Shaboom!” – an innovative animated web series premiering this spring from G-dcast – combines the best elements of children’s television with wisdom from the Jewish tradition to teach everyday values to children through magic, comedy and silly songs. Each of the ten children’s episodes is accompanied by a separate video for parents that delves into each episode’s value, explaining “what’s Jewish” and instilling in parents the knowledge and confidence to model the values for their children. The 10-part series launches April 6, 2016 with the theme of “Hachnasat Orchim” – Welcoming Guests.
“We are bringing what we love about great kids’ entertainment to Jewish education,” says Sarah Lefton, Executive Director of G-dcast. “We listened to parents when they told us that they want Judaism that goes beyond the holidays – what they care about is getting through the everyday and raising mensches – great people. Shaboom! shares strategies for bringing the family closer together, and for promoting courage, kindness, gratitude and other social and emotional learning that is key in early child development.”
Each episode of Shaboom! features the “magical sparks” Gabi & Rafael who work to fix the world, while focusing on that episode’s theme. After episode one, other themes include “Hakarat Hatov” – Gratitude, “Kavod” – Honor or Respect, “Bal Tashchit” – Taking Care of Nature, and “Ometz Lev” – Courage of the Heart, among others.
“Shaboom! is a jolt of energy into Jewish family education, and it’s an especially major step forward for Jewish media content,” says Cathy Rolland, Director of Engaging Families with Young Children at the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), which is helping to promote Shaboom! through its strong network of Early Childhood Professionals who will be sharing it across hundreds of ECE centers throughout North America. “This is a phenomenal vehicle to reach our youngest learners and their families and positively influence their behaviors and attitudes.”
Along with the URJ, other major partners from the Jewish world include the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ), JCC Association, Harold Grinspoon Foundation and the PJ Library Alliance, and InterfaithFamily, among many others. They are all helping to share and build upon the series. G-dcast also is working with Jewish organizations around the country to organize local screenings of Shaboom! episodes for families.
“Shaboom! meets families where they are, and draws them into the joy of Jewish life,” adds Maxine Handelman, USCJ Early Childhood Education Specialist. “The videos give kids a cool, fun entry into being Jewish in their everyday life, and they give parents the foundation to make the experience richer for the entire family.”
The videos for children and the matching clips for their parents were designed in consultation with individuals from leading children’s education and tech organizations and companies including Sesame Workshop, Amazon Studios, Electronic Arts et al, Pixar, and experts from the research and academic world who study learning and media.
Throughout a 40 year career at Sesame Street, Dr. Lewis Bernstein has led efforts to improve the intellectual, social, emotional, and moral lives of children through media. His approach has been to entertain children while educating them, so that their attention can be captured with joy.
“Shaboom! is doing the same,” Bernstein says, “making timeless Jewish values new again, engaging, and fun for children and their parents alike. Shaboom! is designed as a learning adventure for the entire family. There are imaginative episodes for kids and corresponding resources like videos, downloads and curated follow-up reading for parents. And when parents and children co-engage in learning, virtually and long after the screen dims, the impact is always greater.”
Shaboom! is written by kids’ TV veteran Robert Pincombe and directed by staffer Jeremy Shuback. It was inspired by impactful, research-backed shows like Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Super WHY! and Sesame Street. The series was tested by children’s media evaluators Rockman Et Al to help shape the programming to most effectively achieve learning and engagement outcomes with families.
G-dcast recently began focusing on on entry-level materials for kids, families and adults. Shaboom! is the centerpiece for families, especially those raising Jewish children ages 0-8. Since its founding, the nonprofit has created over 200 animated videos and apps tailored to meet the interests of people curious about the basics of Judaism. Accessible for free on platforms like Youtube, iTunes and Facebook, G-dcast’s goal is to create a comprehensive free multimedia introduction to Judaism with zero barriers to entry.
Adds Lefton, “Shaboom! is as entertaining as something you’d see on Nick Jr or PBS Kids, but it’s packed with Jewish ideas rather than math or reading help. This is where our biggest impact is – bringing people in the door that they’re hanging out in front of anyway, aka, their smartphones.”
The Shaboom! early childhood initiative has been generously funded by leading Jewish philanthropists and foundations, including Peleh Fund, two anonymous foundations, the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and the PJ Library Alliance, Bernstein Family Foundation (DC), and the Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley. As part of this initiative, the Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah is supporting the Shaboom! parent videos.