I am looking forward to our first Tot Shabbat and Shabbat B’yachad of the year. This evening is such a wonderful expression of the best of our multigenerational community. I love how the evening unfolds with the unique Shabbat celebrations, dinner, and services. Most of all, I love watching my children who are are happily involved and engaged with their TOS friends for the evening. And, let’s be honest, I am really, really happy that I don’t have to cook dinner.
Sometimes, our children don’t behave at Shabbat exactly how we would like them to. Does this hit too close to home for you? How do our children know how to act and what is expected of them while they are here? They watch us and look for clues but is there more that we can do to help them understand what kinds of behaviors we are looking for?
At TOS we work hard to make everyone feel welcome and comfortable. Our kids go to school here, the older ones get the chance to sleep over and brush their teeth here and we are thrilled that they feel like TOS is their home. BUT, we also want them to appreciate, understand and participate in the majesty, mood and tone of our Shabbat B’yachad evening. This is a very tricky message for the children to comprehend and parents need to be clear about the expectations. When your children step a foot inside the synagogue, they should know what is acceptable and unacceptable to you: Is it ok if they play on the floor? Can they sit with their friends? Is it ok for them to take their shoes off? Can they bring toys or books with them? These are all questions that each family needs to answer for themselves.
In school (both ARS and TCEE) we will model and discuss our expectations for Shabbat B’yachad with the children. These expectations include no running, using safe bodies and quiet inside voices, participating along with the Rabbi and Cantor and staying off the stage in Penn Hall (as it is a safety concern). It is very important that clergy, parents and educators are all on the same page. I would like to remind you to please speak with your child before Friday evening about your family’s expectations. Ultimately, thanks to our combined efforts everyone can feel welcome, comfortable and at home here at TOS.