Kids in Shul

If, When, and How

Comments (25)

(25) Anonymous, September 30, 2010 7:30 PM

Children should go to shul

The rabbi is right regarding the 3 key variables of you, child and shul. However, I am a firm believer that ALL children from age 2 and up should at least be exposed to some of the davening/service for 2 reasons. 1) It will show them one of the most important components of "acting Jewish" is and 2) If both parents want to go to shul to daven, it is sometimes complicated to have children stay with a babysitter (that you trust) or other parents. If the mother has to stay home with the kids, this could lead to resentment or wondering why (in the case of BTs rather than FFBs) they are becoming frum if all this means is sitting at home with the kids with no TV on. I really do not like synagogues where people (typically the elderly, at least in my synagogue) get all bent out of shape because a child screams or cries. A child is a symbol of continuity of our people and life. Loosen up! If we are too strict in the synagogue, our children may be turned off, G.od forbid.

(24) meshugena, July 29, 2010 9:13 AM

Meshugena for family

I have one son that can't sit and one son that is younger and can sit for several hours so each child is very different. I try to bring my children to services that are geared up for children via music or child friendly holidays. When I need to attend services that are not so child friendly, I love daycare/babysitting at shul. I want them to see that we are there to pray and be Jewish. I want them in services as much as possible as I do also believe that they need to slowly get use to the environment, people and language. I try to bring them in during the beginning when we arrive and have them sit with me for approx 15-30mins. They can see iff their friends are in services and get a healthy dose of some service. Then I take them to babysitting to play. They are 6 and 5.

(23) Anonymous, June 29, 2010 1:23 PM

Bring kids to Shul

I bring up my children as I was brought up. Going to Shul is a privilege. My children are only allowed to come to Shul when they have the ability to sit quietly without uttering a single word from the beginning until the end of Davening. I have Boruch Hashem been successful so far. My oldest child is now 25 years old and they go down in age from there. They all view Davening as an amazing priviledge and have almost never spoken a single word in all their years of coming to Shul.

(22) Joyce, June 27, 2010 4:47 AM

Bring kids to shul, AND be responsible parents

As a parent of young children (at that time--now many years ago, from a month old and more, or with multiple aged children 1m-7years and onward; they're now 19-26), I felt it very important to bring my child/ren to shul, as I am a shulgoer and davener myself and wanted to transmit that. BUT I showed by example what shul was about: 1) davening, 2) sitting quietly myself and NOT talking/disturbing/socializing with friends until after shul, 3) removing children to the hall briefly if they needed the break or were disturbing in any way, 4) parent and child sitting/being TOGETHER in shul. There are, unfortunately, many ways in which each of these is not respected. The only time during the year, by and large, and only when young, that any playroom was availed was for RH & YK. For a number of years, attendance happened in a hashkama minyan--the kids were up early anyways, then progressed to a later one. My children grew up knowing that this was what shul was about, and it became second nature to them. Unfortunately, the largest shul in the community tended to have different minyanim which did not support parent and child davening together beyond a certain age, sometimes causing families to actually be split and daven in different shuls! How tragic! Every child has the chance to daven, or at least to be, in shul from a very young age, and this can and should be managed by responsible parents who explain before and outside of shul about what goes on and expected behavior, as well as following up with davening once the children learn even the very beginnings or basics, and modelling by parent/s. Non-messy, healthy snacks of fruit can be brought, I breastfed babies, and brought small, non-disturbing toys, when appropriate. Socializing can be held off for after shul, and many connections and friendships can be made and strengthened. It doesn't have to be a "trade-off" with 'who watches the kids at home', and sometimes, especially with single parents, can't be.

(21) Anonymous, June 24, 2010 2:08 PM

A good alternative for kids in shul

Shul doesn't HAVE to be a 3-hour experience for kids (or adults)! Depending on where you live, see if there is a Hashkama Minyan on shabbos morning. These typically run quicker (I know some will argue that this is NOT a good thing, but that's for a different discussion) and do not feature a (long) sermon, and other "additions" to the service. If you can get up early, and get your child to do so, then this may be an easier way to get them to sit through a whole service. (And yes, I am a regular hashkama attendee and there are a number of youngsters at the minyan.)

(20) Anonymous, June 24, 2010 4:44 AM

A learning experience.

As a youngster, there was an extra room in our shul that we used as a playroom, which was far enough not to be heard from the sanctuary, but close enough to be called in for "highlights" of the davening. Maybe my family is unique, but we all grew up with a very strong sense of connection to tefillah (with both parents very makpid- particular to daven 3 times a day). We were not forced to go to shul, but begged to! (In fact, a threat that worked very well was revoking the privilege of going to shul!) As such, my siblings and I learned how the services are conducted on Shabbos and Yom Tov, so when the time came to participate fully, we were prepared. It saddens me when children are not willing to go to shul (perhaps for more than Shemoneh Esrai), and subsequently cannot follow the davening. Recently a child I know could not even recognize a posuk of the davening that is sung aloud by the congregation at the shul the family attends! I lamented the loss of the educational experience from the child's lack of interest in the services. I do NOT blame the parents, chas v'shalom, but it does sadden me. I would hope that if parents display commitment and excitement (and awe, reverence, and seriousness) about attending shul, it would extend to the kids, and slowly over time they would be able to sit through more of the davening until they can stay the entire time.

(19) Anonymous, June 24, 2010 1:00 AM

THe other side of the coin

I always felt very strongly that it was wrong to force my son to go to shul when he had no interest. I didn't even want him going if all he would do would be play outside and run around unsupervised with friends. I couldn't force him to stay inside quietly because no other boys were, so he would resent it. (as opposed to the way I grew up, where I had to sit quietly thorugh davening from 5 or 6, but all my friends did the same, so I didn't feel my father was being unfair.) But now, here we are. close to his 12th birthday, and it is a mightly struggle to interest him in even picking his father up from shul! He wants NOTHING to do with it. And a mechanech I've spoken to says he believes children should be brought to shul from a very young age, even if all they will do there is play, so that they get used to it. (Incidentally, I have heard that Rabbi Freifeld of Sh'or Yashuv held the same way.)

(18) Suzanne, June 24, 2010 12:25 AM

Bring kids to shul!

I definitely think parents should bring their children to shul from the earliest times. Of course, it might be a good idea to modify it some, i.e., maybe bring them for an hour or so and if the shul has children services that they want to attend that is a real plus. I also think it is important that kids from the earliest get immersed in "the rymthm" of shabbos., ie., the separation between the sacred and secular. This means good clothes, good Friday evening meal, shul, the works. It's ok that everything isn't always child oriented as in the long run it makes things more interesting if children remember the adult characters in their lives, too. Oh, and it's ok to lower the boom on your kids once in a while if they are goofing off during a reasonable amount of shul. Some parents don't and I think it's to everyone's disadvantage.

(17) Barbara, June 23, 2010 6:35 AM

Sorry Rabbi S, I disagree.

You forgot to mention the 4th, but really the 1st factor in the decision to bring kids to shul. That is: What is the purpose of shul? To daven. A little kid doesn't really know how yet. An older child who knows how to daven AND enjoys davening, can come to shul. All the rest are just annoying and disturbing the people in shul. And playing outside, yelling and screaming outside the windows of the shul, is no solution. It still disturbs. Having and raising children means sacrifice, folks. A husband and wife need to work out arrangements whereby the kids are supervised at all times, including Shabbos and Yom Tov mornings. This may mean the husband going to an early minyan so that he can come home and watch the kids and let his wife daven or have a break. Taking small children to shul when they are not yet able to really participate in the service, or let them run around screaming outside the shul, is bad chinuch. You're teaching them that shul is a restriction, in the first case, or a free-for-all, in the second case. I speak from experience. An idea I used was to take my younger child for "special events" like parshas Zachor or Hallel when Rosh Chodesh fell on Shabbos. Then LEAVE immediately after the "special event." Leave shul while your child wants more, don't stay till they are crying.

(16) Anonymous, June 22, 2010 11:09 PM

autism and the age of barmitzvah

@commenters 8 & 9: I'm no expert (although my son does have Aspergers Syndrome aka high-functioning autism) but I was under the impression that Bar-Mitzvah is an age, not a ceremony. That is, a boy becomes Bar-Mitzvah when he reaches the age of 13. It means he is ELIGIBLE to be called to read the Torah, but if he doesn't do it there and then this is not a problem. (It also has nothing to do with the party and presents that many people see as the main part of being "BarMitzvahed.") (By the way, we were incredibly lucky to have a local rabbi whose "day job" involved working with children with autism. He arranged for my son's barmitzvah ceremony to be held on a Thursday afternoon after school; we had ONLY family (a bare minyan) at the shule, and my son recited the brachot only, he wasn't expected to learn a parsha or any of that. AND as my son is a Kohen the rabbi encouraged and taught him how to do the Duchening the following yom tov, as my husband was unable to do this earlier due to his own illness.)

(15) Anonymous, June 22, 2010 8:55 PM


Greetings from Cape Town! I concur fully with the thoughts expressed by Rabbi Saloman. We do have children's services in Cape Town. I would like to make files of relevant prayers, stories and games for each Parsha of the week and for Yomtov.These can be augmented annually. Do you know if there is any literature available which will assist in facilitating my idea? Kind regards,

(14) HAIM K, June 22, 2010 7:48 PM

If they

If they can not -yet- sit quietly and they disturb the services or the people around them, it is better also for 60 year old "kids" to not go to shul yet. Sorry for the harsh words.

(13) Florence, June 22, 2010 6:37 PM

Know your audience

I think so much depends upon your shul. We have been bringing both my children since only a few months old. My younger daughter, who is now 2, loves to sing and help set out lunch. My son, the elder, has Down Syndrome and is now 4.5 years old. Lev wanders the room checking everyone's siddur. He refuses to leave Torah service for Tot Shabbat but will stand at the rabbi's feet and try to sing along. Now I know many places would say that is a terrible way for a child to behave. But there is more to prayer than reciting words. This is a family gathering in joyous celebration. Yes prayer is serious, but it does not have to be rigid. And when the congregation sees Lev dancing to Adon Olam, they also get that 'Shabbat feeling in their feet..."

(12) Ayelet, June 22, 2010 5:43 PM

tsk, tsk, tsk from the peanut gallery

My son is 10 1/2 and has NO interest in sitting in shul and davening. He goes to shul to hang out with his friends (outside the sanctuary in the kids' area. I totally agree with R. Salomon that there is no sense in forcing a kid to do something and creating a negative experience that is associated with a mitzvah. So I suggest it now and then but leave it up to him. My husband is on the same page as me on this. My parents and other family is NOT on the same page and think I'm absolutely crazy for not forcing him to sit in shul because "his bar mitzvah is around the corner!" Whatever. I deal with it.

(11) Your Friend The Blind Man, June 22, 2010 3:28 PM

As a child growing up in Brownsville (Brooklyn not Texas) my father would encourage everyone to bring children to Shul saying "if they come to Shul when they are young, they will continue when they will grow up". I believe that as long as the child has friends in Shul with who they can play with when they get bored sitting,you should bring them so that the shul becomes a positive experience in their lives

(10) Bonnie, June 22, 2010 2:48 PM

agree with Judith

Judith,, I agree with you. Our children (now grown) got used to being in shul from a very early age., and have always felt at home there. Even before they could daven, they first went to the children's supervised playroom,then sat with either my husband or myself, usually quietly. If they weren't quiet, I took them out for awhile,, then re-entered. My sister and I also attended shul from a young age, and there was no playroom then. But we played in the hall during the speech,and then my father told us to come in for musaf anf the rest.The only issue I have is if young children make continuous noise during a speech or davening- they should be taken out for a period of time.

(9) Anonymous, June 22, 2010 2:28 PM

re: Wait until they're ready - for Bar Mitzvahs too?

@8 Anonymous - Happily, you were talking to a Rebbetzin, not a Rabbi, so it wasn't like you asked a question and got a binding answer. Be careful of whom you ask such questions - there are many people who have very rigid perspectives, and these are not the people from whom you should seek advice. There are many autistic individuals with significant social delays and no cognitive delays - in fact, they can be very advanced cognitively. Whether or not such an individual is ready for Bar Mitzvah is an individual determination that really can't be made hypothetically. Only someone who knows the person, or knows the situation very well, would be able to comment intelligently. When asking questions of this sort, it would be a good idea to talk with someone who understands the particular population you are considering - in my experience, the Rabbis who work with the Friendship Circle tend to meet this criteria.

(8) Anonymous, June 22, 2010 1:19 PM

Wait until they're ready: For Bar Mitzvahs, too?

What if a child has autism or hyperactivity--i.e., a developmental disorder but without significant intellectual impairment? Rabbi Salomon, if I may, and anyone else, what guidelines would you give the parents in anticipation of such a boy reaching age 13? (I've heard the argument--specifically from a Chabad House Rebbetzin--that Bar Mitzvahs are meant to take place at age 13, period.)

(7) Basya, June 22, 2010 11:56 AM

I agree

My husband's shul members were encouraging my husband to bring my (then) little son to shul when still in diapers. My husband didn't think it was a good idea but they pressured him and he tried it. Well, my husband davened mincha alone that day! He had to take the kid out in the middle (I don't remember if it was disturbance or dirty diaper or both) and bring him home. My husband said he'll take him when he learns to read. He did, and my son loves to go to shul. Still doesn't always want to go, and that's fine with us too. I still remember a place I davened as a girl on Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur. There was a lady who came with a tiny girl (I think around 2 or 3 the first time I noticed them) and stayed most of the day! She brought the kid nosh and books and stuff, and the girl was a quiet docile girl, but it was way too much. At one point during chazaras hashatz of mussaf I took the girl outside to play. I felt that chesed to the girl was a bigger mitzva than my listening to chazaras hashatz (which I am not obligated in at all). I would think -- how much more so the mother?

(6) Judith, June 21, 2010 10:51 AM

I LOVE kids in shull, even with the added value of slight disturbance. If baby/kid cries or bothers "too much", by all means he/she should be encouraged to play outside, or even taken out by his parent / sibling. By all means, I would never ever force a kid to sit hours on end (or more than he/she can take) to participate in services. Kids benefit from the kdusha atmosphere.

(5) naomi, June 21, 2010 9:56 AM

children's library

Our shul had a kid’s minjan from 9:30 till 10:15 with songs and stories. We also have a children’s library corner with lots of good Jewish children books. Many bigger kids that have difficulties sitting so long next to their father come and read a book during shul service. We take care all the books are torah –(stories about tsadikim, halacha comics etc) so that the children’s library is a bit like a childrens beth midrash. This way I can tell my kids: “You either sit with me at the kid’s minjan, or in the library or next to Abba, but no running around!”

(4) , June 21, 2010 2:16 AM

In our shul, the women come with the children towards the end of the service - this way the children learn that it is important to go to shul, but get to spend no more than 20 minutes there - just enough time to daven.

(3) e. m. lefrak, June 21, 2010 1:02 AM


A few years ago, I heard Rabbi J. Taub speak on this topic. He, too, was opposed to bringing children to shul at a young age. He also spoke about having the proper respect for a shul - which is something that both adults and children need to learn. Important for both parents and children: don't daven in a shul where there is talking going on. Even if you yourself are careful not to talk, if your children see everyone else around them talking, what kind of impression are they going to get?

(2) lisa, June 20, 2010 11:22 PM

Shul is not your neighborhood Gymboree

Loved your answers......especially since Rosh Hashana is right around the corner....its really important for parents to heed your advice. They must think of the people sitting near them......when I see a toddler coming into shul...I know exactly where he is to me!! It does disturb my davening....albeit so do adults that talk!! So please do not bring your young (or old) toddlers to wouldn't bring them to a business meeting or a very important Dr.'s appointment. There is a time & place for everything!!

(1) ana, June 20, 2010 12:10 PM

What not to do

Do not yell at the kid to keep quiet! This only teaches the child that shul is a terrible place that is not fun or loving or comfortable, but only stressful. This also teaches the child that shul has nothing to do with religion, or G-d, or even prayer, since shul seems to exist for such children as a place for parents to scream and berate the child. If the child is too young or too immature to attend shul and behave like an adult, please leave the child at home. Girls don't need to be there and boys don't need to be there until the age of 13, at which point they can join the adults or join a youth service. Please don't force them to do something they're not ready for--it's not necessary and could be very hurtful.


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