Jake Gyllenhaal and Christina Applegate are among the stars slated to appear in a new Sesame Street-style production geared at teaching Jewish-American children about Jewish culture.
“Shalom Sesame,” a 12-part series for preschoolers featuring the globe-trotting Muppet Grover, will explore Jewish identity and traditions and will film on location at several Israeli sites, including the Western Wall.
Big-name guest stars, including actors Debra Messing, Greg Kinnear and Cedric the Entertainer, will join puppets and children in segments filmed in Israel and the U.S., according to the series’ producers. A spokeswoman for the series said actor Ben Stiller is also expected to join, but he has not given final confirmation.
Anneliese van der Pol, a Broadway actress and star of Disney Channel’s “That’s So Raven,” had never been to Israel before arriving Wednesday to film her scenes with the Muppets.
“I think it’s really important to educate children in a fun way and a not too confusing way,” said the 24-year-old musical star, who is Jewish and is named after teenage Holocaust victim Anne Frank.
“Shalom Sesame” was first produced in 1986, selling more than 1 million copies on video and DVD. The new incarnation will tackle more issues of diversity for Jewish children and be accompanied by an interactive Web site and other outreach materials.
“For so much of the Jewish community outside Israel, they may never come here, this is a great way to have a virtual experience” of the place, said the project’s executive director Danny Labin.
The series is expected to debut around the Hanukkah holiday in December 2010.