Photo of Sarah Lefton

What was your journey to becoming the founder and executive director of Bimbam?

I worked in media, advertising, and tech when I was in my 20’s, and on the side I became really excited about adult Jewish learning. Coming from a small southern city where there wasn’t a lot of this available, and since I was working online I thought- I can create web based Jewish learning! Essentially my idea was to create was a Schoolhouse Rock for Jewish learning, and I kept thinking- I cannot rest until this thing exists! So here I am now.

What makes you so passionate about Jewish early childhood education and your new early childhood focused show “Shaboom!” ?

I have two young kids now, and I’m reminded by watching Sesame Street, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, and other shows how effortless learning from media is. Children under 6 nationally are watching on average almost 2 hours a day of media. So it’s an effortlessly fun learning place for kids, and I thought- why not do the same thing for Jewish learning?

When did you realize animation is the transformative tool for reaching young Jewish kids? Are there other Jewish animation companies out there? 

Everyone knows that it’s so transformative. Especially anyone who’s a parent. Saturday morning cartoons are like magic. So of course we want to work with magic, and some of the people we’re working with at BimBam are also at big animation studios, which is really cool.

To answer the second question, yes and no. There are some people who do Jewish animation on their own, but as far as animation companies- not on this side of the world. There are some in Israel, and Chabad has some people who make cartoons for their website. In Israel the Hop! Network shows animation, and we’re actually talking with them now. The difference is, here its Jewish animation, there it’s Israeli. But we’re actually working on distributing in Israel!

How would you describe your leadership style and what leaders do you admire?

I actually didn’t set out to found a non-profit, and I didn’t go to business school. So my leadership has actually been quite emergent. I started out acting more like a traditional film producer, but recently I’ve been acting more like a non-profit leader, with the input of our board, and putting creative organization first and foremost, and delegating to our artists when they’re taking the lead. It’s situational, fast moving, and great.

You recently changed the name of your organization from G-dcast to Bimbam and have rebranded around Bimbam. Can you talk about why you decided to change the name, how you navigated through the process, and how you see it playing into your longer term success?

I actually came up with the name G-dcast directly. And this week’s parsha was the first episode I ever made. This week is actually the 10 year anniversary of it.

I thought the name was funny- it rhymed with “podcast”- and it was on a whim, something I did for fun. So for years the name stuck and the organization grew, and now we have over 3 million views on Youtube. But the name has been a problem in recent years. For some people, seeing “G-d”, or the dash, made it look evangelical, and they wouldn’t return phone calls. So when we launched Shaboom!, we knew we wanted to change the name.

We decided on BimBam, because it’s from a song that people know a lot- “Bim Bam… Shabbat shalom- hey!”- and it resonated with people. It’s a cool word, and easy to read!

What are the social implications of BimBam in the contribution of Jewish identity of the 21st century? 

So for younger generations, I bet if you want to know how to do something you spend a lot of time on Youtube figuring out. That’s where people are building their identities. Billions of dollars go into beauty videos on Youtube, and like anything in the world that people are passionate about, there needs to be great Jewish material on Youtube. It’s about building identities and building the identity of Judaism itself. If you search Jewish videos, chances are the video that comes up is a man with a beard discussing Judaism. With our work, we try to show the many faces of the American Jewish Community, and the richness and identity of it.

If you could go anywhere in the world tomorrow for a weeklong trip, where would you go and why?

I have a specific answer: I want to go cycling through Japan. Shimanami Kaido. I’ve been to Japan twice, and it’s where I did my undergraduate thesis- studying interactive media. So I want to go back there again and have a chill trip and experience their culture.

When you were growing up did you ever imagine creating something like Bimbam? Jewish media, TV shows, etc?

No! I was always interested in filmmaking. I took lots of film classes. I did camp at the local public access media channel, and was really into Jewish music, but I never put two and two together until my mid-30s. In college I took a class on myth film making, but it didn’t occur to me to use Jewish myths! In my late 20’s I took a job as the marketing director of a Jewish summer camp, and I got really interested in the Jewish non-profit world. So now it’s all connected.

What goals do you and BimBam have for the next year?

There are 250,000 Jewish families in North America. I want all of them to see Shaboom!, and get excited about Shabbat, Jewish culture and values. We want to be a really welcoming place on the internet to learn about Judaism.