Dear Miriam | High Holidays Questions Answered

shofar next to siddur
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Dear Readers,

In the lead-up to the High Holidays, there are too many questions to choose just one, but if there’s a common theme to draw out here, it’s that COVID, parenting, and the whole holiday season are full of potential complications.

Here’s hoping the following can provide you with some guidance along the way, and wishing everyone a shana tova.

Should I bring my preschooler to services during the High Holidays, or should I send her to school?

Your child is unlikely to remember much of the holidays at her age, but these special days also present the opportunity to start some family traditions and to lay the foundation for what you want holidays to look like in your family.

My best-case scenario is this: If you can find a children’s service in your area, consider doing that together with your preschooler on the first day of Rosh Hashanah. Then, send her to school for the second day while you have more of an adult experience in services for yourself. On Yom Kippur, you are all likely to have a better day if your child is at school.

Kindergarten is a good time to set more specific expectations for time in services and a more robust understanding of the holidays. And whatever you do with your child any year, make sure to incorporate songs, stories, picture books, and apples and honey into your home around the High Holidays to help familiarize your whole family with the themes and traditions you’ll want them to grow up knowing.

My whole family was just out of work and school for a full week with COVID. Is it still reasonable to take time off for the High Holidays?

Yes. Yes, of course. You were not home celebrating, and the timing of your illness has no bearing on the timing of the holidays. While it can be very challenging to miss school and work, assuming that no one is going to lose their job over more absences (which, if you’re at risk of this, talk to a lawyer, not an advice columnist), you should take the time.

How much more do you have to celebrate this year having just recovered from COVID! You can explain to your children’s teachers and your employers how important these holidays really are, and, in this era of many absences and forced quarantines and changed plans, I hope everyone involved is as empathetic as humanly possible.

Why doesn’t my synagogue offer tween programming? My 11-year-old is too bored in regular services and too old for the children’s service. What should she do?

While I, too, have an 11-year-old, I find it important to say that I didn’t ask myself this question. Most likely, your synagogue doesn’t offer this either because they are short-staffed, because they don’t think there are enough kids in this age group to warrant their own programming or simply because no one has asked.

Use this opportunity to reach out to someone at the synagogue and ask what is available for kids this age. While it may be too late for this year, you might be able to get things rolling for years to come. In the meantime, pack lots of books and snacks and quiet activities and plan to stay in services as long as she can handle it, and praise her for being mature enough to hang out with the grown-ups.

Dueling recipes from different grandmothers: Make one or both? Sounds frivolous, but it’s an emotional decision!

Make one for Rosh Hashanah and the other for Sukkot. Or make both of them now, cut back on what else you serve and use your holiday table as an opportunity to honor both of their memories in a significant and deliberate way. Just make sure you tell the other people at the table not to tell you which one they like best!

Stay tuned for more questions before Yom Kippur, and be well,



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