Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Debate over Bringing Kids to Shul

This blog is an outlet for educators to discuss and explore approaches and resources on tefilla. As I write from an educator's perspective, a lot of what I share involves approaches of students and children to davening.  There is a sincere need to have a conversation about children in shul as they pose a tremendous educational opportunity and danger to the unique environment for daveners.

Tonight, in doing some research, I have come across a lot of websites dealing with adult approaches to children in davening.  I have shared before on this topic and just reread "In The King's Presence" Teaching for Tefillah: A Communal Responsibility by Dr. Wallace Greene and once again fascinated by the different approaches parents have to bringing kids to shul.  But this article, published last year in The Yeshiva World News site, takes the cake.

Titled, "Why I am going to let my kids run around shul", this article elicited 60 responses that run the gamut, that is the gamut for YWN readers.  My personal favorite line is "Judaism (and life) is about trying your best. If you can't do something perfectly, you do it imperfectly." Nonetheless I thought this article was worth sharing because there really is no single 'Best Practice' when it comes to what age and when to bring your kid to shul and really comes down to a subjective calculation on your child's personality and mood, the atmosphere of the synagogue, and the educational opportunity that is present.

What is your synagogue's policy on children in shul?


  1. I am the educator for my shul and I have all my afternoon school kids in shul almost every Shabbat, as well as about six day school kids.

    On Friday night, the kids largely play on their own but come in to the sanctuary before Psalm 29, help lead L'Cha Dodi (chorus for pre-K to 2nd, verses for the older ones), and leave after Sh'ma.

    We have a 90 minute (ish) children's program on Shabbat morning I start with the oldest and have them go through much of shacharit, then leave the social hall and prepare a parsha play in the classroom. Then I take the pre-K to 1st graders through songs and a bit of shacharit until the elementary age kids come back to present the parsha via a play, a story, or something that they illustrated during the week. We do the Torah service together, then have an early kiddush together, leaving them playground or play time for half an hour before the adults finish. Usually a mom watches them, sometimes a teen, and sometimes they watch each other. Our playground is contained with no entrance from the street, and the classroom is childproof, with all non-Shabbat items stored in the "weekday only" closet.

    Beyond fourth grade, they're expected to spend most of the service in the main sanctuary.

  2. Read the person's post about his kids go or not. I have been taking my kids to our Hashkoma minyany almost from the time they were born. Yes the early days did not always work out well, but now everyone appreciates that my kids sit, mostly, and daven and do not bother anyone else. To be fair our shul is a fairly loud shul, not a quiet one.
    As they got older we work on more things they need to know, say, act from answering amen or saying kiddusha to standing for the Aron and along the way I explain much about shul and davening to them.
    On the walk to/from shul we also have time to discuss the parsha, chag, halachot or just questions they have.
    For all those that say their kids can not sit in shul, do or do not, there is no try. If it takes 30 days to change a pattern, then it takes an equal amount of visits to davening for kids to act apprporiately.
    I know they neede their break and they can go outside the room for a few minutes at certain times.
    Also they may not listen or get much of it, I want them to sit and listen to the Rav's drasha because they should know how to do this outside of school as well.

    After Hashkoma we may learn together, play in the playground or with friends until their shabbat groups start.

    Encouraging the kids to come to shul is the hardest part usually and they knwo I do not want them coming if they will not daven or at least sit and be good to me and the others.