The longest street in the world.
The street that I grew up on was called Lindale Avenue. However, if you ask me,
or most anyone from my generation who comes from Canada, Europe, North America,
South America or Israel where they spent their days as a kid, they will probably
mention Sesame Street. Though the reality presented on the Sesame Street TV show
was far more diverse and colorful than the neighborhood surrounding my childhood
home, the memories from the time I spent with Big Bird, Elmo and Grover feel
just as real as playdates with neighbors and the first day of
While I was watching Sesame Street in the United States,
kids my age were hunkering down to watch Vila Sesamo in Brazil and Sesamstrasse
“We have many co-productions,” says H. Melvin Ming in a
recent interview with The Jerusalem Post. Ming is the president and CEO of the
Sesame Workshop, the NGO that stands behind Sesame Street. He was in Israel for
the release of a new season of Rechov Soomsoom (Sesame Street in Hebrew), which
is one of over 100 international co-productions the Sesame Workshop
oversees. Sitting at a conference table in the brightly colored Channel, Ming talks about his work with great enthusiasm and clarity.
are very deliberate about the term ‘co-production’ because we don’t believe that
our original prescription fits all areas of the world. We are constantly
reminded of how similar we are and how those similarities outpace how different
we are. That recognition, that principle, is what makes Sesame Street the
longest street in the world,” he says.
“If you ask parents in Israel what
they want for their child, if you ask parents in Africa what they want for their
child, in China, wherever we are asked to go, what has struck me in the last 13
years is how similar those responses are: education, knowledge, knowing
something. Because those are the keys to their future success but also
respect. Respect for oneself, respect for others,” says
During his stay, Hop! hosted the unveiling of a street called
Sesame Street in northern Jaffa, as well as a conference on early childhood
education with leaders in the field. Creating in collaboration with executives
at Hop!, the new season of Rechov Soomsoom has a particular focus on tolerance,
dialogue and openness. The Sesame Workshop team has spent the past several
months working in collaboration with Alona Abt, the CEO of Hop!, in preparation
for the release of the new season.
“I’m thrilled with what Hop! is
doing,” says Ming. “We have very strict criteria concerning the projects that we
The beauty of Sesame Street’s programming is its diversity and
wide appeal to youngsters. While Ming’s son loved Burt’s antics, tennis player
Serena Williams was won over by a bit called “Twittlebugs,” in which a group of
sneaker-clad centipedes went off on a picnic.
“We never know which image
will be the point of recall to influence behavior,” says Ming.
obviously something about those shoes that made Serena Williams believe that
anything was possible,” says Abt. “We want to make children believe that they
can do something more than what they see. There is a certain apathy here
in Israel that children inherit from their parents. We want to show kids an
alternative, to show them the possibility for different kinds of expression that
are full of energy and hope. We want to instill the belief in children that they
can be meaningful.”
“Kids and parents have many choices,” says Ming. “We
give them the option of having education-rich content. How do we ensure that the
content we create is relevant to the lives of these children? It’s not enough
just to reach them. We have to ask ‘What is it doing for them?’ We believe that
our privilege is to help new parents provide the healthy balance of relevant
content that is life-enriching, not just passively entertaining,”
the team of Sesame Street in 1999, after having worked for several broadcast
companies. In the 13 years since he first set foot in the Sesame Workshop, the
company has grown exponentially, thanks largely to coproductions such as this
one with Hop! The presence of Sesame-related media has exceeded the expectations
of the most ambitious executives, all the while maintaining the essence of a
small company that was founded in 1968.
At present, Sesame Street and
coproductions are viewed by roughly 10 percent of the world’s children, a
statistic that leaves much room for imagination in Ming’s eyes.
season of Rechov Soomsoom will air at 9:40 a.m. and 5:55 p.m. on Hop! For more
information, visit www.hop.co.il.
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