Karina Zilberman, Director of Jewish Family Life and Culture for the Bronfman Center for Jewish Life at 92nd Street Y, has been educating and entertaining through music since her earliest days as a singer in her native Buenos Aires, where she created the famous Argentinean Hebrew vocal group Chavaia. She joined 92Y in 2007 and helped to develop 92Y Shababa™ , a Jewish community of families with young children. Starting with Shababa Fridays–a Shabbat preparation gathering that features music, puppets and dance–Shababa serves more than 300 families and has expanded to Thursdays, Saturdays and Fridays at 92YTribeca as well developing into even more Jewish family experiences like Shababa Bakery, Pajama Havdalah, the Shababa Mamas singing group, and Shababa the Concert. Karina leads 92Y’s High Holiday Family services, Passover Family Seder, Sukkot celebrations and conducts Jewish life cycle events such as baby naming ceremonies. She also leads workshops for both educators and clergy in New York and Israel on topics focused on creating meaningful intergenerational Jewish experiences.
Prior to joining 92Y, Karina served as a cantorial soloist at Temple Israel of Greater Miami. She also taught music at the Greenfield Day School in Miami and at Temple Judea in Coral Gables. Growing up, her family belonged to Buenos Aires’ Temple Bet-El, led then by the late Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer, who later helped transform New York City’s B’nai Jeshurun into a nationally recognized synagogue.
Karina is trained in cantorial singing as well as musical theater, and she sings in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Ladino (Judeo-Spanish), Hebrew and Yiddish. She has released four CDs including Sera Una Noche (1998), Karina Zilberman (2000); Drawing Close (2005), produced by Temple Israel’s musical director Dr. Alan Mason; and two Shababa recordings–92Y Shababa™ with Karina (2008) and 92Y Shababaland (2012), featuring favorites from her 92Y Friday and Saturday Family Jewish experiences.
Recently, Karina was named one of the 2012 recipients of The Covenant Award for excellence in Jewish education.
Coco the Sloth was born nearly 15 years ago—created for Karina from an original design—and he is undoubtedly Shababa’s most beloved mascot. He is a sloth, and as you may know, sloths move very slowly. So of course, Coco loves Shabbat. For him, it is magical time, when he is at peace with the leisurely, unhurried rhythm. As “Coco’s Song” says, “he loves it when people slow down.”
In addition to being slow, Coco is kind, and he loves everyone. He was born and raised in the jungle of Costa Rica before he moved to NYC, where he has been living in a small colorful cloth satchel. According to Karina, Coco is much funnier than her. Coco often makes funny faces or interrupts when Karina is trying to be “serious” or make an announcement. Karina sometimes asks Coco to hold a postcard in his hand so she can tell people about an upcoming event, but he will often drop it—oops! And that is when everyone starts paying attention. Coco is an invaluable partner.
Coco is quietly magnetic—when he enters a room, people literally come together. His slow and realizing demeanor, which is perfect for Shabbat, also makes him extremely approachable. He is shy, and he not only draws people toward him, he is able to wordlessly communicate the need to be careful and gentle with him.
Coco is also an endless source of joy—an element too often overlooked in Jewish education and Jewish life in general. He is embodiment of “Mitzvah gedola lihiyot b’simcha” (it is a big mitzvah to be happy) and the inclusiveness and curiosity that characterizes the 92Y Shababa community and philosophy.
Bubby Bracha, the newest addition to the Shababa family, was designed to be a “cool Savta” —a hip, bubbly grandmother who has no grandchildren of her own, so she finds grandchildren to love all over the world.
She was born in a tiny town in Israel, so tiny that you can barely see it on the map. One day, she decided to follow her dream of discovering and collecting blessings everywhere she goes. Just this year, she came to Shababaland, and since there are so many blessings here, she decided to stay.
Bubby Bracha wears “super-power mishkafaim agulim” (round glasses) that allow her to see blessings not only in the Challah and the Kiddush cup, but also in everyday things—in a hug, in the clothes we wear, in the park, in a sandwich, in a playdate, in a water bottle. When she spots a blessing, she shakes her head and swooshes her long white hair and says, “Bracha po!” (here’s a blessing). In Bubby Bracha’s eyes, each one of us is a blessing. She sees the “Nekudah Tovah” (the point of goodness) in every person and she loves celebrating that goodness. (She also celebrates kids and grownups who wear glasses.) Bubby Bracha says that blessings are like the stop signs or the traffic lights that remind us to STOP— to look at what we have every day, every moment, and to feel grateful for what we have right in front of us.