In other High Holiday news, we attended one Rosh Hashanah family service at our regular shul and one that was run by Congregation Beth Simhat Torah, the GLBT shul in the West Village.
People, I so want to love my own shul’s kids’ services but alas, not happening. It wouldn’t take much to make the service itself better: Remember that you have different levels of Hebrew understanding, and explain as we go why we’re doing what we’re doing. Use a microphone; be sure to remember that it is POINTED AT THE PERSON WHO IS SINGING OR SPEAKING. Decide who is doing what, so leaders do not hijack from each other.
The gays, on the other hand, seriously rock it out, children’s-service-wise. Even after the sad departure of the awesome Cantor David, the kids’ services — on Shabbat and on Yom Tov — are just terrific. They’re informal but intellectually and spiritually rigorous. They’re fun and funny. There’s lots of singing. No one forgets to explain the WHY. Sprawling on the carpet is encouraged. (My shul: chairs.)
But the big difference between children’s services at these two locations is parent participation. At CBST, the parents SING OUT, LOUISE. I gotta think GLBT parents who’ve chosen to come to shul — choosing to embrace a religion that hasn’t always been inclusive of them, and choosing to be a parent in a community that, sadly, doesn’t always embrace children — means that when you DO make your way to shul, you MEAN it. You are IN IT TO WIN IT. The parents at CBST are totally engaged, and committed to making sure their kids are too. Compare that to my shul, where all too often parents are chatting through the service, not making any attempt to follow along, not trying to read aloud or sing along. Even though this particular service was supposed to be for older kids (there’s a little-kids service in the afternoon), there were a lot of babies and toddlers there, and a lot of chatting parents failing to whisk them out of the room when they wailed. But the big problem, as usual, was parents not taking responsibility for following the service, not participating (you may not know the tune, but fake it — no one’s asking you to sound like Patti LuPone here). If you’re that disengaged, what kind of behavior are you modeling for your kids, fellow yehudim?? Yes, your dress is super-cute. Those are awesome shoes. NOW SHUT UP AND DAVEN.