Coming to the JCC this fall: Shababa!


The Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island will host a new engagement program called Shababa starting in the fall. 

This award-winning approach to intergenerational, transformative Shabbat experiences was born in 2007 when Karina Zilberman brought her guitar and puppet Coco to the lobby of the 92nd Street Y, in New York City, to engage families in singing and celebrating Shabbat.

“When I started, I just wanted to make myself available,” she reflected in a recent interview. “I had nothing to lose. So I sat in the hallway, and I tried to draw people in.

“If you make yourself available, you open yourself up to hearing what people want. But if you have an agenda in your head for what ‘should’ happen, that will come across clearly and stymie the natural process.”

This was just the beginning for Shababa, which is now a network of communities around the country that share strategies, programs, ideas and more. 

Here in Rhode Island, Shababa will be led by Dayna Bailen, Jewish educator and cantorial soloist, who attended the Shababa Network Summit in New York City in January. At the summit, she participated in a training program that provides Jewish leaders and their organizations with an array of resources to share ideas and strategies for community engagement, all informed by the Shababa approach.

Attendees are encouraged to shift away from a “playpen mindset,” which Zilberman characterizes as safe, enclosed and predictable, to a mindset that is open to expression and spontaneity.

“When I think of a holy playground,” Zilberman says, “I turn to the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, who says: ‘Play is the exaltation of the possible.’ In my own words, play is the celebration of everything for all ages.”

One of Shababa’s signature props is a sloth puppet, and the Jewish Alliance is looking to name it.  Send your name ideas to Dayna Bailen at, with the subject: Sloth.

You can also come meet the puppet at the next PJ Library story time, at 10 a.m. on Friday, May 19, at the Alliance’s Dwares Jewish Community Center. The winner will be revealed at the Dwares JCC Reopening Family Program on Wednesday, May 24, at 5 p.m. 

Look for new Shababa programming to formally begin in the fall. For more information about Shababa, contact Dayna Bailen at 

For more information about the Dwares JCC Reopening Family Program, contact Michelle Cicchitelli at