Wednesday, September 19, 2012

baby / bathwater

Dear pulpit rabbis, shul presidents, and gabbaim of the previous generation? world:

When you announce the night before that shofar blowing will be at 10:30,

- and then you don't finish shacharit till 11:15, which happens, I get it,

- but my kids have been waiting quietly for the shofar for 45 minutes, and they're not going to be able to do it much longer,

- and anyway, pretty soon they're going to need to go home for lunch,

- and then? you get up and make an uplifting speech for half an hour?

you are endangering my ability to hear shofar.

How's that for uplifting?

When I talk to people about this, I hear a lot of "It's always been like this. [shrug] What're you gonna do?" So here's a few things you could do instead:

- for Gd's sake (and I mean that literally), when the obligatory parts of tefilla are running late, skip your entirely optional speech. I'll note here that your service didn't end until close to 2 PM.

- if you feel you have to speak? at least announce that you're going to be speaking for about 30 minutes, so I don't sit there stuck, afraid that it's just a few introductory words, and if I take the kids outside to blow off steam (or even run home to bring back lunch, which it never occurred to me I would need at 10:30), I will miss shofar blowing before I can get them back inside.

- or, if you feel you have to speak? announce that people with children are welcome to step outside; but assure us that someone will come out to tell us when you get up to shofar blowing, so I know I won't miss it, even if you can't tell me yet when that's going to be.

I will freely grant that none of this is intentional disrespect for the needs of caregivers with young children - let's be real here: overwhelmingly women. But I don't see how you can argue it is not disregard. If you don't know how the things you are doing affect your congregants, then you need to ask. Ask your wife, sister, daughter or neighbor what contortions she went through to make the kids' feedings, naps, and medication doses match up with a schedule for which you give her no informational updates at all. Ask what time she arranged the babysitter for and how much it cost. Ask how big a duffle bag full of distractions/provisions she needed to bring.

And yes, I know most shuls nowadays have an afternoon shofar blowing in case you miss the one in the morning. I do appreciate that. I just don't think it's enough - not when a little courtesy would make it entirely workable in the morning. Not when I'm already here trying to make it work in the morning. Not when my children are already here trying. And frankly, knowing how many things can go wrong with timing & little kids? I don't feel safe pinning all my chances on the afternoon, either.

I'm a lot calmer about this now than I was two days ago. I even considered not writing about it. But I don't think anyone who is angered by what goes on in the observant world can afford to suck it up in silence. For every one of us who speaks up, you don't know how many others are so turned off, they just don't come back.



shanna said...

Filled with rage on your behalf. RAGE. That is just....ridiculous. Beyond ridiculous.

miriamp said...

My shul said "not before 10:30." and when at 10:42 I was only halfway there I was kind of glad they were running late. *BUT* also, our tiny little shul in out-of-town actually had babysitting this year. and they called everyone in for shofar. and then made an announcement that if your kids are too noisy you should take them out and hear the "extra ones" after the end before you go home.

Wish I could have helped you by offering to take your kids out until or call you back in in time to not miss anything. they definitely should have planned that better.