Bechol Lashon kids zone celebrating Jews around the world

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Celebrating Israel today means celebrating its vast diversity — and at Israel in the Gardens, that will mean pounding on West African drums, creating Havdallah potpourri sashes with Indian spices and designing tzedakah boxes to benefit Ugandan Jews.

At the Be’chol Lashon Kids Interactive Zone, children of all ages will sample these and other culturally diverse activities that will focus on performances and arts and crafts.

“The vision of Be’chol Lashon [which means ‘in every tongue’ in Hebrew] is to build a global Jewish people through more pluralistic and multicultural expressions of Judaism,” says Diane Tobin,  Be’chol Lashon’s executive director. “We are delighted to bring innovative multicultural activities representing African, Asian and Latino Jewish cultures to thousands of families attending Israel in the Gardens this year.”

Activities that represent Be’chol Lashon’s vision will include West African drum and dance workshops for children and adults led by Gabe Harris of Rhythm Village, an Afro-fusion ensemble that operates on the idea that music has the power to diminish social, racial, cultural and economic boundaries.

Gabe Harris of Rhythm Village

“Rhythm Village has a dynamic teaching style that conveys their unique understanding of the powerful role of music,” Tobin says. “This interactive performance encourages everyone to participate and express creative energy.”

Children and adults will be able to express more energy on the gymnastic mats through balancing and tumbling with hoops.

For those looking for a more sedate experience, there will be several arts and crafts stations. Participants will be able to create spice boxes for Havdallah and Asian fruit block prints in honor of the first fruits of Shavuot “Asian cultures have traditionally celebrated the first harvest of the year as well,”  Tobin notes.

Other craft projects will include a magnetic hamsa, a protective symbol that is said to ward off the evil eye and bring good fortune.

The hamsa, Tobin says, “reaches out to connect Jews to each other, and that touches lives here at home and around the world.”

In keeping with Be’chol Lashon’s social justice message, children and adults will also be able to design their own tzedakah boxes to celebrate the Jewish tradition of giving.

“This year, Be’chol Lashon is raising funds to help the Abayudaya Jewish community in Uganda build a medical clinic,” Tobin says. “These life saving services are available to Jews, Christians, and Muslims in order to promote peace and security throughout the region.”

On the bottom of the box, participants will find instructions on how to donate the money they collect to the clinic project.

All of Be’chol Lashon’s activities at Israel in the Gardens will provide outlets for creative and expression and opportunities for tikkun olam, mixed in with the multicultural education that is the organization’s focus.

“Be’chol Lashon programs are infused with substantive learning about Judaism, including the history of diversity of the Jewish people,” Tobin says. “A more expansive Judaism is particularly engaging for younger Jews, who want Judaism to reflect the global community in which they live.”

Steven Friedman

Steven Friedman is a freelance writer.