Miss Emily Celebrates Blog

Jonah and the Whale Story Song with Puppets for Yom Kippur with Kids

I present and suggest this fun tune with permission from Jeff Klepper. Generously, Jeff has offered all of us the chords, music, and lyrics here. Jonah and The Whale is © 1978 Jeff Klepper and Jeff Salkin

Looking for an engaging way to share a Yom Kippur story with little kids?

Every Yom Kippur, Jews around the world read and study the text of the Book of Jonah.

Jeff Klepper wrote a fantastic tune that simply tells the story- and I’ve used as a ‘sermon’ or in lieu of a non-musical story in a Yom Kippur service for young children and their families.

Here are a few of the big ideas I encourage you to consider while you explore how/why/when you might modify the way you present this (or any) song to young children and their families:

  • Are the lyrics meaningful? Sometimes, I skip songs because the words just don’t resonate with how I speak- but often, I just adjust them. In this song, I’ve replaced the lyrics “wicked people” with “poor choice makers” as I haven’t broached the discussion of inherent evil in humans yet and I don’t want to.
  • Where can you create opportunities for participants of different intelligences (read up on Howard Gardner or enjoy this song I wrote about his theory if you don’t understand what I mean). In this song, I’ll ask:
    • ‘Can you make a terrified face?!?’ (when the sailors are terrified)
    • ‘How many? count them!’  (when Jonah stays inside the whale for 3 days and nights)
    • (towards the end of the song, once people know the chorus): ‘I LOVE hearing you sing it to me- now turn to your friends or your grown ups, and sing it to them!’
  • What is the ‘big idea’ that you are hoping your learners will walk away understanding as a result of participating in the way you share your song?

These are the props that I use (some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. The cost to you is not impacted)

Jonah Puppet (also used as any other biblical character who isn’t old, I use this Moses Puppet for more senior characters)
‘God’s Voice’ Mic Prop
Boat (which is what my kids play with regularly)
Whale Puppet

Here is an example of how I share it to engage kiddos and grown ups. In planning and practicing how I present it, I make sure to create ‘roles’ and offer the congregation opportunities to participate in ways that they might want to that are necessarily related to the story but are relevant and appropriate interests and skills of the community with whom I am celebrating.

For more on exploring Yom Kippur with little kids:

Please read this article I wrote for kveller:  Stop Teaching Kids That This Holiday Is About Saying I’m Sorry

Hope this is a useful model and you find a way to use it in a way that represents your style and your community’s interests 🙂 As always, let me know if you have comments or questions- [email protected]