fbpx

Free family services can build connections

Here’s the scene: It’s the first day of Rosh Hashanah, and the rabbi and cantor are on the bimah. Adult congregants are packed into the shul with their machzorim. And a bunch of kids are sitting next to their parents during the service. Kids? This certainly isn’t your grandparents’ High Holy Days service.
[additional-authors]
September 8, 2010

Here’s the scene: It’s the first day of Rosh Hashanah, and the rabbi and cantor are on the bimah. Adult congregants are packed into the shul with their machzorim. And a bunch of kids are sitting next to their parents during the service. Kids? This certainly isn’t your grandparents’ High Holy Days service.

For most people, High Holy Days services are strictly an adult affair. Children are sent to the babysitting area or junior congregation and picked up by their parents at the end of the main service. Yet many synagogues offer “family services,” programs that not only allow parents and children to pray together, but many times are free and open to all.

“We often hear that synagogues present a barrier to participation [in the Jewish community],” said Miriam Prum-Hess, director of the Center for Day School Education of the BJE of Greater Los Angeles. Prum-Hess says these new services are especially helpful for young families, who may not be willing or able to invest in a synagogue membership. They offer an opportunity for families to sample the culture, service style, clergy and offerings unique to each synagogue.

“JKidLA [a service of the BJE] has made a concerted effort to get the message across to synagogues that access to programs like these [free High Holy Days services] are a great way to introduce prospective families to the Jewish parenting groups, preschools, day schools, religious schools and camps available to them through their institutions,” said Debra Markovic, city concierge for Jewish education at the BJE. The services “also represent an opportunity for these families to experience what individual communities feel like and to get a sense of which might work best for them,” she said.

“Families nowadays really want to share in the experience with their kids,” Prum-Hess said. The BJE’s concierge service, which helps connect parents with Jewish educational resources, began receiving queries about family-oriented High Holy Days services about a year ago. At the time, there weren’t many options. Prum-Hess says that inquiries by the BJE to various synagogues in the city and the San Fernando Valley may have prompted a few of the shuls either to create family services, promote their existing services or open them to the community at large.

There are several draws to the services, Markovic says. “For parents with young children — who are temple members already, or not — they provide a quick, social and fun way to celebrate Rosh Hashanah and observe Yom Kippur that does not necessitate expense, commitment or the provision of childcare that separate services for adults and children require. For interfaith families, they’re a great alternative to long, formal services and unfamiliar liturgy that can feel intimidating and uncomfortable,” she said.

Prum-Hess notes that many of the services take place in the afternoon, after the traditional services, and last between 45 minutes and one hour. At Temple Beth Hillel, a Reform congregation in North Hollywood, the popularity of the family service continues to grow. “We have been offering these services for years,” said Rabbi Sarah Hronsky of Beth Hillel. “We want our kids to have a wonderful High Holy Day experience geared toward them, with age-appropriate stories, music and length.”

Hronsky says that Beth Hillel has always offered some community members in need free tickets to attend regular services, so a no-cost, family service seemed like a natural progression. And sometimes, parents simply like the change. “Many of our adults really enjoy the experience alongside their children. In the past, I have received glowing comments about being together as a family, about understanding the meaning behind a prayer, and the excitement of the shofar service,” Hronsky said.

Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben, senior rabbi at Kehillat Israel Reconstructionist Congregation in Pacific Palisades, says his shul has been offering a free family service for 24 years. “We wanted to reach out to the community as a whole and give people a chance to experience the warmth, inclusiveness and openness of Kehillat Israel and provide a place for the kids of unaffiliated Jews to experience the High Holy Days,” he said.

Many rabbis relish the challenge to create a multigenerational service. Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels, spiritual leader of Beth Shir Shalom in Santa Monica, says the services make people smile. “It hits the core of what they know and what they understand about the High Holy Days, except that it’s expressed in a wonderful language that the children can understand.” Beth Shir Shalom’s family service is offered after its traditional service on both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. On Yom Kippur, each child is given a chance to blow the shofar.

Most synagogues offering free family services do so for both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The BJE has compiled a list of synagogues offering these family services in Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. Markovic says her concierge department is available to help match families throughout the area with services that will meet their needs.

The following list is courtesy of the BJE Web site, and information may change. For more information, please contact the institutions directly.

Rosh Hashanah Children and Family Services (Valley)
Thursday, September 9, 2010 Rosh Hashanah: No tickets required.

Congregation Or Ami (Calabasas), 2:15 p.m. at the Civic Arts Center in Thousand Oaks. http://www.orami.com.

Adat Ari El (Valley Village), 8:45-9:45 a.m. for families with young children and 11a.m. for families with elementary school aged children. http://www.adatariel.org.

Temple Adat Elohim (Thousand Oaks), 3:30-4 p.m. Tot Service and from 4:30-5:30 p.m. Tashlich Service for Families at Oak Canyon Park . http://www.adatelohim.org

Temple Etz Chaim (Thousand Oaks), 2:30-3:30 p.m. Family Rosh Hashanah Services. http://www.templeetzchaim.org.

Temple Beth Hillel (Valley Village), 2:45-3:30 p.m. Three separate sevices: Children PreK and Kindergarten, 1st-6th grades, 7th-12th grades. http://www.tbhla.org

Temple Judea (West Hills), 3 p.m. for children 1-5 years old and 4 p.m. for children 5-8 years old. http://www.templejudea.com.

Temple Kol Tikvah (Woodland Hills) Children’s Services, 1:30 p.m. http://www.koltikvah.org.

Tot & Family High Holiday Services, 1st Day RH 2010 (City)
Thursday, September 9th, 2010; The following Rosh Hashanah services are open to the community (no Temple membership required) and many do not require tickets.

Beth Shir Sholom of Santa Monica: Rosh Hashanah Children’s Service; 1:30 p.m.; No tickets or RSVP required; Service takes place at Barnum Hall on the Santa Monica High School Campus, 601 Pico Blvd. http://bethshirsholom.org

IKAR at the Westside Jewish Community Center: Variety of Children’s Services Available; Parents Welcome; Tickets for children must be purchased; http://ikar-la.org;

Kehillat Israel of Pacific Palisades: Family Service at the Wadsworth Theater; 3-4 p.m.; No tickets or RSVP required; http://kehillatisrael.org;

Leo Baeck Temple of West L.A.: Children’s Service; 2 p.m.;  Tickets required but they are free of charge- please visit website to reserve; http://leobaecktemple.org;

Stephen S. Wise Temple of Bel Air: Rosh Hashanah Service for ECC & Pre-K Families; 3-3:30 p.m. in the Magnin Auditorium at the Skirball Cultural Center; No tickets required; http://wisela.org

Temple Akiba of Culver City: Rosh Hashanah Children’s Service; 3 p.m.;  No tickets or RSVP required; http://templeakiba.net

Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills: Tot Rosh Hashanah, 11-11:30 a.m.; For children 6 & under; No tickets or RSVP required; http://tebh.org;

Temple Isaiah of West LA; Family Service at UCLA/Royce Hall; 9 a.m.; Tickets required; http://templeisaiah.com;

Temple Israel of Hollywood; Children’s Service; 8:30-9:15 a.m.; Toddlers through 2nd grade; No tickets or RSVP required; http://tioh.org;

Temple Menorah of Redondo Beach; 9 a.m.; Tot Family Service for preschool age families; Tickets required; http://templemenorah.org;

University Synagogue of Brentwood; Family Service; 1:30 p.m.; No tickets or RSVP required; http://unisyn.org;

Wilshire Boulevard Temple; Nursery School Rosh Hashanah Service; 3 p.m. Temple Campus; No tickets or RSVP required; http://wbtla.org;

The following Tashlich services occur in public locations and therefore are open to the community; no tickets required.

Beth Shir Sholom of Santa Monica; 3 p.m.; Location: TBA; http://bethshirsholom.org;

Kehillat Ma’arav of Santa Monica; 5:30 p.m.; End of the Santa Monica Pier; http://km-synagogue-org;

Leo Baeck Temple of West LA; 5 p.m.; Will Rogers State Beach; http://leobaecktemple.org;

Nashuva; 4:30 p.m.; Where Venice Blvd. meets the sand; http://nashuva.com;

Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills; 5 p.m.; PCH & Temescal Canyon; http://tebh.org;

Temple Israel of Hollywood; 4 p.m.; Location: TBA; http://tioh.org;

Tot & Family High Holiday Services 2nd Day RH 2010 (City)
Friday, September 10th, 2010.

IKAR at the Westside Jewish Community Center; Interactive Family Service; Details TBA; http://ikar-la.org;

Nashuva at Temescal Gateway Park; 9 a.m. Hike; 10 a.m. Outdoor Service in Temescal Park; No tickets required but please RSVP; http://nashuva.com;

Temple Beth Am (Mid-Wilshire); Shir Rosh Hashanah Family Service; 4 p.m.; No tickets required but please RSVP; http://tbala.org;

The following second-day Tashlich services occur in public locations and therefore are open to the community; no tickets required.

Friday, September 10th; Temple Menorah of Redondo Beach; 5PM; Manhattan Beach Pier; http://templemenorah.org

Did you enjoy this article?
You'll love our roundtable.

Editor's Picks

Latest Articles

wildpixel/Getty Images

Politically Homeless

Although I used to just call myself a moderate, that’s never actually been accurate.

The Good German

Christian brothers and sisters, do your Jewish friends think of you as a person who will stand by them?

More news and opinions than at a
Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.