A ‘Little Einsteins,’ For Little Mensches

March 29, 2016

Source: The Jewish Week


The nonprofit G-dcast, which makes videos and apps for those looking to learn more about Judaism is about to release “Shaboom!” a 10-part online series of short cartoons for young children that teach Jewish values. The series premieres April 6, 2016. A few weeks before the debut of the first video, G-dcast rebranded itself with a new website and name, “BimBam,”  a reference to the popular children’s Shabbat song. The name change and release of “Shaboom!” represents a major shift for the award-winning nonprofit, both in terms of the audience it is trying to reach and the vehicle through which it is trying to reach them. BimBam’s change in focus reflects a shift that has been happening increasingly over the past decade throughout the Jewish educational world.

When G-dcast launched in 2008, its focus was on Jewish texts. The first product was a weekly cartoon series on the week’s Torah portion aimed at adults, educators and students ages 9 and up. They went on to do videos and apps about Jewish holidays, rituals and additional texts. But about five years ago, G-dcast shifted its focus to the preschool crowd, releasing “Let’s Get Ready for Passover!” in 2013.

This renewed focus on families with young children among Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative Jewish institutions began in earnest about 10 years ago, exemplified by the 2005 launch of PJ Library, which provides to families with young children free Jewish-themed children’s books with Reform and Conservative Jewish characters. One year earlier, a group of activist donors got together to launch JECEI, the Jewish Early Childhood Education Initiative, in an effort to increase the number of families sending their children to Jewish preschools. Since then, there has been a “groundswell” of interest in outreach to young families.

The launch of “Shaboom!” reflects not only a shift in whom Jewish groups are reaching out to, but also the way they are reaching out. While the focus of programming used to be holidays and rituals, now more and more organizations are emphasizing universal values presented through a Jewish lens.

Shaboom features “magical sparks” Gabi and Rafael, who have the mission of fixing the world. In the first episode, on hachnasat orchim (welcoming guests), they intervene after a family fails to make a visiting Israeli cousin feel welcome.

Each episode is accompanied by a two-minute video for parents that goes deeper into the meaning of each value and suggests ways to reinforce those values at home.

Both the kids and the parent videos make a point of including diverse characters. Gabi is white and Rafael is black. There’s a Korean-American dad, a Sephardic cousin, and a character who uses a wheelchair. There are Chinese-American and observant moms in the parent videos, and there are plans to cast for future videos parents of color, LGBT parents and other people who reflect the diversity of the Jewish community.

Read more at The Jewish Week.

Updated: Apr. 07, 2016