Jon Spira-Savett

5 reasons to bring your kid to High Holy Day services

Photo by Gilad/Licensed from Adobe Stock
Photo by Gilad/Licensed from Adobe Stock

Hours in synagogue on the High Holy Days might the obvious to spend time together as a family. Even if you have a synagogue you feel at home in, and even if most of the year, it’s child-friendly, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur might have some extra barriers. It’s crowded, meaning some of the places your kid runs around may be off limits or full of “shush”-ers. The prayers aren’t as familiar, and the mood can be more somber than the joy you’re used to in shul. Maybe you’re not eager to answer questions from a child about “Who shall live and who shall die” or the story of the Binding of Isaac. Maybe it’s hard to get out of school when the holy days fall on weekdays, or difficult to negotiate around activities your child is committed to, especially if you live in a community where there aren’t a lot of Jews.

So here are five reasons to get your child, whether toddler or teen, to the synagogue with you anyway on the High Holy Days!

1. It’s amazing to see so many people taking time all at once to make ourselves and the world better.

This is the essence of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

It’s one thing to teach our kids that each of us should always be trying to be a better person. It’s another to see dozens or hundreds of people focused on that all at once.

We can show our children: Look how many people are working on bringing out the good in themselves and each other. See how many people care about that for themselves and for the people sitting way across the room whom they don’t even know!

It’s what being Jewish is all about.

2. So many Jews!

Especially outside of the big cities and Israel and New York, when do you see the Jewish community so big?

For a child in a place where your family is one of the only Jewish families around, being Jewish may not feel like you are part of something big and important. Sure, being a minority and different can feel special. But seeing you’re part of something bigger when you’re Jewish is also special, and can make it easier all the times when being a minority is hard.

3. Shofar is really cool.

During Rosh Hashanah daytime services, and at the very end of Yom Kippur, the shofar (ram’s horn) is sounded. (This year a lot of synagogues won’t be doing it on the first day because it’s Shabbat, so check with yours.) On Rosh Hashanah, there is a specific order of blasts, long and short and very short and very long. It’s really like nothing else we ever do in a service.

The sounds are ancient and primal. The shofar itself is exotic, even compared to the Torah scroll.

Plus, in a lot of synagogues, the kids are invited to come up really close even in a service where there are hundreds of people. You get the best seat!

4. Learning to be different

Spending hours in a religious place and especially a Jewish one — that’s pretty countercultural. Even if you don’t stay the whole time or your child spends a lot of it roaming the halls or the grounds. It’s good to fly in the face of the culture of conformity and achievement.

It’s good for our kids to learn that standing proud in your identity is important and not easy, but worthwhile if the cause matters. It can even feel good. Especially when you can tell your friends later about the shofar, or a Hebrew word.

Being different takes effort. You have to explain things about yourself and your culture, you have to know about your heritage. A lot of the work belongs to parents — to be the ones to explain and advocate toward teachers and coaches, if there are assignments that have to be delayed, rehearsals or practices missed. By the way, your rabbi or Jewish leaders where you live are right behind you on that, to equip you or to make calls on your behalf.

5. Hanging out

There’s the service, and then there’s not being in the service. Kids get to see other kids who are Jewish too and more or less their own age. But it’s not Hebrew School, so they get to hang out and catch up and even connect with new kids.

Usually even with all the extra people and rooms used for extra seats or discussion groups or other activities, there’s a couch or a room or some corner in the synagogue for kids to find and claim. Kids get to make the place their own.

Behind almost any adult synagogue regular, or or almost any rabbi, there are stories and memories of what we did on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur when we were at the synagogue but weren’t in the service.


All of that! And of course you and your child might even find something in the service that’s meaningful too — words, teachings, songs and melodies. Even if it’s just you, it’s good for your child to see you working on who you want to be in the new year.

So even if it’s hard, and even if you the parent have a lot of questions about what’s going on and what all the prayers and texts mean, think about coming to services on the High Holy Days and sharing this experience with your family!

About the Author
Rabbi Jonathan Spira-Savett serves the Jewish community of southern New Hampshire and nearby Massachusetts through Temple Beth Abraham in Nashua, New Hampshire. He is co-host of "Tov! A Podcast About 'The Good Place' and Jewish Ideas", available on podcast apps and He blogs at and Rabbi Jon’s Podcasts are available through Apple and Podbean. He is an alumnus of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship and the organizer of, an initiative to transform how we choose a president by asking better questions.
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