Today is February 19, 2019 -
“Promotion of Jewish continuity” and “enhancing Federation’s relationship with synagogues” are two of the important foci of Federation’s strategic plan. For today’s purposes, I want to link them with my annual plea to encourage parents to bring their children to synagogue on Simchat Torah (coming up this week).
Several years ago I asked a group of middle schoolers, “What are your favorite holidays to be in the synagogue?” It was a leading question. I knew the answer. “Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.”
“Yom Kippur,” I agreed. “Tell me why you love it. Is it the long day of fasting? Is it the hundreds of pages that we read in the Machzor? Is it the rabbi’s sermon? Is it the president’s appeal for donations to help the shul?”
Now, before I get the angry responses, I really do appreciate all of the effort that goes into the High Holidays with youth programming, meaningful and spiritually uplifting services, beautiful tunes, etc. But, I have to wonder — sort of tongue in cheek — how did we pick these days as the days to bring our children to the synagogue? Do we have such fond memories from our own childhoods that we couldn’t wait to share the same experience with them?
Judaism is full of wonderful holidays with meaningful customs and traditions. Some we celebrate with our communities, some with our families, and some alone. Statistically, the Passover seder is the #1 celebrated Jewish activity by the largest percentage of identifying Jews. We recognize it as a family/friend celebration. Similarly, the family gathers around the chanukiah as we light the Chanukah candles together.
Now, my degree is in accounting and I did not go to “rabbi school”, but it would seem to me that if we could collectively shift our focus to Simchat Torah and Purim as the two holidays that we bring our children to the synagogue for communal celebration, maybe we can create a new dynamic with the next generation with how they view Jewish community and their relationship with their synagogue.
Simchat Torah is fun. We sing; we dance. We celebrate with the Torah and with each other. I have fond memories of dancing in the streets of NYC while in graduate school. If we all had these childhood memories, we could all be excited about going to synagogue and our children could be excited to go with us.
Simchat Torah is celebrated Monday night/Tuesday by Conservative and Orthodox Jews living outside of Israel and on Sunday night/Monday by Israelis and Reform Jews. Please check with any synagogue or Chabad House for specific schedules.
Disclaimer: I am not at all suggesting that we stop going to synagogue on Yom Kippur.