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High Holiday services have the potential to be the spiritual climax of the year–an opportunity for communal and personal reflection and growth. Yet, for many adults, the long hours in synagogue feel overwhelming and foreign. It can be difficult to understand what is happening, let alone to find meaning.
These challenges are complicated further when you bring children into the picture. Parents are often faced with some difficult choices about High Holiday services:
Find a service that engages your child.
· If I bring my young children into synagogue with me, will it be disruptive to others and stressful to keep them quiet?
· If I choose instead to attend a tot service with my children, how can I have a meaningful personal experience?
· Will it be better for older children to sit in services with me or attend a junior congregation?
With a little thought and preparation, though, it is possible to take ownership of the holidays and craft a synagogue experience that is meaningful for you and a good fit for your family.
Choosing a Service
If you don’t already belong to a synagogue, or if you are not satisfied with the places you’ve prayed in the past, the High Holidays can be a perfect time to “shul shop.” For a helpful guide, you might look at this article on “How to Choose a Synagogue”.
When calling synagogues to learn about different options, it’s good to ask about the synagogue’s attitude towards having children in the adult services. The more you know what to expect, the better your experience will be.
Ask direct questions about what types of children’s programming will be available. Often synagogues have special programs for kids of different ages just for the High Holidays. For example, there may be a tot service for toddlers, which parents are encouraged or required to attend. A good tot service engages both kids and adults and is meaningful, fun, participatory, and most of all, age-appropriate. It may include movement, puppets, toy shofars, and plenty of singing.
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