Beit Emanuel is by no means an “Adults Only” synagogue. From the tenderest of ages, up until the very last years of youth, all children and teenagers are invited to participate. There is something for everyone at Beit Emanuel.
On Friday night Shabbat isn’t celebrated in the usual way for our kids. They are warmly invited into Beit Emanuel’s own Youth Lounge, an environment warmed over the years by the countless activities, events and services to which it serves its purpose. The children’s service is targeted at kids who want to celebrate the holy day in a different way from the constraints of a conventional service. Here sitting and reading and merely listening is not an option! Games, stories, activities and even discussion make up the service and prayer in the form of songs, often accompanies by instruments or actions. Michamocha to the Flintstones theme tune is just one example of how Judaism doesn’t need to be boring at Beit Emanuel.
At Kiddish time, the kids are invited to run back to the main service and the pre-bar mitzvah children take part in Kiddush on the bimaha. A young religion-school volunteer sings the prayers for everyone and after a sip of ‘proper’ grape juice; all the kids are blessed, with the rabbi’s words and a bar of chocolate.
The Reform movement’s youth wing, Netzer, has a full-time shaliach (representative from Israel) in Gauteng and many hardworking Madrichim (youth-leaders). With this kind of dedicated leadership, Beit Emanuel kids won’t go for more than a month without a new, exciting event. There’s almost always news, activities andd fun buzzing
from our lounge at the top the stairs, or even the parking lot where we frequently hold exciting games of “Machanaim” during our popular Day Camps.
Over the years Beit Emanuel youth have run their very own movie nights- complete with popcorn, some cool drinks and the very best in Israeli movies. These have been a wonderful way to meet people in the congregation, enjoy an evening out and all the wonders of Israeli movies right here in sunny South Africa! Our Madrichim entertain your children with some animated kids movies and of course the popcorn! (Because we all know you can’t watch a movie without it!) These movie nights have been a great success and we look forward to more in the future.
Shabbatons or sleepovers give the youth an opportunity to celebrate Shabbat to its full extent. With the kind of learning that doesn’t make one cringe and the kind of fun that keeps the kids asking when the next one is. Age groups from grades 1-3 all the way up until grade 9 and madrichim, are invited on these shabbatons, where they meet new people from the other reform synagogues and make life-long friends. The Shabbatons are often held on the premises of our shul, and are particularly memorable on Sukkot, when the kids got the opportunity to sleep in Beit Emanuels own sukkah, decorated and built by the kids and parents of the synagogue.
Netzer also runs winter and spring one day camps for anyone from the age of six to sixteen. These take place over the school holidays and provide a safe environment here on the Beit Emanuel grounds. Our day starts with ma’amad, or morning prayers in the form of songs and games. The fun and excitement never ends, with movies, snacks, delicious lunch and laughter scattered throughout the day. (We even have outings to the zoo!)