With five prayer services and a full day of rites, children often find Yom Kippur to be daunting — or, worse, boring.
The Chabad Jewish Center — Newport Beach is working to combat that misapprehension.
“The kids are always saying how they hate coming to services,” Education Director Chani Mintz said; her husband, Rabbi Reuven Mintz, is the Chabad director. “We made it fun, and they still learn something.”
So the Chabad has sought to make the day more meaningful for children.
At the Chabad’s Yom Kippur services Monday in the Hyatt Regency Newport Beach, children began their service with icebreaker games and songs.
“We open one eye, we open two, we say ‘Modeh Ani’ ’cause it means thank you,” the children sang. “We wash our yadayim six times, that’s true, ’cause that’s what every Jewish boy and girl must do.”
The children wore shoes like Crocs and canvas sneakers, as leather shoes traditionally are not worn on Yom Kippur.
The kids then learned the Tanakh, or Jewish Bible, story of Jonah and the Whale. They were taught that Hashem forgives everyone. Hashem is the verbal name of the creator, used in casual conversation, and means “the Name” in Hebrew.
“God is everywhere!” a child cried, when he learned that Jonah tried to run away from his creator.
“Silly Jonah. He didn’t realize that God is everywhere,” his instructor told him.
The kids then sang a special song written by one of their own friends in school, singing to the tune of “Old MacDonald.”
“Hashem told Jonah what to do; e-yi-e-yi-Jonah,” they sang. “Jonah did not carry though; e-yi-e-yi-Jonah.”
For an activity, the kids found jellyfish candy packages hidden throughout the room.
One of the fish had a Jonah figure inside it; the child who found Jonah won a special prize.
At the end of the evening, the children joined their parents for the last part of the service, where the adults broke their fast.
“We like to make it as inclusive as possible for them,” Mintz said.