Sounds of my Childhood

Although I grew up in the United States in the 1960's my childhood experiences were not typically American.  My parents were deeply moved by the establishment of the State of Israel.  They decided to raise us as Hebrew speaking children, in Quincy, Massachusetts.

As you might surmise, the Hebrew speaking population of Quincy was small.  It would be a fair guess to assume that while I was growing up the Hebrew speaking population of Quincy was maybe ten. We were a family of five. My parents had to create a Hebrew speaking oasis in the City of Presidents.

Aside from the difficulties my parents had learning every day Hebrew, not academic , prayer book Hebrew or Biblical Hebrew, there was also the issue of how to create a vibrant cultural life for us kids in Hebrew.

We owned lots of children's books from Israel. we had several thick books of poetry and stories in Hebrew printed on soft porus newsprint. My father used to read to us the adventures of terrible twins who played horrible tricks on people and the came to a terrible end. This book was written in verse. I'm sure it was translated from German.  We read Golden Books, translated into Hebrew.  Those translations though were taken directly from the Grimm versions of fairy tales and were far more grisly than their American counterparts.

Given that my father was a Hebrew school principal, lots of our reading materials and records were produced for the Jewish educational market.  I'm ashamed to admit that my imaginary playmates were Uri and Riva from the Hebrew language primers. I would guess that those are the two most boring imaginary friends on the planet. My imaginary palymates were terrible line drawings.  I find this very sad.

My sisters and I also spent lots of time listening to records. Some were from Israel and were geared to  Israeli's. Others were geared to the American market.

I just found the Judaica sound archives and found the lost sounds of my childhood.Menora's Little Seder . The singer for the Seder portion of the recording is Rabbi Morton Leifman, a dear friend of my father's and probably the best story teller and nicest man in New York City. You ought to also listen to  track 5 for it's sheer kitch factor.

Our other great brush with celebrity was this album, Israeli Hootenanny. My first cousin David Haber was the pianist on the album.  I always imagined that the guitarist on the cover was my fabulous musical cousin David. I love hearing the Brooklyn in the singers' voices.

This record was a big part of my childhood Shiru li Shiray Yiladim, as was this one Jewish Children Sing. I know these records sound awful and stilted to our ears, but I don't know how much better they were than say, Peter Ponsil

This record was not part of my childhood, but had me guffawing Bet Ha Sefer. We owned a similar record that taught Yiddish to kids.

I don't know if any of these records will resonate with any of you. Bur for me, listening to those recordings had me lying on the floor of my bedroom with my face in the speaker of our little brown portable record player
 smelling that dusty electrical smell .

So now, you have a bit of of aural memory in your head.


  1. Hi Sarah,

    For some reason, I was thinking about those goofy Uri & Riva books today (what WERE the names of those books?!) and decided to Google it, and stumbled across your blog. Apparently we are the only two people in all of Internet-land who remember them! BTW, we have Jacobs in my family,too,so perhaps we're just mishpacha. ;)

  2. Lauire -

    So glad that someone shares my memories of Uri V Riva. I wouldn't be surprised if they were published by either KTAV or the NYBJE.

    I would assume that you got to know the books in Hebrew School.

    I have a small collection of old Hebrew primers. I love to see what else they are trying to teach beyond decoding.

    Perhaps we are related....


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