Books

Temple Israel Creates Album, Book and Videos Just for Kids

Sarah Gottlieb and Cantor Michael Smolish.Sarah Gottlieb and Cantor Michael Smolish.
Sarah Gottlieb and Cantor Michael Smolish.

“This project was a way of making sure that when we hit the warm weather, our kids would have something beautiful to celebrate,” said Rabbi Michael Smolash.

A recording of 13 songs, videos of three performances and a book — all for youngsters ages 3-6 and developed over a year with the coordination of Temple Israel staff members and outside pros — are available for just the asking.

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All that’s needed to obtain the package is a visit to www.temple-israel.org/eretz-israel-sheli.html# and/or a call to Maya Grinboim (248-661-5700, ext. 110) at the temple. A visit to the temple website before orders are placed lets parents review the program in advance.

Eretz Yisrael Sheli Album and Cover

“Jewish music is important, and we want children to grow up loving it all their lives,” said Cantor Michael Smolash, who is at the center of development of materials that follows the production of recordings for adults.

“We wanted to cover every angle and get the best music recorded in the best way with phenomenal musicians, producers and studio. We also wanted to write a really inviting book to bring kids into it and get it into their homes. We wanted them to see it on their terms and let our youngest kids know we care about them.”

To listen to the entire program takes about 40 minutes.

A behind-the-scenes shot from a recording session.
A behind-the-scenes shot from a recording session.

Costs of the program were funded entirely by a gift from the Gottlieb family in memory of Stephen Gottlieb. Not a penny for the team and materials comes from the temple budget.

Working closely on the development of the three elements were Cantor Neil Michaels, who wrote the music and lyrics for “a place called PEACE,” and Jacob Spike Kraus, Zipser Artist in Residence, who helped write songs and bring about the productions before finishing his term.

“We want to be the best environment for kids to grow and learn music and Judaism,” Smolash said. “You can download and listen to it for free from our website.”

Behind the scenes recorrding vocals with Temple Israel EEC kids.
Behind the scenes recorrding vocals with Temple Israel EEC kids.

the album, Temple Kidsreal, has 13 tracks. The program creators started with many more tracks and whittled them down to a base number for fun and learning with an emphasis on English. They range from songs about holidays to a folk song that has to do with African melodies.

The song “There’s a Dinosaur Knocking,” for instance, was written by Linda Arnold and adapted by Mimi Greisman and Andi Joseph. It delves into the love of Shabbat. The song “Kum Kum Lei Lei” is an African folk song with just a few words repeated to the sounds of professional musicians.

the book, Eretz Yisrael Sheli, (or in English, The Land of Israel Is Mine) teaches Hebrew words and shows Israeli sites. It was written by Israeli writer Datia Ben-Dor, translated into English by Smolash and illustrated by Casey Wright, the wife of Jacob Spike Kraus.

“One of the three videos is a theme song of the album,” Smolash said. “The second is a new counting song that teaches the numbers 1-10 in Hebrew. The third is about the book that we created. Our music production director, Maya Grinboim, grew up with that song and knows it like we know ‘Row Your Boat.’

“Temple Israel was very active during the pandemic, and this project was a way of making sure that when we hit the warm weather, our kids would have something beautiful to celebrate.

“The Early Childhood Center kids helped launch this album. We did it at a concert. Our kids sang with the musicians who played on the album, and it was very exciting for them to know they were going to help launch the album. Their voices are featured on the album so, through COVID, they were there with their masks on safely recording these songs.”

Emma Trivax, Cantor Michael Smolash, Cantor Neil Michaels, Rabbi Jen Lader and Jacob Spike Kraus
Emma Trivax, Cantor Michael Smolash, Cantor Neil Michaels, Rabbi Jen Lader and Jacob Spike Kraus

When the book was published, Smolash sat down with a class and read it to them. He said they were excited to know they were part of it as were Rabbi Jen Lader and Emma Trivax, congregational soloist.

The three videos — Temple Kidsreal, Counting Song and Eretz Yisrael Sheli — have representatives from the components of the other parts of the package and feature performances new to each video.

“We’d love to share this music with the whole Jewish community,” Smolash said. “We want to bring the Early Childhood Center up to the level where kids can learn to love and enjoy Jewish music.”

Details

To order this package, go to www.temple-israel.org/eretz-israel-sheli.html# and/or call Maya Grinboim at (248) 661-5700, ext. 110.

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