Don't call her the "Jewel" of Jewish preschool.
Sure, Pearl B. sings to the accompaniment of her acoustic six-string. And she does lean professionally on her gem-like first name. But that is where any similarity to the chirpy pop star ends.
"There are so many levels of Judaism -- from the most religious to the most secular kind of Jew and there's this common thread.... My goal is to make it understandable for a young child."
No aching tales of love lost here -- the songs Pearl B. (the B is for Berzansky) writes for young Jewish children mix the joy for Jewish tradition with "a bit of silliness in the approach." Pearl will perform her original compositions -- along with traditional Chanukah songs -- at a string of local appearances with Sue Epstein, a fellow writer/performer of Jewish children's songs, beginning this Sunday.
Last year saw the release of Pearl B.'s first musical collection, "Gotta Sing All Week Long!" On the tape, the modern-day bard sings, but not alone -- choruses performed by children fill out the songs, with the binary purpose of inviting child participation and reinforcing the positive Jewish values that is at the heart of each ditty. While several tracks deal with life's daily routines, most of "Gotta Sing" celebrates Jewish ritual. "Days of the Week" enthusiastically counts down the week until the Sabbath. "Havdalah Trio!" embraces the end of Shabbat, singing the praises of the Kiddush cup's purple wine, the spice box and the twisty candle. "Hallah Chain Hamotzi" incorporates the Hebrew bread prayer while "Jing-a-ling" rhapsodizes tzedakah and even gives a shout-out to SOVA, the local food-collection charity organization.
Born in South Africa, where "everybody belongs to an Orthodox shul even though nobody was Orthodox," Pearl -- whom the kids like to call "Curl" -- currently resides in Venice. A mother of three and grandmother of six, Pearl is no stranger to children or Judaism. All three of her grown children are observant Jews, "each in a different kind of religiousness. My oldest daughter is a Lubavitcher, my middle daughter is [Modern Orthodox], and my son is a black hatter.... And they're all so happy."
A rabbi's daughter, she spent many years working as a religious-school director and teacher before switching to a full-time music career five years ago.
"It kind of just mushroomed," says Pearl.
"I've had parents tell me their kids won't go to sleep unless they put my tape on."
Parents and educators interested in purchasing copies of "Gotta Sing All Week Long!" will find the tapes on sale at temple gift shops, synagogues and at these upcoming Pearl B. appearances:
Pearl B. and Sue Epstein's Magical Musical Chanukah Party Family Concerts, Sunday Dec. 6, 4 p.m., Temple Aliyah, 6025 Valley Circle Blvd., Woodland Hills.
Sunday Dec. 13, 1:30 p.m., Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Mann Family Early Childhood Center, Marcia Israel Chapel Auditorium, Audrey and Sydney Irmas Campus, 11661 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. -- Michael Aushenker, Community Editor