Last year we wrote about Boston’s new Hebrew Play program (click here for the article), which aims to restore Hebrew as an integral part of American Jewish identity by inspiring families and their young children to play in Hebrew. (Many parents in the Boston area are raising their young children to be bilingual in English and Hebrew.) We asked Shirah Rubin, the newest director of Hebrew Play, for an update on the program and how new families can get involved.

Give us an update on how the Hebrew Play program is doing.

We just had our first full year, which has been a tremendous success! Founder Michael Goldstein turned over the group to me, and we’ve accomplished well over 500 hours of programming and have developed such a great curriculum of Hebrew songs, activities and stories that we’ve been contacted by other groups around the country for our resources. We are working to create monthly family programs on Sundays this fall, so stay tuned! Many of the families attending are now having second children, so to be accommodating we are welcoming moms, dads or caregivers with newborn babies, instead of waiting for babies to be six months old to join. In addition, Hebrew Play has created a second site at the JCC in Providence. Our Brookline site is still Congregation Kehillath Israel.

What types of families are joining?

We’re really a microcosm of the larger local Jewish community. There are families with Israeli parents, American parents who may or may not know Hebrew and new parents looking for other new parents in the Jewish community. There are also intermarried families raising their children Jewishly and looking to get involved.

How can interested families get involved?

The best way is to contact us at, or email Brookline coordinator Onir Leshem at We request a weekly RSVP so group leaders can prepare for the number of people per session, which varies from week to week. And check out our website, which includes book recommendations, discussions and local events for Hebrew-speaking families.

For families raising their kids bilingually, what Israeli children’s books would you recommend for Hebrew practice at home?

Some of my personal favorites, which my 17-month-old daughter enjoys, include “Charuzim Taaimim” (“Delicious Rhymes”) by Datya Ben Dor, “L’famim” (“Sometimes”) by Paul Kor, “Ha’areyeh Sh’ahev Toot” (“The Lion Who Loves Strawberries”) by Tirtzah Atar, “Eser Neshikot Hashana” (“Counting Kisses”) by Karen Katz and “Kacha Za Bvirit” (“That’s the Way It Is in Hebrew”) by Datya Ben Dor. For a complete list of recommended book titles, visit our website. And to purchase the books locally, contact Risa Krohn at Israel Book Shop in Brookline by email at