Tot Shabbat: Celebrating the Joy of Prayer
By Ben Hertzman
My family and I have been members of Holy Blossom Temple (HBT) for as long as I can remember. My whole upbringing was at HBT – from religious school, Bar Mitzvah, confirmation, and marriage, Holy Blossom has been a pivotal fixture in my life.
When my wife Danna and I welcomed our first son Oliver to our family just over two years ago, we started to attend the family programming at HBT. One of the program offerings, Tot Shabbat, was high on our list.
The first Tot Shabbat we attended was on a snowy December night. So snowy in fact that maybe just 15 people showed up in total (including Rabbi Kaye and Dr. Marky). Regardless, we loved it, so we continued to attend Tot Shabbat in the months that followed.
As the months passed, we noticed that the service was starting to get some more traction with attendees, particularly as Rabbi Baruchel began her outreach efforts.
By June of this year, we were seeing record attendance. Yet, Tot Shabbat was to be put on hold for the remainder of the summer.
Historically, much of the HBT family programming would stop for the summer. But, as a young family in the city, we are constantly in search of activities.
I approached Rabbi Kaye and said, “Tot Shabbat is wonderful – we would love to see it continue during the summertime. I see so many families are enjoying it. If it is a matter of funding, I can help with that”. We were so thrilled that we were able to bring Tot Shabbat back for July and August.
The momentum continued to build – with each successive Tot Shabbat, attendance grew. Services took place outside on the front lawn. There was pizza, freezies, and picnic blankets. For Sukkot, the services were held in the Sukkah (with close to 150 attendees!). Many young families joined us, including many new to Holy Blossom.
We found so much joy in sponsoring the summertime Tot Shabbat that we decided to continue our support of the program for the rest of the year. It is marked on our calendar – the last Friday of every month.
For anyone with young children in their life, Tot Shabbat is one of the best ways to introduce them to the joy of prayer, Shabbat, community, and in particular Holy Blossom Temple. The service is short, light and lively. There is a sing-along, story-time, and a pizza dinner. With certainty, you will meet other young families, and may even reconnect with old friends.
My whole family attends – all the way from my 3-month-old Julian to my 98-year-old grandmother Florence (Oliver & Julian’s great-grandmother!).
I encourage all to attend, and, to invite anyone, even if they are not members of Holy Blossom to join us. It is a wonderful gateway to exploring all the wonderful programming the Temple has to offer for young families.