Babaganews.com is a website whose stated goal is to “help our readers understand the values that are at the core of Jewish beliefs and practices” and to “encourage young people to explore Jewish values, traditions, life-cycle events, holidays, and Israel, from perspectives that are novel, hip, fun, thought-provoking, exciting and that will encourage them to continue these explorations with the full power of their imaginations and reflections.” The stated audience for Babaganews.com today is explicitly “Jewish middle school students and teachers” (1) and can be best understood as an educational resource for those looking for interactive/digital media solutions for teaching Jewish values.
The Babaganews website seems to have started in the year 2000 as a digital companion to the main focus of the Babaganews brand: a physical magazine subscription service that delivered material that “accurately and thoughtfully analyzes major news stories, religious holidays, cultural events, and youth trends that play an important part in our children's lives.” (2) The focus seems to have shifted towards the end of 2007, however, as the option to “Subscribe Now” to the physical magazine disappears from the site around this time. What exists now on Babaganewz.com is a selection of digital media including articles, games, videos and music. Babaganewz appears to operate as a standalone blog, as opposed to its former magazine companion.
Within the “Games” section of the site, one finds several games ranging in genre and style from trivia, puzzles, arcade, “finder” games, and word games. Each of the games within these genres place an emphasis on Jewish history, culture or values. For instance, in “Jewpardy” (a spinoff of the popular trivia game show Jeopardy), employs a vast variety of “jewish” trivia (that is to say, trivia sharing the common theme of jewish history and culture) and several different overarching themes to play within--20th Century Judaism, Colonial judaism, Sukkot, etc. (3) It should be relevant to note that answering the questions incorrectly in some of these games will deduct points from your total but will reveal the answer to you (such as each variation of “Jewpardy”), while other games require you to go back and replay the game without giving you any knowledge of the correct answer (such as in “The Totally Unreasonable Jewish Quiz”). (4) What comes from this is a balance of learning styles--perhaps fitting for a website that sees itself, above all, as educational.
There are also games, such as “Dreidel 6000,” (5)which have no explicit educational goal (there are no questions to answer or skills to master), but rather, they allow aspects of the Jewish culture to be made modern or relevant or “hip.” Here, it is assumed that the basics of the dreidel game are understood (the instruction screen does not appear without some poking and prodding) and this version of the game only seeks to add a new, more modern “space” environment to a game with a long history.
Finally, the number of games which involve the Hebrew language sets this site apart as one whose audience is very specific, as the learning curve on these games is extremely high if the player has no understanding of Hebrew. “Hebrew Match Games,” (6) for example serves as a basic identification game, where a word is spoken in Hebrew and the player is prompted to click the picture which best illustrates that word. Again, the emphasis is obviously educational--knowledge is rewarded, not luck or skill.
Ultimately, Babaganewz.com is a website which focuses on offering teachers and students interactive ways for individuals to engage in learning and experiencing their Jewish culture.