The High Holidays were a wonderful experience for us all. Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah have a tremendous spiritual power that will hopefully bind us to each other and Judaism throughout the year.
There is no greater priority at University Synagogue for me, the professional staff and the Board than making our families with children feel happy, welcome and involved. We have spent lots of time, energy, funds and brainstorming to create a wonderful Pre-School and summer camp, a creative Religious School (with two options: one, classroom based and the other, our camp-like Adventures In Jewish Education program), our Tot Shabbat services, Shabbat and holiday Family dinners and services, my “Ask The Rabbi” with our school children and my Pre-School visits.
As for our Tot Shabbat service, there’s something new. By moving it from 5:30 p.m. on monthly Synaplex nights to 5:45 p.m. on Family Shabbat nights, we’ve created a meaningful and fun Shabbat experience for children of all ages on the same night with an inexpensive Shabbat dinner in the middle (5:45 p.m. Tot Shabbat, 6:15 p.m. Family Shabbat dinner and 7:00 p.m. Family Shabbat services, where everyone gets to come up on the bima), followed by a Family Fun Oneg Shabbat. By the way, Cantor Braier’s new Youth Band will also be playing at Family services.
On October 18 at 7:00 p.m., we’ll be adding a Youth-led Friday night service for Grades 5th – 10th, parallel to our Shabbat Alive services in the sanctuary. The Youth-led service, held in the school wing, will empower our tweens and teens and encourage a joyous integration of Judaism and socializing.
As you know, we tailor our Bar/Bat Mitzvah education and services to each child’s and family’s needs and we involve parents in our Confirmation program for teens, as well. Speaking of teens, our madrichim program has kept dozens of our teenagers involved in Jewish learning and University Synagogue, while they also mentor younger students and do community service. Our Mitzvah Mall, Mitzvah Day and Big Sunday events are also wonderful ways to involve our families with children, by teaching Jewish values and doing Tikkun Olam.
For those with older children, I want to stay in touch with our college students, so please send me (by October 15) their email and snail mail addresses as well as their birthdays.
As for Adult Education, don’t forget that you can also learn about Judaism and meet friends – old and new – while your children are studying in our building or at AJE. There are Sunday morning adult education classes taught by me and others, as well as the Orange County International Jewish Film Festival, sponsored by University Synagogue, at the nearby Westpark Regal Theater. Remember, we offer over two dozen classes on Sundays, weekdays and weeknights, so please sign up.
By the way, don’t forget fun Family events like “Rolling With the Rabbi and Cantor,” a bowling and pizza party, right after Religious School on Sunday, Oct. 6 at noon, and our Kallah, our synagogue retreat, from March 28-30.
One more thing, please get to know me and let me get to know you better. I want to be everyone’s Rabbi at University Synagogue. Get together with me in my office and bring your children. No agenda, just schmoozing. Or come to my office and I’ll answer your family’s questions on Judaism or read, to your young children, a Jewish storybook. Sometimes there’s a perception that Rabbis are unapproachable or too busy, but I’m not – people are my business.
So, visit or call me or send me an email. Even more, plan to come on Wednesday night, November 13 at 7:00 p.m., to “A Coffee With The Rabbi For Parents With Children From Babies Through High School” at University Synagogue so that I can get to know you better and hear your ideas for enhancing family life and learning at University Synagogue. (RSVP by November 6.)
I’m looking forward to a wonderful year and beyond together with you and your family.
Rabbi Arnold Rachlis