High Holy Days with Children at TOS

Shari Churwin and Amy Deutsch

Yom Kippur.

Often the last thing on our mind, as we prepare our homes and ourselves for this holy day, is preparing our children. And the thing is—Yom Kippur services are different from traditional Shabbat services at TOS. Having a quick conversation (or two) with our children, no matter their age, can make a huge difference in helping them to navigate the chagim (holidays).

Here’s a few important things for you to know about Yom Kippur at TOS.

First: Your children are welcome! They are important members of the community in their own right. A crucial component of this, however, is that parents should know at all times where their kids are during services, even teens/preteens! We love that children feel at home at TOS, but we also want to preserve an atmosphere of respect, sanctity, and holiness for all of our congregants. It is your responsibility to know where your children are and to supervise them during the service, unless they are in childcare. Here is a quick read about why you should bring your kids to services with you.

And if you do plan to have your children go to childcare, please sign up in advance (and note that the form will close on Tuesday at 11 am!) Childcare is available at the door but is significantly less expensive if you RSVP ahead of time.

Second: At TOS we welcome the sounds and songs of infants, toddlers, and young ones in our services. However, there are times when the community requires quiet and calm in the Sanctuary for prayer and reflection (these times include while someone is chanting Torah and Haftarah, giving a D’var Torah, during silent meditation time or Mourner’s Kaddish). Please use your best discretion as to other times when it is appropriate to go outside with your children. We can use these opportunities to teach our children to respect prayer and community, and teach our community that our children are our present and future.

We know that every family has a different expectation for their child’s participation in services, so we offer a variety of service options. Our hope is that there are enough choices so that there is something meaningful for everyone. Click here for the full holiday schedule.

Third, if you have young children, please feel free to bring quiet toys and activities which will keep them occupied during moments of quiet and calm prayer and reflection in the midst of services. By keeping children in services—quietly—we teach our children to respect prayer and community and teach our community that children are our present and our future. Please remind children that in services we talk softly and do not run or jump, in order to show respect to others and to give everyone the opportunity to pray. Some of our favorite quiet toys are wikisticks, pipecleaners, or sticker books. There are even a few apple-themed ones that you can Amazon Prime to your home right now. And please use your best discretion as to when it’s time to take your child outside for a break as they get restless.

And finally—take a moment for yourself, too! Sometimes we get so caught up in arranging meals, getting dressed up, and getting to synagogue that it’s hard to remember that these days are supposed to also be for us as parents. Take a deep breath. Take a walk. Find a moment of solitude. Read something inspirational or introspective. Bake Shari’s grandma’s favorite apple cake or get messy with your kids making a round challah.

Remember that the High Holy Days are for all of us, and we look forward to celebrating them together.

Shana tova—may it be a good year for you!

Shari Churwin, Education Director and Amy Deutsch, ARS Director

Yom Kippur Highlight for Children: 

Children are encouraged to join the Candle Procession on Yom Kippur afternoon. Please join us at the end of the N’ilah service and help lead the way onto the Bima for Havdallah (the ceremony that ends Shabbat and Yom Kippur). Children should meet Shari and the Youth Staff in the Sanctuary foyer when the service in the Sanctuary reaches page 668 (Kaddish). Also, if your child would like to bring their own shofar to blow at the end of N’ilah, they are welcome!