Sunday, December 25, 2011

Recommended Blog - Keeping Kids in Shul

The following is reposted from Hirhurim, one the most active blogs at the forefront of Jewish issues and ideas online.  I wanted to share it in full below but encourage you to follow this link to see the original post and the comments posted there.

Here are my two cents:

The author makes a keen accounting of some rabbinical responses to the "problem" with disinterested teens and tefilla and reflect spectrum of reactions.  I appreciate that he is trying to treat the symptoms of this problem and the greater illness - that some kids don't want to come to daven.  The last two paragraphs are as honest as you get on the topic of tefilla.

Keeping Kids In Shul
December 7, 2011

 In a recent issue of Jewish Action (Summer 2011), R. Jay Goldmintz writes about the problem in the Modern Orthodox community of teens who don’t, or don’t want to, attend shul on Shabbos (link). R. Goldmintz offers a few suggestions on how to remedy the situation, which I sum up as: 1) force them to go to shul, 2) use walking to shul as a bonding opportunity, 3) model proper prayer.

I’ll have to take R. Goldmintz’s word because I’m not otherwise aware of the problem he addresses. I’m certainly familiar with teens who do not want to go to shul, or school, or anywhere. I just never imagined that their parents would give them a sustained choice in the matter. There are certain assumed activities in life and going to shul, at least for boys, ranks along with going to school. It’s a given (community customs vary for girls).

In the latest issue of Jewish Action (Winter 2011 – not yet online), a number of communal leaders respond to R. Goldmintz’s article. Dr. Benzion Sorotzkin objects to the idea of forcing kids to go to shul. “When we make harsh demands of our children, our values don’t become internalized.” Yes, but when they don’t even show up, there’s no chance for them to become full members of the community. I think Dr. Sorotzkin and R. Goldmintz are speaking of different kinds of children. Dr. Sorotzkin is warning against forcing, in an overly harsh manner, rebellious teens to attend shul. R. Goldmintz is advising to push lazy teens to shul. I don’t know that they disagree all that much.

R. Daniel Rockoff advocates getting teens involved in the service, either with a special minyan for teens or other, similar methods. That is also a worthy idea that does wonders… for kids who want to lead, or set up, or somehow get involved. As a parent of teenagers, I suspect that quite a few would find it burdensome.

R. Ron Yitzchak Eisenman writes that he is not worried. He is confident that “once these young men become husbands aand fathers, they will be found in shul on Shabbat morning along with the rest of us.” Except, presumably, those who go off the derekh entirely, for whom shul attendance is the least of their religious challenges.

Like R. Rockoff, R. Hershel Billet advocates involving teens in kiddush preparation, leading services, public speaking and otherwise in shul. R. Billet adds that raising a teen must be a partnership between parents, school and shul. They all need to work together to devise a unified prayer curriculum for schools and abbreviated prayer service for teens. I teach my kids what they can skip when they don’t feel like davening — they have to do a minimum. It would be nice for all kids to know that.

R. Dovid Gottlieb shares my puzzlement over teens missing Shabbos shul but agrees that there are many teens who fail to relate properly to prayer. Like other respondents, he points out that many adults face the same challenge. He points out that shuls are the “third line of defense,” after families and schools. His suggestions of involving teens in leading services or something else are similar to R. Rockoff’s and R. Billet’s.

The bottom line is that few of us relate adequately to prayers but we all learn to live with the parts we don’t like and appreciate the parts we do. Some don’t like the rabbi’s sermon; others the leining: others Pesukei Dezimra or the repetition of the Amidah. Regardless, we each are sufficiently mature to recognize our responsibility to attend shul, to deal with what we don’t like, to embrace aspects that speak to us and to make the most of the entire situation.

As we evolve through life, going through many stages of personal successes, crises and changes, we find that we relate differently to all aspects of life. The prayer you mumble quickly today may someday be the only hope you have to keep your family together or to regain strength after the death of a loved one or to articulate your deep gratitude for a personal success. You need to be in shul in order to find those unexpected benefits as you make your way through the ups and downs of life. But try telling that to a teenager.

No comments:

Post a Comment