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TV kidsBy BERNIE BELLAN
A new program at Etz Chayim Synagogue combines training young children in the technical aspects of creating television shows with the exploration of Jewish themes.


Known as TV Kids, the project is the idea of Taya Rtichsheva, who moved to Manitoba from Russia along with her husband five years ago. Born in Kazakhstan, Taya graduated from university in Russia (in Siberia) with a degree in journalism - all sorts of journalism, Taya explains: “Radio, TV, press, magazines, press services”. From 2005-2011 she was a director of documentaries in her native Kazakhstan.
When asked what made Taya want to come to Canada, she says her late father’s passion for Canada had a lot to do with her eventual decision. “He was a big fan of Canada,” she says. “Winnipeg Jets – go!” He always said, “Taya, Canada is the best country in the world! Canadians are the best people in the world!”
“When I grew up I found out that my godparents lived in Winnipeg,” she continues. “They emigrated from Kazakhstan to Germany, then from Germany to Winnipeg.”
“I started to contact them and they said ‘You have great communication skills.’ ” They told Taya she could put them to great use here.
Recently Taya was “short listed” as one of the “top 25” immigrants to Canada in a magazine produced by RBC, she says.
In 2015 Taya began running a Russian language TV network here known as RTV, which broadcasts on Shaw TV here and in British Columbia.
In 2016, she founded the TVKIDS Media School. Kids of all ages are given the opportunity to produce their own TV programs and broadcast them on a local TV station (Shaw Cable). Taya says she trains kids in reporting, interviewing, acting, camera operation, script writing and directing.
There is an interesting profile of Taya in the recent Etz Chayim newsletter, Shoresh, written by Leslie Malkin, which describes how Taya came to be involved with Congregation Etz Chayim. According to that article, Etz Chayim program director Lina Stretslov happened to run into Taya at a Russian language school one day. Lina recognized Taya from her TV show.
Lina asked Taya what she wanted to do in her life. The article says, Taya told Lina “I dream of having a kids’ TV school.”
Within a very short time in the fall of 2016 a plan was put into place that involved both Etz Chayim and Shaw Cable. Taya began instructing small groups of kids from Etz Chayim in TV production. The Shoresh article says, “It took just a month to build the program, which taught children theoretical and practical skills, in both a classroom setting and a TV studio.” Participants, ages 9-14, were trained in everything from “camera operation to interviewing to audio production and editing.”
The first effort of the kids involved in TV Kids was a production called “Chanukah stories” (which can be viewed on Youtube). In it the kids visit Gunn’s Bakery and learn how to bake sufganiyot.
I asked Taya where she would like to take “TV Kids”.
“When I immigrated to Manitoba I noticed that we didn’t have any established media projects for kids that could give them the opportunity to learn how to become crew members of a TV show” she told me during a meeting we held at our office, “so that they could learn how to be a director, editor, screenwriter - for instance.”
As the Shoresh article explains, Taya found a willing partner in her endeavour with Congregation Etz Chayim. Subsequently, “TV Kids” received grant from the Jewish Foundation to purchase TV equipment, she notes. (The equipment has yet to be purchased, she later adds, “although we’re working on that”.)
“Our hope is to set up a studio in the synagogue and produce more independent content with the kids,” Taya explains.
 “TV Kids” is currently in the midst of producing six shows for eventual broadcast on Shaw Cable (later to be available on Youtube as well, Taya notes). The first show will be broadcast Monday, May 15, with regular broadcasts to follow once a week the next 11 weeks thereafter. (The six episodes will be repeated starting June 26. As of the time of writing the broadcast times on those dates has not been finalized.)
Taya also has big plans for the future, she says.
“For our next session we’re planning ‘TV Kids Media Camp’ at Etz Chayim - in August,” Taya explains.
Eventually the plan is to create a “media company” which would include “a school where kids would be able to learn” different roles, then move on to “documentary production, TV production and maybe become part of a TV channel” itself.
The first session of “TV Kids“ classes were held in 12 separate sessions, Taya says. The classes included “theoretical classes, in partnership with the Simkin Centre” along with practice at Shaw TV. The price was $225 for the course and will remain at that price for future classes of TV KIds. If there is more than one youngster from one family in a class, further discounts are available, she adds.
In addition to her work with TV Kids, Taya says that she has also been involved in the production of a series of documentaries for Etz Chayim about Jewish families in Manitoba called “Our Trees of Life”. “We will share the stories of three families” on an Etz Chayim Youtube channel, she notes - each one about 20-25 minutes in length. (Currently you can see a teaser for the series at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4_rP87T8t0).
The episodes will tell the story of how each of the families “immigrated to Canada and why they immigrated to Canada,” Taya says.
“The stories are about roots,” she adds. They’re about families who have now been here for a long time - going back to the 1890s in one case. The series will also be on Shaw TV, Taya notes, although as of the time of writing she’s not sure when.
What Taya loves to do, she says, is connect members of communities of all sorts, one with another, through visual media – not just the Jewish community, but other communities as well, such as Aboriginal communities – even the “Yazidi community”, she notes.
Taya, Etz Chayim Communications specialist, says she is particularly grateful to Congregation Etz Chayim for giving her the opportunity to develop her TV Kids show. In addition to Lina Stretslov, she cites Etz Chayim Executive Director Jonathan Buchwald and Cantor Tracy Kasner Greaves as being very supportive of her project.
If you are interested in finding out more about TV Kids Media Camp, contact Taya at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone 204-813-3789 (cell) 204-807-7944.