What do Yiddish-speaking chickens, screaming latkes, and a pig who really, really wants to be kosher have in common?
They’re all characters featured in Jewish Books Cooking, a children’s theater show that brings eight popular, contemporary children’s books to life with bright characters and catchy songs.
Jewish Books Cooking (JBC) is a project made possible by The Covenant Foundation. The show debuted earlier this year in New York City. Created and directed by Liz Swados, the New York production of Jewish Books Cooking was mounted at several venues around the city. This December, along with a new director, new music director, and new cast, the show is also going to have a whole new destination – the Deep South.
How does a show like JBC wind up traveling through the South? It happened how it always happens in show biz, baby: “ya know a guy.”
While preparing for the inaugural New York production, the staff at Covenant thought about how great it might be to bring a peppy show like this to smaller communities. They would need a director for the touring show, and an organizational partner with connections to smaller communities…
But they knew a guy – or, in this case, a gal – and they knew of just such an organization. So they made a few phone calls. They called me (because I’m a theater nerd who lives in Mississippi, and was lucky enough to intern with Covenant awhile back). They called the ISJL (since they’re an organization located in Mississippi, accustomed to partnering and delivering programming to smaller communities). They posed the question: what do you think about teaming up to bring JBC to Southern cities – smaller communities that aren’t always reached by this sort of performance?
Everyone was excited about the idea. I mean, who wouldn’t want to bring something totally different to Southern audiences … namely, a children’s show filled with moxie-rich Jewish stories, not to mention all the kooky, rapping, dancing, hilarious characters?
In short order we had actors, venues, and everything else the recipe called for to stir up a Southern helping of Jewish Books Cooking. Though a lot to wrangle, this has been a fun and rewarding process. The stories included in the show are all upbeat, sometimes poignant, sometimes zany, but never dull. The music gets stuck in your head for days — in a good way, as the entire cast can assure you. And even the craziest of the characters is charming and relate-able, especially as conveyed by our talented actors. (These guys are pros: they go from being rats to parrots to witches to fried foods, without batting an eye!)
Directing JBC has been a treat. But best of all, knowing that this show will travel around and delight audiences who might not see anything like it all year … well. It’s practically a theatrical Chanukah miracle.
Next week, this show hits the road, traveling to Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Memphis, and closes out right here in Jackson, Mississippi. The show is free, and the Southern touring production will be followed by a family program focused on exploring Jewish stories and sharing family bedtime rituals. The program was written and will be implemented by the ISJL Education Department staff – so it’ll be just as fun as the show itself.
Welllllllllll, maybe it’ll be more fun. I mean, the show is pretty hard to beat. Did I mention there’s a Yiddish-speaking chicken?
If JBC is coming to a city near you, find more info here and go check it out! In the meantime, tell us: what’s your favorite Jewish children’s story?
A few weeks ago, Rachel Stern wrote about the real blessings technology can bring, particularly when you’re outside of a major metropolitan area and want to connect to Jewish life.
This holiday season, we’re excited for another resource that will be streaming our way. This one takes the form of a new and ongoing podcast series, demonstrating the power of passionate teaching by preeminent Jewish educators. It’s a project of The Covenant Foundation, broadcast by JCast Network.
Marking the Jewish New Year, the series – From Dreams to Deeds: Join the Journey – debuts with Dr. Erica Brown, a 2009 Covenant Award recipient and Scholar-in-Residence at The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. Upcoming podcasts will feature Jewish educators influential in their own communities and nationally – in the realms of Jewish education, religious thought, community building and generational continuity.
Podcasts will feature, among others, Rivy Poupko Kletenik, Head of School at Seattle Hebrew Academy and author of a monthly Jewish advice column; Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, Dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam in Monsey, NY, Founder and Director of Project Y.E.S., and a prolific writer on issues concerning parenting and children at risk; and the ISJL‘s own Macy B. Hart, who will talk about Jewish life in the South and taking a regional approach to Jewish community and programming. Segments are hosted by Darone Ruskay, Executive Director and Producer of JCast Network.
From Dreams to Deeds: Join the Journey will live at jcastnetwork.org/covenant and on iTunes. Each segment may be played immediately or downloaded to computers and mobile devices. We’re excited to tune in and take advantage of this learning opportunity – especially when we’re on the road, on our way to visit communities. Should be great conversation starters, and those meaningful conversations are ones we love to have. It’s also the perfect time to tune in for some streaming, stimulating Jewish content that will inspire you to think, to do, and to share – what better way to welcome the new year?
Thanks, Covenant and JCast, for making this resource available to everyone, no matter what your zip code!
L’shana tova, y’all!
How do you take advantage of things like podcasts? Do you listen to them alone? While running? Have you ever used them for a program or in any interactive way? Will you be tuning in to “Dreams to Deeds?”