Children's Services

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CHILDREN'S SERVICES , worship especially arranged for children of school age and conducted entirely or partially by them. According to halakhah only males older than bar mitzvah make up a minyan. Likewise only a boy older than bar mitzvah may function as the ḥazzan or be called up to the Torah reading (an exception to this rule is made on *Simḥat Torah). Orthodox tradition assumes that attendance at prayer services from an early age is the best way to familiarize a child with the liturgy and prepare him for more active participation after his bar mitzvah.

From its inception in early 19th-century Germany, Liberal Judaism has emphasized the need for active participation by school-age youth of both sexes in synagogue services. This became necessary because of insufficient home indoctrination in Jewish customs and prayers, and because the youngsters' inadequate knowledge of Hebrew precluded their understanding prayers conducted in this language. In almost all Liberal congregations, special services were introduced for children of school age; they are an abridged form of the order of prayer for adults, and contain its central portions such as *Shema, *Barekhu, *Amidah, and *Aleinu. The prayers in the children's service are composed in a simple language in the vernacular or in Hebrew and on a psychologically relevant level. The opportunity to recite aloud portions of the prayers before the assembled "junior congregation" prepares them for active participation in adult services. Many Liberal congregations regularly hold children's services on Sabbath mornings or afternoons, or before religious school sessions. All-day Hebrew schools and summer camps hold them at the daily assembly hours. The institution of children's services spread to most Conservative and to a few Orthodox synagogues in both the United States and England. In Israel, however, children's services are hardly known.

Many prayer books for children's services have been compiled; among the better-known ones are H. Chanover and E. Zusman, A Book of Prayer for Junior Congregations (Conservative, 1959); M. Silverman and H.E. Silverman, Prayer Book for Summer Camps and Institutes (Conservative, 1954); G.A. Rose, Children's Services (Reform, Rosh Ha-Shanah, Yom Kippur, 1926; Sabbath, 1937); M. Marenof, Religious Service for the Junior Congregation (Reform, 1949); idem, Rosh ha-Shanah Service for the Junior Congregation (Reform, 1952); idem, Yom Kippur Service for the Junior Congregation (Reform, 1952); M. Silverman, The Junior Prayer Book (Conservative, 1939).


B. Gottschalk, Der juedische Jugendgottesdienst nach Theorie und Praxis (1915), includes bibliography; L. Wiesner, Vorschlaege zur Reorganisation… (1916); M. Rosenfeld, Der Wiener juedische Jugendgottesdienst… (1917); United Synagogue of America, Young People's League, Guide for Arrangement of Young People's Holy Day Services (1924); idem, Guide… Friday Evening Services (1925); idem, Sabbath Services for Children… (1927).

[Meir Ydit]

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Children's Services

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