Raquel Balsam remembers the day she saw a flyer for a Jewish music class for children run by the Brooklyn Heights Chabad. She brought her daughter to the next class, and her family has been hooked on the “YoShaba Shaba Live! Welcoming Shabbat Program” ever since. Her daughter Nola, now 3, went until she aged out, and Romi, 1, just started to attend.

“It’s been a really nice experience for the family,” says Balsam. “We continue to sing the songs into Friday night.”

Organized by the Chabad’s Kiddie Korner preschool, the YoShaba Shaba program, which takes place every Thursday at 10 a.m. and noon, draws between 20 and 40 kids each week. The four-year-old program involves singing, dancing, music, storytime, challah and grape juice. They send kids home with balloons, unbaked challah and prizes with YoShaba Shaba’s logo on it. Sheli Man-Steinberg, has coordinated the weekly event for the past two-and-a-half years. She says that nannies of the children who attend report that the children sing the songs they’ve learned while walking down the street.


Man-Steinberg says that although they continue to advertise the program, many who come have heard about it from a friend, and attendance continues to grow. They moved classes to nearby parks last summer. “People from all over the place just come,” she says, “Some of them week after week. “Some become so connected to the community, they go on to attend the Chabad’s preschool, she says.

“A lot of parents signed up for the school and are considering it because the parents see the kids are interested in it, they see how the kids are connecting to it,” says Man-Steinberg. “It’s really meaningful.” Kids from the preschool attend YoShaba Shaba for free, whereas others pay $5 per class.

As the different Jewish holidays approach, YoShaba Shaba includes activities appropriate for that time of year, like blowing the shofar before Rosh Hashanah, making masks for Purim and lighting candles for Chanukah. Each week, they make the challah they bring home to bake. Man-Steinberg says, “When the parents or grandparents are in the class, it awakens something in them; they see this challah and see the grape juice and say, ‘Wow I haven’t done this in a long time.’ ” Coming home with dough to bake in the oven leaves them wanting more, she says. “Now the parents feel like something’s missing if they don’t have it.”

The class teaches kids from all cultures about music, rhythm and Shabbat, she explains. “We are reaching a new generation of tolerance and admiration for other cultures.”

Manhattan resident Linda Kalish’s grandson, Julian, lives a block away from the Brooklyn Heights Chabad, where the program is held during the winter months. She has been taking him to YoShaba Shaba for about a year-and-a-half after first hearing about it from one of his neighbors.

“It’s just been wonderful. My grandson loves music and musical instruments,” she says. And Kalish explains that is much more than only the music. A bunch of boys and girls from his building attend and after each program, they head home for lunch and prepare the challah together so it’s ready for an afternoon snack. “It’s a warm, generous setting. It’s like a big family gathering every week and everyone looks forward to it, the kids as well as the grown-ups. It’s been a big part of Julian’s life.”

Shterna and Rabbi Aaron Raskin of Chabad of Brooklyn Heights founded the Kiddie Korner preschool and supervise its activities. Rabbi Raskin regularly visits the program, helping the children give tzedakah, blows shofar before the High Holidays and lights the Chanukah menorah with the kids.

YoShaba Shaba’s songs are part of the bedtime routine at Melissa Dincher’s house. She says her sons, ages 3 and 5, have learned all of the songs and have brought the experience home. Being part of the program also inspired her to send her younger son to preschool at the affiliated Kiddie Korner, she adds, where he just finished the 2’s program and the summer camp. “It’s a warm and inviting environment.”

Dincher also has a newborn daughter, and says she hopes she will have the same experience her boys have had with songs and music. “I like music in their lives. I think it’s so important to have music in your life, and exposure to the Jewish religion is also a bonus. So I’ll definitely take her when she’s a little bit older.”