Originally published on JewishBoston.com.
If you’re around my age, you might remember a series of specials that brought our favorite Sesame Street Muppets and a bunch of Jewish celebrities that probably meant nothing to you as a pre-schooler (Itzhak Perlman?!?) visiting their Israeli counterparts on Rechov Sumsum in a mash-up known as Shalom Sesame. Depending on when you encountered these videos and how good your memory is, you might either feel warm nostalgia or faint embarrassment for the attempt to teach American Jewish kids Hebrew language and Israeli culture through the quick-cuts and funny bits Sesame Street is known for the world over.
Looking back on those shows as an adult… at best they have a quaint datedness to them. At worst, you end up with unfortunate (and unforeseen) double entendres like in this clip, where Big Bird builds a security wall down the middle of Sesame Street:
Luckily, our kids won’t have to travel back in time to discover a Sesame Street that speaks to them in both English and Hebrew. Sesame Workshop has produced a new Shalom Sesame for a new generation. New episodes are available now on DVD, with additional interactive activities premiering online in December. (If you’re looking for some previews, make sure you become a fan of Shalom Sesame on Facebook. They’ve been offering up great video clips to their fans for several weeks now.)
I asked my friend Jennie, proprietress of Modern Tribe (a cutting-edge online Judaica store that’s selling the DVDs) if she could explain to JewishBoston.com readers what the new series is like. Here’s what she said:
Replacing Jeremy Miller, Itzhak Perlman, and Lamb Chop are celebrities including Jake Gyllenhaal, Debra Messing, and Ben Stiller who join the Sesame characters in their Israel adventures. In total, 12 new DVDs will be released over the next several months, two are available now. Out now is Welcome To Israel, the segment that introduces the major characters, in which we meet Grover as he flies to Israel and meets Anneliese van der Pol. The two become fast-friends and begin to explore Israel together. The second DVD is Chanukah, in which Grover and Anneliese celebrate together. Grover’s bringing the latkes and all is well until Anneliese gets caught in a game of tag with a chicken and loses her special menorah. Can her Muppet friends find the missing menorah in time to celebrate Chanukah?
If you’re as in love with the new version of Shalom Sesame as I’m hoping I will be once I see it, you may want to wear your love on your sleeve… or at least on your torso. Jennie heard you, and she’s selling four adorable Shalom Sesame T-shirts. Unfortunately, they only come in kids sizes (for now?). But if you’re looking for a great Hanukkah present for the little ones in your life, you can’t go wrong with an Elmo “Mini Mensch” shirt.