Director of Jewish Family Life and Culture
92nd Street Y
New York, NY
“I believe in the transformative power of relationships, the comfort of lasting bonds, the warm embrace of community, and the unifying and uplifting value of traditions, old and new. I have felt that connection – to loved ones and to transcendent meaning – since I was a young girl. My family would gather around the piano that my father played and celebrate life through songs from all over the world. Music was a very strong, evocative bridge from past to present for all generations. Tango, Jazz, and Klezmer blended in the voices of my loved ones.”
Karina Zilberman, Director of Jewish Family Life and Culture at the 92nd Street Y (92Y) in New York City, has been educating and entertaining through music since her earliest days as a singer in her native Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she created the well-known Argentinean Hebrew vocal group Chavaia. In 2007, Karina joined 92Y to develop a Jewish community of families with young children. Today she is widely known as the creator, founder, and leader of the 92Y Shababa™ Community, an intergenerational family Shabbat experience that includes singing, art projects, playground visits, holiday-themed celebrations, and more.
Starting with Shababa Fridays – a pre-Shabbat experience for young children and their grownups featuring music, puppets, and dance – Shababa now serves more than 500 families and has expanded to Saturdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. It includes Jewish Shabbat family experiences, Shababa Challah Bakery, Pajama Havdalah, and the Shababa Mamas concerts. Karina also leads 92Y’s High Holidays Family services, a Passover Family Seder, and the community service-oriented International Mitzvah Day. In addition, Karina leads workshops for educators and clergy in New York and Israel.
“My mother sent my sister and me to Camp Ramah in Cordoba, Argentina, when I was 14-years-old. I returned transformed and wanting more. I created Jewish musical experiences to inspire Jewish youth. My instinct for combining different elements from Judaism with the world of the arts helped develop my passion for becoming an experiential Jewish educator, using the arts to share the joy of Jewish life. Over time, the educator and the performer in me found a dynamic balance in my soul.”
Prior to joining 92Y, Karina served as the Cantorial Soloist, Clergy Assistant, and Jewish Music Educator at Temple Israel of Greater Miami. After she joined the clergy team, Temple Israel grew from 350 to 500 households. Before Temple Israel, she taught music at the Greenfield Day School in Miami and Temple Judea in Coral Gables.
Karina is trained in cantorial singing, as well as musical theater; she sings in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Ladino, Hebrew, and Yiddish. The majority of Karina’s training came through workshops, mentoring, and tutoring in Argentina with specific teachers in her fields of interest. She studied leadership and pedagogy at Comunidad Bet El and Escuela Superior Juan Bautista Alberdi, where she also took classes and workshops on creative movement. She studied singing with international Mezzo Soprano, Noemi Souza, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, while also training with international puppeteer Pablo Nojes. She has released four CDs (including Sera Una Noche (1998), Karina Zilberman (2000), and Drawing Close (2005)) and two Shababa recordings (92Y Shababa™ with Karina (2008) and 92Y Shababaland (2012)).
From her Letters of Nomination and Support
“Karina is an innovative Jewish educator who knows how to design and implement programs to reach people ‘where they’re at.’ The 92Y Shababa program engages unaffiliated families with young children in a joyous and content-rich celebration of Jewish culture and tradition. In the process, Karina and Shababa have transformed the role of the Jewish Community Center in the field of Jewish education, establishing it as a core and vital locus of Jewish education for children and families.”
Helaine Geismar Katz
Associate Executive Director, 92nd Street Y
“Karina Zilberman is a happening. Her soul resonates with an authentic spirituality that captivates babies, young children, parents, and older adults. Her gift is her simplicity. Shababa is a celebration of Jewish life and tradition. Karina engages all of our senses. Her success has motivated her to find ways to create that spark in other potential Jewish educators.”
Vice President, Early Childhood Education & Family Engagement, JCC Association
“Karina is a great educator who understands her craft and knows how to develop and bring an educational program to a community. She has a natural ability to engage children and families. She has an equally impressive ability to communicate the pedagogic goals and methodologies of the program to teachers and community leaders. We in Ramat HaSharon, Israel are truly blessed to have the benefit of her active involvement and guidance as we aim to replicate her success.”
Executive Director, Migvanim: Multi-disciplinary Centers of Ramat
“Over the last four years, Karina has had a tremendous impact on the Jewish community of the Upper East Side of Manhattan and beyond. For many, she has filled a void and drawn them to Shababa with her warmth and deep devotion to Jewish values. Karina has inspired each of us to identify with our Jewish roots, take pride in them, and share them with others. Her commitment to our community, her passion for her work, and her empathy for others are authentic and deep.
Stephanie Levey, Ph.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Private Practice