Homeshuling

Homeshuling


To kvetch is human, to act, divine.

posted by Homeshuling

kvetch.jpg

This is the one bumper sticker I have on my car. And while I don’t consider myself divine, I do pride myself on doing more than kvetching. I try to put my energy into change (or has that word lost all meaning?)

As I mentioned in the comments of my last post, I wrote a letter to the Board of Directors of our synagogue detailing my concerns. It went something like this:
Typically when I attend services with my children, we come very late in the services so we are not in the sanctuary for longer than they can manage with good behavior. This week, because I wanted to attend ____’s bat-mitzvah, we arrived quite early. Which meant we needed to take some breaks in the hall.



To be frank, I was disgusted by the behavior of children in the halls. The kids were running and shouting as if the whole building were a playground. I myself told a few children (not my own) that they needed to stop running, but it feels that relying on random adults, or the children’s own parents, to manage behavior, is not working. I think the synagogue needs to develop a standard that the community can agree on for what is and isn’t allowed, and figure out a way to uphold those standards. I, for one, do not want to consider shul, of all places, a somewhere I have to worry about what bad influences my daughters are being exposed to. Right now I feel that I am fighting a battle I will eventually lose to keep my own children’s behavior in line with my expectations, when they see other children behaving like, well, vilde chayas. Even though we love being a part of ___, I would rather find another shul than have my own children develop a sense that this is how one behaves in synagogue.

I would be happy to contribute to a group effort to address this, but I think it needs to be addressed community-wide and considered by the leadership.

Do you think I was too harsh? In any case, I’ve been delighted by all of the feedback I received from you, my readers. I received a very positive response from the Executive Director, who said she herself had left shul early because of the din. And I received a call from the Rabbi today asking me to meet with him and the Education Director. 

Since you’ve been generous with your comments thus far, I’m asking for a little more help. Does your house of worship have any articulated rules about unsupervised children? If so, what structures to you have in place to help inform people of the rules, and uphold those rules? At what age do children outgrow child care in your community, and where can children who have outgrown child care go, if anywhere, other than the main sanctuary?

Thanks to all!



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Comments read comments(14)
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Becky

posted June 15, 2010 at 8:28 pm


Love it!



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Fran M.

posted June 15, 2010 at 8:46 pm


Wonderful, Amy!



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ima2seven

posted June 15, 2010 at 8:54 pm


Our shul has two Shabbat groups available. One is free play with toys, a story and snack. A member with a young son volunteers. The kids range in age up through I believe 5. The second group has a relaxed junior congregation with a story as well, and usually has kids from 6-9 or so.
The shul prints clearly that children must either be in a Shabbat group or supervised by a parent. It is emphasized. It does not at all prevent some children from being out some of the time unsupervised. That includes my children. However, it does help, and if a child is unruly then any shul member now is empowered to ask if that child is supposed to be in group or with their parent? And that stops a lot of problems before they can get worse.
However, having groups requires a lot of patience and time on the part of the parents. You can’t “blow it off” if you have a commitment. You have to have someone to fill in if they aren’t there, and there usually needs to be a rotation every year or two. It works, though.
It might also be a great way to engage a particular congregant who likes the shul, likes kids, but doesn’t like to come to daven….



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ellen

posted June 15, 2010 at 9:02 pm


of course we want our kids to feel comfortable in shul. but you’re right, amy, that at shul, as at home, and anywhere else, there are limits. and there should be [reasonable] consequences.
it seems to me that there’s an opportunity for a number of things:
1. a meaningful and fun structured program for little guys [stuart seltzer is a genius at this]
2. an opportunity to hire middle schoolers and even high schoolers to “mentor” these kids on shabbat [benevolent supervision, maybe some minimal “engagement”]
3. an opportunity to get the children themselves to help determine what their shabbat at shul could be that it isn’t now which results in the unacceptable behaviors.
can’t wait to hear what happens next!



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Molly

posted June 15, 2010 at 9:06 pm


I don’t have anything new to add to the discussion on how to proceed at your synagogue, but I just wanted to let you know that I love the title (and the spirit it embodies). No use in kvetching if you aren’t going to do something about it. You put your money where your mouth is, so to speak.



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Leah

posted June 15, 2010 at 9:34 pm


Nice work! I wish I had some useful suggestions to you, but we are dealing with the same thing here (albeit with the bar-mitzvah kids’ FRIENDS, not the general population). Glad to see you’re taking action. It is SOOOOOOO necessary, and your letter was spot-on.



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Jennifer in MamaLand

posted June 16, 2010 at 10:18 am


Don’t get me started on this!
Our shul always emphasizes that ALL kids must be in programs, but there is a contingent of runners-and-screamers. They have also been known to lie in wait in the stairwells dropping grapes and other treats to be squished by unsuspecting congregants.
I always feel like such a jerk for being the only parent seemingly saying, “we don’t run in shul; it’s not appropriate.” (and that we don’t play ball in the main sanctuary after services are over!)
It seems to me that the most “privileged” kids are also the most obnoxious. These are the ones from the wealthy families that “run” the shul. I think they have inherited a feeling of entitlement, and their parents can afford to not care because they know nobody’s going to tell them (or their kids) off.
p.s. The actual programs are not much better because they feed the kids non-stop Sour Sticks and soda, getting them all keyed up to run around.



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Tzipporah

posted June 16, 2010 at 2:37 pm


Honestly, if your shul is providing ANY child care for ANY ages during services they’re already doing more than our large shul, which seems to care not a whit about the problems of parents.
ok, enough grumpiness.



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Keturah

posted June 16, 2010 at 10:02 pm


Great Job! I will copy and paste your letter to my shul and add in our problems! LOL!!!!!



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Homeshuling

posted June 16, 2010 at 10:40 pm


b’vakasha, keturah! good luck.



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Eileen

posted June 17, 2010 at 10:53 am


Well said and commented upon by Leah! Our congregation is faced with similar situations, especially on the High Holy Days, when visitors with young children are at the services. Because we are a relatively small congregation, with many older members we have problems containing the youngsters and I for one find it most disturbing.
There is really noone to take charge and we must rely on individual parents to monitor the activity in the social rooms. That is not a true solution, but at least we have kept the disturbances to a dull roar!



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Claire Cameron (nee: Shapiro)

posted June 17, 2010 at 1:42 pm


More than well said! I hardly feel that you are being ‘harsh’ in any way ! THIS NEEDS TO BE SHOUTED! …. Proper decorum in Shul must first be taught at home, and reinforced in the Shul we attend.
If the conduct of children is not as it ought to be, Shul attendants must ask parents to remove whomever is offensive. That’s all it takes. And not a job to be avoided!! RESPECT for our place of worship, for our heritage can not be taken lightly!
(Claire Cameron, Daughter of a Rabbi)



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Shay

posted June 18, 2010 at 5:57 pm


I’ve belonged to mutiple shuls that have the rule that children are permitted EITHER in the shul-provided group activity/room OR with sitting nicely with their parents in the sanctuary. Enforcement on this rule varies, though. Having the rule helps, because at least you have something to rely on. Rather than critiquing the behavior and picking & choosing what is ok (we weren’t running! we weren’t shouting!), it’s a bright line. Are you in a group or play room? Are you with your parent? No? Then fix that. In all cases, though, there was some children’s group or playspace provided. Typically, high school or college students ran the children’s groups, and children above a certain age were provided programming, not expected to entertain themselves with toys. Usually, this meant some amount of davening, and some discussion of the parsha – with games, treats, etc. Sort of like camp.
On the High Holidays, one shul I went to required parents to sign up for shifts to supervise the play area. If you are in a small community without sufficient teenagers interested or able to provide the child-care, then the best bet may be a parental rotation.



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Karynhappuch

posted October 22, 2010 at 10:40 am


We have a “children’s / parent’s room”, where it’s been made clear when children are acting up, young ones plain cranky, tired, in need of changing or even snack if services are on the longish side, parent’s are to take their children in there. A few “quiet” toys, coloring, activity & reading books for older children, several rocking chairs & blankets, a crib etc.
There’s a curtained off area if theres babe’s needing to be breast fed. And there is a large window looking into the sanctuary w/ audio feed so that all may still be a part of services without disrupting everyone else.
Our Rabbi will at times stop and suggest parents with distressed/active/disruptive children (of any age) might want to now gather things up and make use of the parent’s room before services continue. A number of the older teenagers have been given jobs and will also volunteer in rotation to take a child into the room to help the parent’s & occupy the younger ones.
It has to be a community effort, theres no question about it. However you have to be willing to put into place real, solid boundaries of what is and isn’t acceptable, what’s expected of children AND their parent’s. It isn’t fair to everyone else when unsupervised or acting out children disrupt services. Parent’s have a responsibility in teaching their children in all things, especially in things outside the traditional classroom.



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