by Anna Simon
I love the family service. When Zach was little, I loved it for what it was...a place to celebrate the holidays with young children. A place to simultaneously bounce your child on your hip, sing Aleinu and inconspicuously pick up the Cheerios that spilled out of your purse on Yom Kippur. A place where it was the norm to chase your child around the room or try to spot them as they teetered up the stairs. It was more than a place, it was a kehilah, a community.
Looking around the family service during those first few years of Zach's life, I realized these were going to be the kids Z would grow up with at the Gan, Mishpacha, SMP, Talmud Torah, Camp and USY. And their parents would eventually become the people standing beside me as we watched our kids graduate from the Gan, lead Havdallah together, become B'nai Mitzvah, board a bus to camp for the very first time or attend a Kadima/USY Shabbaton.
At every service, each age group would be called on to lead a prayer. I kvelled every time Z and his forever friends proudly stood on that bimah and sang their hearts out. When Z jumped out of his chair to dance, I could not help but smile. Their ruach for the service was contagious. As they got older, the kids wanted to sit in their own row but they continued to sing, dance and participate. They knew the tunes. They knew the service. This was their kehilah. And they loved celebrating the High Holidays together. I figured eventually a new group of families would come in and we would "graduate" to the big service but that hasn't happened...yet.
Last year, I attended the family service once again. Only this time, I wasn't bouncing a child on my knee or or chasing him around the social hall or trying to spot him as he climbed the stairs. This time, I watched as my own son and his buddy from the Gan, Jordan, took to the bimah as "ruach rousers. They grabbed the microphones and made sure that the new families were singing, dancing and participating. Once again, I kvelled as Z and his buddy proudly stood on that bimah and sang their hearts out. There is no better way to celebrate the New Year than by watching your own child share the joy of the service with the next generation.
Adath clergy, staff and congregants share