Tot Shabbat is a monthly gathering at Congregation Dor Tamid for families with children under the age of six who have special needs. The Rabbi designed a ceremony that was suitable for children and included dancing, singing, and simple prayers. Many people are welcome to join this Reformed Jewish congregation if they are willing to convert and pay their dues. Membership in the Temple costs money, and it gives families tickets and seats to the High Holiday celebrations throughout the Jewish year.
Tot Shabbat focuses on young learners and teaches them about holidays, celebrations, and the story behind them. We walked into a large waiting area as soon as we opened the double glass doors. There was a store that sold Judaic products, and there were individual individuals waiting around saying hello to others as they moved toward the hall. Things were chaotic and full of kids everywhere. The scene was fun, and there was no strict dress code. Children came in costumes, while many parents were dressed casually. Yarmulkes were worn on the heads of many of the boys and men. In the end, we all got to the rotunda for services. I didn’t feel awkward, as everybody was exceptionally welcoming and cordial.
To help the children settle down, Rabbi Katz promptly began the service at 6:30 p.m. with a brief rendition of Jewish hymns. The children were delighted to perform the unique hand gestures and quickly took part in the songs. Since this Child Shabbat was held not long before the Purim occasion, Rabbi Katz revolved the learning action around.
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Children donned costumes and acted out scenes from the Hebrew readings as part of their participation. I was informed by the woman sitting next to me that the children had been putting in a lot of effort to learn the routines from Sunday religious class. It was very festive and colorful.
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To Rabbi Katz’s instructions, the children danced and sang, and then it was time to hear the last word. As Rabbi Katz finished telling the story of Esther’s victory over Haman and her ultimate success in saving the Jews, a small group of children hummed lowly here. After the ceremony was over, there were lots of juice and finger foods like TOT SHABBAT 3 cookies, watercress sandwiches, cakes, and more. We briefly interacted so that I could officially meet the Sunday school teachers before departing for an early dinner.