Rash of programs targeting unaffiliated, new parents.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
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At this Sunday’s Tot Tussovka, teacher Natalia Tsvirko, a Russian-born, Israeli-raised Brooklyn College opera student who exudes warmth, coaxes smiles and even some attempts at singing from the six babies (ranging from 3 months to 14 months) perched on the laps of moms and dads.
The Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst runs the class, which incorporates Russian, Hebrew and English, but it is held in central Park Slope, just down the street from the Park Slope Food Co-op and maternity boutique Boing Boing. And while several participants trek in from south Brooklyn, an area long known as a hub for Russian Jewish immigrants, Tot Tussovka, which has attracted over 20 families (not all at once) so far, is designed for the growing numbers of second-generation families settling in Brownstone Brooklyn — many of them interfaith couples in which only one parent is Russian-speaking.
In the six weeks since Tot Tussovka’s launch, “we have learned a lot about the Russian-speaking families that choose to live in Brownstone Brooklyn and what makes them different from ones in South Brooklyn,” says Melanie Levav, the JCH of Bensonhurst’s assistant executive director.
“Many are interfaith, and our approach through culture is one that’s attractive. People are not so much interested in the religious aspects [of Judaism], but they’re definitely into music, literature and art.”
At last Sunday’s session, held in a basement yoga studio, activities include a Russian song about animals, a Hebrew song about body parts, shaking instruments about to “Chunga Chunga,” a Russian folk song, and a reading of Eric Carle’s “Polar Bear, Polar Bear What Do You Hear?” translated into Russian.
Zhanna Beyl, who emigrated from Moscow at age 14, travels to Tot Tussovka each week from Midwood with her American-born husband and their 3-month-old son, Shmulik, who she hopes to raise bilingually.
“It’s fun,” she says of the class. “I’m not sure how much Shmulik is getting out of it, but I love it. It puts me on a schedule and gets us out of the house.”