American Jewish life.



    Back to Top

    Program Description

    KlezCalifornia is developing and testing classroom activities for grades K-12 in religious schools, Jewish day schools, and Jewish camps. We secure invitations from schools and send experienced classroom teachers to present the activities, which are participatory and cover a wide range of aspects of Yiddish culture. We hope to secure invitations to present at least once a year to classes for which Yiddish culture fits well with the curriculum (Jewish history, arts, contemporary Jewish life, etc.).


    The Tam project is directed by a Steering Committee
    that meets in person twice a year and communicates regularly via email and
    telephone:


    • Netta Avineri, Ph.D. is Visiting Professor at the Monterey Institute
    of International Studies. Her dissertation focused on heritage teaching and
    learning within contemporary secular Yiddish educational contexts. She is an
    expert in educational theory.


    • Karen Bergen is a retired Special Education teacher with a Speech and
    Language background. She directs the Yiddish Choristers in Palo Alto. She is
    the lead Tam curriculum developer, lead outreach person for grades K-6, and a
    Tam presenter.


    • Rivka Greenberg has a B.A. in Judaic Studies and a Ph.D. in Education.
    Her work has included curriculum development, child development, and parent
    participation in youth education. She was raised in a Yiddish-speaking
    household. Rivka is the lead outreach person for grades 7-12.


    • Judy Kunofsky is KlezCalifornia’s Executive Director and has many
    years’ experience as a teacher, trainer and project manager. She directs the Tam project.


    • Heather Klein is a cantorial soloist, educator and vocalist specializing in Yiddish
    vocal repertoire. She was b'ney mitsveh tutor and program director, educator, and
    soloist at Congregation Beth Am (Los Altos Hills) for over a decade and worked
    as an educator, tutor and soloist at Peninsula Temple Beth El (San Mateo) for 6
    years. She is now Cantorial
    Soloist for Temple Sinai in Las Vegas, Nevada and returns monthly to the San
    Francisco Bay Area.


    • Anthony Russell is a Jewish educator and vocalist specializing in Yiddish repertoire from
    the first half of the twentieth century. He teaches at Congregation Netivot
    Shalom, Berkeley; Kehilla Community Synagogue, Piedmont; Berkeley Midrasha (for
    grades 7-12), and is a Tam presenter.


    • Gerry Tenney is a musician and teacher, singer of Yiddish songs and
    leader of the band California Klezmer. He has led programs for children for
    forty years. He is a Tam presenter.

    • Diane Schon
    Wirtschafter has been an elementary school teacher since 1986, in both Jewish
    day schools and secular schools. A singer of Yiddish songs, Diane delights in
    sharing the history and culture of Eastern European Jews with people of all
    ages and backgrounds. She is an active, founding member of Or Zarua
    Reconstructivist Havurah. 


    The five Tam classroom presenters are Karen Bergen,
    Joshua Horowitz, Dave Rosenfeld, Anthony Russell, and Gerry Tenney. Dave Rosenfeld
    is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, dance leader, and music teacher. For four
    years he taught music and drama to grades 4-8 at a private school. Joshua
    Horowitz is an internationally renowned klezmer musicians and teacher. The
    other presenters are described above.


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    Demonstrated Need

    Several years ago we realized that KlezCalifornia was making significant progress in each of the eight elements of our vision (see above) except the one regarding Jewish youth. That recognition was the genesis of the Tam project.

    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 is no longer the case. Today’s Jewish children frequently have little familiarity with Yiddish culture. More precisely, they don’t recognize which parts of their current lives are in fact Yiddish-inspired culture, and know little or nothing about other elements of 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 provides young Jews with an additional way to engage with American Jewish life. Distinct from the “hot button” issues that drive some young Jews away, participation in explicitly Yiddish-inspired activities (klezmer music, singing, dance, theater, food, Yiddish language and literature, humor, paper cutting, and more) offers opportunities to connect with Jews of all ages and generations.

    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 most American Jews. While Yiddish culture used to be “old”, it is new again, now seen as
    counter-cultural, something that would have astonished our grandparents.

    At each of our thirteen annual Yiddish culture festivals, we have offered high quality workshops for children ages 6-12. Kids and their parents have loved these programs, but we want to reach more young people. We are reaching many more young Jews by bringing Yiddish culture to where they already are: religious schools, day schools, and Jewish camps.


    Back to Top

    Program Accomplishments

    Year 1 (2013-2014)

    We brainstormed possible learning objectives for grades K-6, circulated them for review to a wider list of experts, including Jewish community professionals and individuals with expertise in general education, and developed classroom activities to meet those objectives. We made sixteen presentations at nine religious, day, and community schools, reaching220 Jewish youth.

    Years 2a and 2b (2014-2016)

    Because of illness in one project leader’s family,the project fell behind schedule. We very much appreciate the one-year extension we received from the Natan Fund and Chaim Schwartz Foundations. The project is now on track.

    Our initial focus was on developing and testing lesson plans and learning objectives for grades 7-12. We realized that the activities we had tested in Year 1 for grades K-6 were mostly appropriate for grades K-3, and so also developed new activities for grades 4-6. As of June2015, we had developed 32 activities, 5-60-minutes each and totaling approximately eighteen hours of classroom activities. Of the thirty-two, we have tested (i.e. delivered and revised) seventeen. The others have not yet been selected by teachers at the schools we have visited for presentation to their classes.

    For grades 7-12

    · Discover klezmer music: history, examples, influences(Balkan, Polish)

    · Discuss Jewish life in Eastern Europe: for example, IsaacBashevis Singer’s story, “A Tale of Three Wishes”

    · Examine Jewish life in painting and photography

    · Explore historical debates (and the opinions of noted Jewish authors) about what languages Jews should speak: the local tongue?Hebrew? Yiddish? Esperanto?

    · Learn and discuss a Yiddish song, such as Vu Bistu Geven, an early Zionist song,or Yugnt Him, about young people building a new world

    · Read and discuss Yiddish literature (in English) – for example “The Miracle of Hoshano Rabo”by Sholem Aleichem (humor) or “If Not, Then Even Higher,” by I.L. Peretz

    · Study the origins of the two-day weekend: sweatshops,Yiddish protest culture and labor songs, role in the early U.S. labor movement,the “sweatshop poets”

    For grades K-6

    · Discover Yiddish culture in your family and community:family geographic origins, individual and family naming practices, Yiddish customs in American Jewish life

    · Discuss Yiddish culture in American life: Yiddish words in English, food, humor, American institutions created by Yiddish-speaking Jews, klezmer influences on jazz

    · Learn some Yiddish phrases, how Yiddish started, who spoke/speaks Yiddish

    · Practice a few steps of Yiddish dance (also called klezmer dance)

    · Sing along with a simple Yiddish song (for example, Az Der Rebeh Zingt, Bulbes, Oy Mayn Kepeleh)

    Since July 2014, we have done thirteen presentations for grades K-6 and seven for grades 7-12. We are in discussions with eight religious schools and day schools regarding scheduling for the spring six more presentations for grades K-6 and six more for grades 7-12. We continue to approach additional schools.


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    How do you measure the success of your program?

    We have met our objectives so far, although we are one year behind our original plan for the Tam Project (see above).

    Much effort this past year went into finishing development of the lessons and scheduling presentations at which to pilot those lessons and then modify them based on our experience. We do not charge schools for our first presentation, or for a second (or further) presentation if we are piloting a new lesson. Most presentations so far have fallen into one of these two categories. The test of the project’s long-term viability will be whether the schools at which we present invite us again and again, and are willing to pay us to continue to present.


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