Families with young children comprise the fastest growing segment of Congregation Emeth’s membership. By providing family-oriented holiday programs throughout the year, Emeth introduces children to the richness of their Jewish heritage and demonstrates how the Jewish community celebrates holidays.
Several times a year, prior to an upcoming Jewish holiday, Emeth provides special Friday afternoon programming for preschoolers. The program usually consists of a craft, a food associated with the holiday, story time, singing and dancing, and Shabbat blessings. For information about upcoming Tot Shabbats, please contact our Membership Chair at firstname.lastname@example.org.
High Holy Days
Emeth offers special programs for children during the High Holiday season. On the first day of Rosh Hashanah, children from age 3 through Grade 3 can participate in a morning program that includes stories, songs, crafts, and a snack. A similar program occurs on Yom Kippur morning, with the children later joining their parents to witness the blowing of the shofar.
Members of Emeth, assisted by Jewish Studies students, build and decorate a sukkah behind the synagogue before Sukkot. They also set up tables inside the sukkah so that members can dine there during the eight-day festival. On the Friday night during Sukkot, Emeth members enjoy a community dinner in the sukkah. Rabbi Israel explains the festival and, with a cantorial soloist, leads members in celebration.
Simchat Torah, which immediately follows Sukkot, celebrates the end of the annual cycle of Torah readings and the start of a new cycle. At Emeth, the Torah is removed from the ark and completely unrolled in front of everyone who attends the service. Congregants then dance around the room and sing with the Torah. The scroll is then rolled back onto its wooden shafts and returned to the ark.
During Chanukah, Congregation Emeth celebrates in the social hall, sanctuary, and downtown Morgan Hill. Families share a potluck dinner in the social hall on the Friday night during Chanukah. Afterward, everyone brings their chamukiah to the front of the sanctuary and lights the candles. On another night during the eight-day holiday, Congregation Emeth holds a community celebration with a candle lighting ceremony in downtown Morgan Hill. Rabbi Israel leads the event. Emeth’s Chai School students, led by a cantorial soloist, sing for the community.
Tu BiShvat, the holiday celebrating the birth of the trees, is frequently observed at Congregation Emeth with a community dinner followed by an Erev Shabbat service. The dinner and service occur on the Friday preceding the 15th of Shevat. When the dinner is organized as a potluck, Emeth members are encouraged to bring dishes that incorporates fruit or nuts from trees.
For Purim, Emeth has a carnival for the younger students, supported by the older students. Children and adults come in costume. This is followed by a “Friday Night Live” Shabbat service and Purim observance.
One of Congregation Emeth’s most popular events for families is the traditional community Seder, held on the second night of Passover.
Erev Shabbat community dinners, held at least once a month during the school year, enhance our sense of Emeth as an extended family. The rituals at these community dinners and the services that follow provide opportunities for children and their parents to learn about the traditions of Shabbat.
Shabbat “Short ‘n Sweet” Services
Once a month, Congregation Emeth holds “Shabbat Short ‘n Sweet” as part of the Religious School curriculum. This informal Erev Shabbat service provides students with the opportunity to learn the meaning of the prayers and discuss the Torah portion of the week. The service is led by Rabbi Israel and is appropriate for children of all ages as well as for adults.
Shabbat in the Redwoods
Every summer, Congregation Emeth heads to Mt. Madonna County Park for an annual “Shabbat in the Redwoods.” The park, dominated by a redwood forest, lies to the west of Gilroy in the Santa Cruz Mountain range. This event typically features a morning service, a guest speaker, and then a picnic lunch.
PJ Library Programs
In addition to holding family-oriented holiday programs and Shabbat services, Congregation Emeth participates in the PJ Library program sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley. The program assists young Jewish families in developing a positive Jewish identity and connection with their local Jewish community. Children whose parent or guardian enrolls them in the PJ Library program receive monthly mailings of free Jewish children’s books and CDs. Go to PJ Library for more information.
Please check Congregation Emeth’s online calendar for the dates of upcoming family-oriented programs.