Volume 40 Number 79
                 Produced: Thu Oct  9  5:24:49 US/Eastern 2003

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Children in Shul on Yomim Noraim (5)
         [Joshua Seidemann, Anonymous_2, Rabbi Ed Goldstein, Esther
Posen, Ari Trachtenberg]


From: Joshua Seidemann <quartertones@...>
Date: Thu, 2 Oct 2003 06:30:32 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: Children in Shul on Yomim Noraim

      To Anonymous:

      Bravo!  But why limit this to the yomim noraim?  I live in NYC and
      have the luxury of selecting the quietist minyanim.  Therefore, I
      have stopped davening at a couple of places where the kids and
      adults were chattering non-stop during davening (not to mention
      leaping off chairs, climbing over the mechitza, etc. (the kids,
      not the adults)).  My philosophy of bringing children to shul has
      not changed now that I have my own (child, not shul): children
      beneath the age of chinuch who cannot stay quiet and seated should
      not be in shul.  Children at and above the age of chinuch should
      be brought to shul, but be in the sanctuary itself for only as
      long as they can remain quiet and non-disruptive.

      I could list examples of my own experiences, but suffice to say
      that so far as I have learned, a person's obligation of tefilah
      b'tzibur does not outweigh the imperative of not disturbing the
      davening of others.  Where a single father has an obligation of
      kaddish, perhaps the answer is to keep a seat near the door.

From: Anonymous_2
Date: Thu, 2 Oct 2003 05:54:53
Subject: Children in Shul on Yomim Noraim

Another anonymous poster wrote, in an eloquent and touching open letter:

> Davening on Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur is lengthy, significantly longer
> than davening in your average shul on your average Shabbos morning.
> [...] Some shuls have [...]  in-house babysitters.  

The one in which I've davened for the past 3 years is an example of
this.  However, a large minority of parents refuse to utilize these
services, some because their children "don't want to be there" or for
other reasons best known to themselves.

The shul in which I daven also explicitly forbids strollers to be
brought into the building for security reasons; yet, many of the same
parents who bring children too young to be able to behave properly and
don't take them out when they start "acting up," also bring in
strollers.  This puts all of us in danger, both because:

	(a) without intrusive searches, and sometimes even with, we
can't know what might be concealed in strollers (and as we know too
well, terrorists have been known to dress up like frum Jews and not care
if they kill infants or toddlers in their attacks, G-d forbid); and

	(b) in the event, G-d forbid, of any sort of emergency,
strollers severely impede the ability of all in attendance to evacuate
the building quickly, since the clog aisles and other "open spaces."

No matter how much any of us might (or might not) adore stroller-aged
children, these risks are not acceptable.  I speak in part from the
vantage point of my role as a security volunteer from my congregation on
this point.

> [...] [T]hey ask parents not to bring children to shul. 

Unlike the other anonymous poster's situation, the one in my shul has no
significant bearing on the ability of women who are mothering young
children, or fathers "trying to give mommy a break" by getting the
offspring out of the house, to attend, since they have high-quality
child care on premises for children up to a year or so before bar/bat
mitzvah age.  By age 11-12, most children "should" in developmental
terms be able to behave appropriately at least through the large "core"
chunks of tefillah on the yamim nora'im, or to supervise themselves
outside the rooms in which davening is taking place, in appropriate and
relatively quiet activities, if they can't, and to know when they need
to remove themselves.

> Throughout davening, your child talked, and you Shhh!ed.  It was
> disruptive, and finally -- midway through Mussaf -- you bundled the
> kid up and walked home.  [...] Other parents dropped in for a few
> minutes and left as soon as their kids got unruly.  You stayed.  It
> came time for Shofar.  Someone made an announcement asking parents of
> noisy kids to please take them home; there would be a second blowing
> of the Shofar later in the afternoon for all those who missed it in
> the morning, so no one would be precluded from fulfilling her
> obligation.  You stayed, even though your kid chattered through this
> announcement.

In "my" shul, no such announcement was made and noisy children did
disrupt various of the shofar blowing.  My heart goes out to the other
anonymous poster for the anguish she endured and why.  Mine, however,
comes from a different source: because of the disruptive children, I had
reason to doubt whether I was "yotzei" (had discharged my obligation) to
hear all of the 100 qolot (shofar blasts) on the second day of yom tov.

Because I am not mothering small children, and had no other reason to
suspect that I would need an alternative blowing, I had not anticipated
this situation by finding alternative times and places to hear the
shofar.  In addition, because he was so surrounded by others needing to
talk with him, I could not get close enough to the mara d'atra at the
end of Musaf to ask what to do.

> Let me tell you something about myself.  I am an unmarried adult woman.
> I love kids.  Being around kids gives me nothing but pleasure, in spite
> of the fact that I will almost certainly never have kids of my own.

On the other hand, not everyone in the poster's circumstances feels this
way.  Not even all current parents of small children, or all parents
whose children are old enough now that they do not cause the kinds of
problems the other anonymous poster describes, can look upon these
children when they are behaving disruptively as "adorable" or "sweet."
Yes, even in the frum world, there are people, both women and men, who
strongly dislike, or are very uncomfortable around, small children.

(Examples of people who might feel extremely uncomfortable around small
children include individuals with compromised immune systems who are at
risk of becoming, G-d forbid, catastrophically ill, or even dying, if
they catch things from young children.  These people may or may not be
obvious from their use of surgical mask or other such gear in public,
since for them casual transmission may or may not be an issue.  However,
prolonged contact in close quarters is often a concern even if casual
contact in public spaces isn't.

As any parent undoubtedly knows, kids younger than a certain age are not
great about personal hygiene so they are apt to spread things around
among themselves and to bystanding adults in close proximity.  In
addition, they often can't tell adults when they don't feel well and
their parents or caregivers therefore don't necessarily know they're
sick, let alone contagious, until the kids suddenly vomit or some such.
Then, too, there are parents, including several in "my" shul, who
knowingly bring children with such serious and contagious diseases as
strep throat out in public and into their friends' homes for Shabbat and
yom tov meals, even before the children have been on antibiotics long
enough to be no longer contagious.)

> [...]  You want to daven with love, without bitterness, without anger
> [...]  The Rov blows Shofar.  And then, between sounds, your kid
> begins chattering.  Again.  [...] And my concentration is utterly,
> totally, completely shattered.  And I resent the fact that you [...]
> have disrupted my davening through your selfishness.  And [...] then,
> of course, I start to cry, because it hurts me that I am thinking
> these thoughts even though I work so hard *not* to have these thoughts
> crowd my davening.

Many others less eloquent than the anonymous poster to whom I am
responding feel the same pain and anguish, including for the reasons I
am feebly trying to add to her incredibly articulate and poignant post.

> Please.  If your kids aren't old enough to sit quietly through
> davening, don't bring them to shul.  If your kids are disrupting
> people's davening, they may be causing people untold pain.  This is
> really, really not good -- not for the person in pain, not for you,
> not for your children.

I couldn't agree more.

Please let me wish all of you gemar tov and a safe and meaningful Yom

From: <BERNIEAVI@...> (Rabbi Ed Goldstein)
Date: Thu, 02 Oct 2003 09:07:03 -0400
Subject: re: Children in Shul on Yomim Noraim

Kids don't make noise in shul.  No matter how much you love them, even
if they're you're own, tolerating them is essential for Jewish
continuity.  No shul is too small to have someone (My rebetzin
frequently did this) take the children anywhere else in the building and
occupy them for a period of time (like during my sermon).

Adults make noise in shul.  And they talk about the kids making noise
among other things.

It's not the kids.  It's the adults; they are too noisy and they don't
provide a quality alternative to parents for the kids during davening.
If they did, this issue would never be raised.

Rabbi Ed Goldstein, speaking from a quarter century experience as a pulpit rabbi.

From: Esther Posen <eposen@...>
Date: Thu, 2 Oct 2003 08:06:34 -0500
Subject: RE: Children in Shul on Yomim Noraim

Bravo to the anonymous poster.  I have some thoughts to add.  I had the
proper chinuch in this area, my mother did not go to shul for over 20
years while her children were small.  In fact, she had the good luck to
marry a man who both blew the shofar and read the megillah, so she
really didn't go to shul for 20 years.

Children do not belong in shul ever.  Certainly not on Rosh Hashana, Yom
Kippur or Purim.  Since I came home from the hospital with a newborn on
erev Rosh Hashana and spent the large part of Rosh Hashana and most of
Yom Kippur on a recliner, it was hard not to realize what G-d's
priorities were for me that year.  There is a reason women are not
obligated in tefilla bitzibur.

"Missing" shul is very difficult for some women to deal with for a
variety of reasons.  Some are deeply spiritual, some have feminist
leanings, some spent many years developing their davening etc.  Coming
to terms with changing priorities is one of the tests of being a women,
however, as many women will tell you, the world turns again, children
grow up,and the time comes when women can return to shul without
disturbing the whole congregation.

As our poster mentioned, there are also other solutions, babysitters in
shul - if you have the type of child that will "stay" with a strange
babysitter, corridors were one can hang/daven with the kids, though
those often get noisy enought to disrupt the proceedings inside.  Where
two halves of a couple are committed to davening b'tzibur, the best
arrangement I have seen is where one goes to a hashkama minyan and one
stays with the kids and then they switch.  My sister has had success
timesharing.  She teams up with a friend and they take turns watching
the kids and going to shul.

The pain and isolation a young woman with a baby feels when she has to
stay home on Rosh Hashana is real.  Women need to make peace with that
pain and understand that it is g-d's will and that raising and caring
for their child is the most important thing they could be doing with
their time.  It comes with the territory.  And it should not be solved
by foisting a noisy child on people who are davening, those,
unfortunately who never had the good fortune to miss a Rosh Hashana
because they needed to take care of their small children, and those who
have "put in their time" and can now go back to shul to daven.

There are times, that I have made arrangements to get to shul without my
small children only to get there and be disturbed by the small children
of others...


From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Thu, 02 Oct 2003 10:33:03 -0400
Subject: Re: Children in Shul on Yomim Noraim

I certainly feel your pain on this issue and appreciate the immense
respect and sensitivity with which you wrote your letter.  I assure you,
however, that the feelings are just as strong on the other side of the

I find that children are often singled out in an unfair (and often mean)
manner because they are small and unable to fight back.  All too often,
I find that the same people that are shushing kids and making faces at
their parents have no qualms about chatting away with their neighbor or
other friends who come to shul.  Furthermore, when adults make noise
during the davening, rarely does anyone explicitly ask them to quiet
down.  Typically, to avoid embrrassment, a general announcement is made,
over and over, which the noisy people often ignore.  When it comes to
children however, embarrassment of the children and/or the parents does
not seem to be an issue.

That said, I am even in favor of some minimal chatter during the
davening for a variety of reasons, which I believe to be halachicly

1) chatter is entirely normal - whenever people are put together, they
inevitably talk.  Any prohibition of this would be (as it is) readily
violated by the masses and, as such, of questionable value.

2) minyan - from a philosophical perspective, ten men simply being in
the same location and praying does not support the communal aspect of a
minyan.  A minyan consists of a community praying together, with a
shaliach tsibbur that coordinates and unifies them.  Such community, by
necessity of human nature, requires social interactions that inevitably
involves some chatter.

Finally, I urge you to consider that it is essential for kids to learn
about davening and be acquainted with the Jewish community at an early
age...  and not just the nice, polite ones, but dafka those who are
rowdy and/or poorly disciplined.  As such, it is important to develop an
organized and intelligent approach for balancing communal needs for
quiet with children's natures.

I wish you a g'mar chatima tova ... and peaceful Yom Kippur davening.

Kol tuv,

Ari Trachtenberg,                                      Boston University
http://people.bu.edu/trachten                    mailto:<trachten@...>


End of Volume 40 Issue 79