JCC Circle: You recently went to Israel. Was it your first time on a plane? What did you like best about your trip?
Grover: First time flying? You must not know that I, your lovable pal Grover, am also a super hero — so flying comes naturally to me. Flying on a plane, however, tends to be much easier and safer. My favorite part about my trip to Israel was meeting all the nice and interesting monsters and people who live on Rechov Sumsum.
J: What were some of your favorite places you went in Israel? What was the best food you had there?
G: My favorite place to visit was the Mediterranean Sea. It was soooo blue — not unlike myself. The food in Israel was pretty good too. I’ve already asked that
falafel be added to the menu at Charlie’s Restaurant.
J: While in Israel, you celebrated many Jewish holidays. Which one did you enjoy the most?
G: They were all interesting because of how different they are celebrated. Chanukah is so much fun. I always have my dreidel ready to roll. Come on, give me a gimmel!
J: You learned a lot of Hebrew in Israel. What is your favorite Hebrew word? Why?
G: I really like how the word shalom has so many meanings. Hello, goodbye, peace…it must feel so special to be such an important word. And it sounds so nice to say too. Shalom.
J: Of all that you learned from your friends in Israel, and at Rechov Sumsum, what are you most excited to share with your friends back on Sesame Street?
G: Well, as you may or may not know, I am considered to be quite the global traveler. I love returning to Sesame Street and teaching my friends new words I learned in other languages. For example, I was telling Abby Cadabby just the other day that when you greet someone in Israel you say Boker Tov. Similarly, she taught me that the same phrase in fairy language is flap flap flutter flap flap. Interesting, no?
J: And one last question: Who is the bigger grouch — Oscar? Or Moishe Oofnik?
G: When visiting Rechov Sumsum, I would tell Moishe that Oscar is a BIGGER grouch. When home at Sesame Street I would tell Oscar that Moishe is a BIGGER grouch. I imagine it would make each of them grouchy to be told that the other was a BIGGER grouch…and since being grouchy makes them both happy, I would consider it a mitzvah.
Shalom Sesame brings families together at JCCs, Grover visits Israel, and JCCs get an amazing new teaching tool.
Does it get any better than this?
In a word: Yes.
On December 5, 2010 over 20,000 people came together at 106* JCCs for a landmark event: a continent-wide celebration of Hanukkah—with Grover and his friends! JCCs across North America brought families together for screenings of Shalom Sesame, the new children’s series from Sesame Workshop that explores Jewish life.
JCCs planned a full range of fun and educational activities in conjunction with this Hannukah celebration, including brunches, singing songs, and round-robin activities. The JCC of Greater Baltimore hosted its event at a local Landmark cinema. And one of Shalom Sesame’s stars, Anneliese Van der Pol, joined the celebration at the Merage JCC of Orange County.
Sesame Workshop created a special video message to JCCs from Grover that preceded the screenings and welcomed families to the world of Shalom Sesame. Each participating JCC received companion materials from JCC Association to help parents explore the Jewish values inherent in the episode with their children.
A springboard to learning
Shalom Sesame offers a wonderful opportunity to engage families with young children, by capitalizing on the familiarity and quality of the Sesame Street brand. “But the important thing,” according to Horowitz, “is what happens once we have their attention. Our goal is to extend the learning beyond the viewing experience, with classroom exercises and activities that build on the content of
“For instance,” he continues, “the Hannukah program has a wonderful segment showing how olive oil was made in the time of the Maccabees. Our companion piece gives JCCs activities to use this segment to teach lessons about community and the value of teamwork. We are developing similar curricular units for each of the 12 episodes.”
In addition, through a collaboration with PJ Library, each unit will feature book recommendations to extend the learning from the classroom to the home.
Sumsum to Sesame
Rechov Sumsum, the Israeli version of Sesame Street, has been in production in various forms since 1983. Sesame Street is translated into many different languages, but there are only a few Streets that have been created specifically for individual countries, to address issues unique to children living there. These programs have their own cast of characters, both human and muppet. Rechov Sumsum’s multi-ethnic cast reflects the diversity of today’s Israel.
Sesame Workshop designed Shalom Sesame to help North American children feel connected to Israel, and for North American families to understand something about Jewish life and Jewish culture in Israel.
The series follows the story of Anneliese, a young Jewish-American woman visiting Israel for the very first time. She has come to visit Shoshana, a close family friend who lives and works on Rechov Sumsum. With help from her new friends on Rechov Sumsum, Anneliese — along with Grover — discovers Israel and learns about Jewish holidays and traditions.
Shalom Sesame episodes will be available for purchase on DVD from Sesame Workshop during the coming months. JCC Association is planning more events around specific episodes. “At the end of January we’re going to do a viewing of the Shabbat program tailored specifically to children with special needs and learning differences, produced in collaboration with the group Matan,” says Horowitz. “We are also working on bringing community Tu B’Shevat celebrations to JCCs, inspired by a wonderful Israeli seder that was developed there in conjunction with Rechov Sumsum.”
106* JCCs hosted Shalom Sesame Hannukah celebrations on December 5, 2010. Is yours one of them?