Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Toolbox of Faith: A Program That Helps Children Discover the Uses of Faith

Activity 4: Jewish Celebration In Song And Dance

Activity time: 15 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Jewish dance music and appropriate media player
  • A copy of Leader Resource 2, "Hava Nagila" and the Hora
  • Optional: Tambourines, scarves, and kazoos for all participants

Preparation for Activity

  • Listen to the song "Hava Nagila" and other music you want to play for the group. Obtain the CDs, MP3s, or tapes you will need. Find sources for "Hava Nagila," "Miriam's Song," and klezmer music in "Find Out More."
  • Print out the lyrics to the song(s) you want to teach. Find the lyrics to "Hava Nagila" on Leader Resource 2, "Hava Nagila" and the Hora. You may like to invite a congregational member to teach, lead, or musically accompany songs.
  • If participants will learn to dance the hora, review the dance steps (Leader Resource 2). Watching a video clip of the dance (see "Find Out More") and practicing the steps will prepare you to teach the hora. You may wish to invite a congregational member to help you who has skills in teaching movement or dance.

Description of Activity

Jewish tradition combines piety, Torah study, and the duty to do God's mitzvot (commandments) with festive and joyous occasions celebrating the pleasures of being human. The story of Miriam provides a good example of how, through history, the Jewish people have expressed their resiliency in music. By dancing the hora - a simple, popular Jewish dance - participants embody the joy that Miriam felt upon the Hebrews' escape from Pharaoh's chariots and their release from slavery.

Teach the group the Hebrew words to "Hava Nagila" which they can sing while they dance the hora - and join in the spirit of rejoicing. You can just sing the first words of "Hava Nagila" and hum the rest of the song. Or, dance to a recorded version of the song, and invite participants to hum or sing along as they wish.

You can also teach the group the song, "Miriam and the Women," by Debbie Friedman. You can dance a hora to this song, too. The chorus words are:

And the women dancing with their timbrels

Followed Miriam as she sang her song.

Sing a song to the One whom we've exalted.

Miriam and the women danced and danced

The whole night long.

Including All Participants

Movement-challenged participants can tap a tambourine in time to the music, or add other musical accompaniment, such as a shaker, a drum, or perhaps a “klezmer” kazoo (the wail of a clarinet in klezmer music might go very well with a kazoo!)