Jewish Journal


September 2, 2009

New ‘Shalom Sesame’ using Grover to bridge Israel-Disapora gap


When I was a student at Hillel Torah in suburban Chicago, we loved watching “Rachov Sumsum” in class. I’m glad that a new generation of young Jews will get the same great treat thanks to the Sesame Workshop.
The series will, of course, be available in time for Chanukah presents.

HERZLIYA, Israel (JTA)—Grover has been getting to know Israel.

The furry, blue “Sesame Street” character has visited the Dead Sea, Caesarea, the Western Wall and even Jerusalem’s shouk to sample the produce.

Along with Disney Channel star Annelise van der Pol, Grover has been exploring the Jewish state as part of a Sesame Workshop production called “Shalom Sesame.”

The 12-part series is geared toward North American Jewish children and their families to forge a sense of Jewish identity by providing a taste of Israel, Jewish traditions and culture. It will include celebrity appearances by Jake Gyllenhaal, Debra Messing and possibly Ben Stiller, among others, and is scheduled for a Chanukah 2010 release.

A 1986 production of the same name sold 1 million copies and is considered the top-selling Jewish educational title.

More than 20 years later, it was time to update and overhaul the content.

“The needs of the Jewish community have changed,” said Danny Labin, the project’s executive director, speaking at the studio outside of Tel Aviv where segments are being filmed.

In the first episode of “Shalom Sesame,” the character played by van der Pol— a Jewish-American actress who was named after Anne Frank—is seen on a plane flying to Israel for her first visit.

After hearing Grover, cast as a flight attendant, shout out “Kosher meal! Aisle 10!,” they strike up a friendship and decide to travel together throughout the country. Throughout the series the pair remain in Israel—a device that lets children see various landscapes, meet Israeli children and even learn a little Hebrew.

Read the full story at JTA.org

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