Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Did He Just Say That?

Our Shabbos tolerance woes continue...

This Shabbat Abba and I took turns--I went to hashkama and he went to main minyan and we each had a shift davening and watching Chamudi. It worked rather nicely and I was happy as a clam until a prominent member of the hashkama minyan said to me, with a wide smile on his face, "Thanks for not bringing him to tefilot. That was really nice."

What I said was, "Hmm...well I don't think I'm going to say you're welcome."

What I wanted to say was, "Go to hell, freak show. You are everything that is wrong with this synagogue. Scratch that, you are everything that is wrong with humanity."

I really wanted to tell him off. But some compassionate person in the back of my head said, "You know, if that's really how he thinks about things, and if he really thinks this is the appropriate way to share his feelings, then he's got problems that extend far beyond this conversation. Just walk away..." So I did.

Okay, I didn't totally let it go--apparently my quiet complaints to a few mutual acquaintances apparently circulated rather quickly. Whoops...oh well. Maybe one of those kind souls will give him some musar.

Meanwhile, Chamudi is continuing to flourish Jewishly--he loves shul, knows and likes the rabbi, and will stop mid-tantrum to admire a Torah scroll. So I know that--whatever the curmudgeons of the world may say--we are on the right track.


Anonymous said...

Here's a serious question- which is upsetting to you: the way the person expressed his feelings or the sentiment?

Ima Shalom said...

Both. I find the sentiment--that children don't belong in shul--to be very wrongheaded. And I can't stand passive aggression.

Anonymous said...

But that's not what he said. He "thanked you" for not bringing him to tefillah and probably meant that he finds that at times children can be too noisy during tefillah and was happy that that disruption wasn't there.

Do you feel that it is legitimate to discuss and debate HOW children should be in shul? I think most people would agree that there is a place for children in shul but the debate lies in age, supervision, and appropriate behavior.

There's a lot of grey in this issue- it's not just black-and-white, parents vs. non-parents. And healthy debate about it is good. :)

Ima Shalom said...

It was clear to me from his comment that he had already decided children shouldn't be at shul. That was not a way to open dialogue...that was a way to let me know that I had finally complied with his code of conduct.

Mahotma Daddy said...

I don't see the debate here: the shushers need to be shushed. "Children should be seen and not heard" has ocntributed to a generation of disenfranchised Jews, who are leaving the faith in droves.

How do I get a job if I have no experience, when every job says "experience required?" In order to "train" on proper shul behavior, snacks and the occasional tantrum MUST be tolerated (and that goes for our shul too, where snacks and tantrums are met with smiles, but the kind of smile that really means shame on you for not having better control of your toddler).

Tell this guy if he wants silence, to go daven by himself.

Anonymous said...

I heard that the person also said to some folks who were talking during davening, "It appears that you are too old to have learned how to whisper. Perhaps you should daven in the upstairs minyan". At least he is equal in his dislike of non-davening vocalization during tefillah. The lack of tact? That I have no recommendations.

For the most part, I feel that our children are welcome at the shul. I feel like they are less welcome in the sanctuary during davening, unless they can be quiet. I don't think anyone expects toddlers to be able to stay quiet the entire time, but they do expect us parents to recognize the limitations of our children during davening and remove them when needed.

I think one issue comes down to what is considered appropriate behavior during davening. I don't tolerate tantrums in the sanctuary during davening at all, not from anyone else's children and certainly not my own. The minute it starts, we are out of there. We also go out for snacks. For me it is also a question of respect for the others around me. I want them to be able to have kavana as well. Remember, even having a baby next to you, making happy girgling noises, can be distracting (I know that I would be interacting with the baby instead of davening).

ilanadavita said...

What a stupid thing to say. This same guy probably also complains that "young people" no longer go to shul nowadays...

Anonymous said...

Mahotma Daddy-

There's a happy medium between the two extremes- this guy's lack of tact and your wanting to let your kids do as they please. There's a time and place for everything and there's a need for respect- respect for those who come to shul to pray, respect for the shul itself, and respect for the parents and the children.

The shushers don't need to be shushed- the children do. That's how they learn and get experience in the shul. And that's why there's cookie minyan and the like. The last Anonymous poster has it right: by all means, bring the children into the sanctuary to daven with you, so they can observe, learn, and digest all that is going on around them. But when they make noise, take them out. When they disrupt the Rabbi's speech, take them out, don't just shush them and think they're going to learn right away.

There's a happy medium here- if more parents chose that medium AND if more people were more sensitive to the rigors of child-bearing and educating, we'd have less of a schism between those who want to daven in a quiet environment and those who want to bring their children to shul.

Mahotma Daddy said...

To be clear, I don't allow our daughter to tantrum - or talk, or make noise for any length of time - in shul, she is whisked out immediately (in that regard, I'm shushing with the best of them!). She has learned to play/sit quietly and during that learning time, I was quick to take her out as appropriate.

My issue is the dirty looks the moment a peep comes out. The complete lack of tolerance from some - to Ima Shalom's point - and the broad assumption that the presence of a child is a distraction waiting to happen, is my problem.

(By the way, don't know what a cookie minyan is, but it sounds cool!)

Ima Shalom said...

Davening at shul is absolutely about prayer. But it is also about community...there is a reason that it's considered preferable to daven in a congregation. And in a healthy, thriving community there will always be children, and the exuberance that they bring to just about everything.

Listen...I don't think that we should turn shul into romper room, but I do think that people need to take a wider view. When we come together in prayer there are more things to consider than just ourselves.

And I don't think that cookie minyan--though fun--is a stand-in for a real synagogue experience. For parents and their toddlers alike, nothing beats the real thing.

Anonymous said...

Ima Shalom- You're right that Cookie Minyan isn't a substitute, but it does serve as a good place for the kids to get out their energy- sing a little, play a little, and run around the room with the plush Torah toys in their hands. :)

Shabbat shalom!

Maya said...

This one is inspiring my new post.

Commenter Abbi said...

I'll be honest, my father took me and my brother to shul from the time we could do the 1.5 mile walk ourselves (ages 4-5?). We mostly hung out outside with our friends. Children really don't start appreciating shul till they can start to daven themselves- around the age they learn to read fluently.

Until then, I really think the experience of shul goes right over their heads- even if they sit and play quietly. They can also sit and play quietly in the park or at home- or right outside shul, if you want them to experience shul as a communal activity. And at least in those other venues, they can get as loud as they want without disturbing others.

I have three kids now and I really wouldn't dream of bringing them into shul with me, though sometimes my husband will bring them Friday nights once in a while- which my 5 year old uses as play/social time, outside of shul.

This really isn't an issue of "children being seen and not heard" or preventing them from "participating" in shul. It's respecting pple's right to daven, respecting shul and respecting a child's own developmental level. The last is the same reason I wouldn't bring a child younger then 2.5 or 3 to a movie theater for even an age appropriate movie.