From trivia to drum circles to crafts, kids zone has a lot to offer

The Be’chol Lashon Kids Interactive Zone at Israel in the Gardens is offering an array of multicultural activities, including acrobatic performances, West African drum circles and teen trivia contests.

There are also arts and crafts tables, where kids will be able to make Israeli spice balls or spice sachet bags for Havdallah, tzedakah boxes, Asian-inspired block prints for Shavuot, Latino-inspired paper flowers and portrait magnets.

Gabe Harris (right) plays African drums with his group, Rhythm Village.

Once again, the Jewish Community High School of the Bay is holding its “Stump the Wolves” Israel-themed trivia contest for teens. The “Wolves” in this case are nearly 30 students from JCHS, whose sports teams are nicknamed the Wolves. Teams of any age can try to “Stump the Wolves” and win group prizes.

Another popular activity is watching the student acrobats perform. The acrobats, from the San Francisco Circus School, will do routines employing hoops, gymnastics and tumbling.

The West African drum circles — which in the past have inspired many an impromptu dance party at Israel in the Gardens — are coming back to the Kids Zone courtesy of Rhythm Village, a local ensemble. Founder Gabe Harris of Fairfax will lead the noisy drumming workshops and African dance activities throughout the day.

Harris formed Rhythm Village in 2001 after returning home from a trip to Africa. “I have a passion for African music and culture,” he explains. “I saw my friends there using drums to inspire people and help them move through their inhibitions.”

Budding drummers have fun in the Kids Zone at last year’s Israel in the Gardens. photo/josh yoches/be’chol lashon

Harris said he was impressed by the enthusiastic responses he got from both children and adults during drum workshops at last year’s Israel in the Gardens. For young children, he brought a series of plastic bucket drums meant to imitate the traditional dunun drum when hit with sticks. For the older crowd he brought goblet-shaped West African djembe hand drums, which make a heartier sound.

This year he’ll bring along the plastic buckets, djembes and a more melodic drum called the balafon, which is similar to the xylophone.

Harris is not Jewish, but his wife is, so they celebrate holidays together with their 6-year-old Jasmine.

“One thing that really impresses me about Judaism is that it is so founded in community,” he says. “I found that sense of community among my drummer friends. But it is a different kind of bond than what you find in Judaism, which has tied people together for centuries.”

Be’chol Lashon is an S.F.-based nonprofit for ethnically and racially diverse Jews and their families. The organization promotes studying Hebrew, celebrating the holidays, reading Bible stories and learning about Israel, all within the context of what it means to be Jews of color.