For over 25 years, BEKI has offered three age-appropriate children’s services — infants and toddlers, grades K-2, and grades 3-6 — led by parents, every Shabbat, rain or shine. This tradition continues today, with over 30 families participating. We welcome all children and all those raising them (including intermarried couples, queer or same-sex parenting couples, single parents, guardians or relatives, families considering becoming Jewish, and those of nontraditional family structures) to participate, no matter their level of Jewish knowledge or family observance.
Here are some general principles for leading children’s services at BEKI:
• Services should above all be welcoming, fun, and age-appropriate. They should be short (10:45–11:30); filled with song, dance, and movement; book-ful; joyful; activity-based; and often silly.
• Each age group has its own siddur (prayerbook), which includes Hebrew and some English. Although we hope that children are exposed to these Hebrew prayers and some aspect of the Torah stories being read that week in the annual cycle, parents, especially those who are themselves beginners in Judaism, can always introduce relevant English-language songs and books.
• BEKI observes the Jewish Sabbath, which means that we do not write, use electronics, or cut paper in synagogue on Shabbat. Although these rules preclude certain actvities, they allow for others (the famous sticker projects, playing with blocks or Legos, puppet shows, etc.).
• In every service, two families are paired to lead. The expectation is that both families will be in touch in the week leading up to the service and decide on a division of labor (often one family will lead the Hebrew prayers and introduce the Torah story, then the other will read a book and offer some sort of game, activity, or sticker project — but that is flexible). Two families leading means more adults to help supervise, ensure safety, chase runaways, clean up messes, and think of fun stuff.
• Coordinators Mark Oppenheimer and Steve Werlin are always available to answer questions and offer support. They are at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com; Mark is at (203) 589-3725, and Steve is at (617) 721-8213.
• If parents relax and have fun, children will too. And if the children have fun in synagogue, we are doing a great job.