Going to Religious Services for the High Holidays 

While children may love Chanukah and Passover for the traditions they offer, the High Holidays are the most important of the Jewish holidays. And unlike Chanukah and Passover that are home-based holidays, the Jewish High Holidays usually are celebrated communally in temple or synagogue with prayer services. Of course, special meals for family and friends during the High Holidays are hosted in homes. A congregation provides a place to pray, listen to readings from the Torah, and hear the blasts of the shofar, as well as a spiritual space for self-reflection and introspection.

Many synagogues offer a variety of services for adults, families and children of different ages.


Defining what prayer is might actually be harder than the praying itself. How do we describe or define prayer for young children? Prayer can have many forms, meanings, intentions and methods for different people.

Early childhood experts agree that young children are able to handle conversations about spirituality often better than adults because they haven’t yet traded their senses of wonder for logic and reason. As Maxine Segal Handelman and Roberta Louis Goodman explain in their book, Jewish Every Day: The Complete Handbook for Early Childhood Teachers: “Miracles are a natural part of life. Hearing voices, seeing things that others do not, viewing events as miraculous, are commonplace.” These characteristics make young children willing and able to more easily respond to God and their spiritual selves.

Young children enjoy learning new rituals, exploring objects and symbols, and developing new skills. They like repetition – repeating something again and again until they get it mastered.

And asking questions, lots of questions, is both a characteristic inherent in our tradition and a hallmark of toddlerhood.

The answers to the questions can be challenging, but so is being a role model to your children when you’re modeling something you aren’t very comfortable with yourself. Think about what prayer means to you. Prayer may be words (spoken or not) expressing wishes, petitions, blessings, thankfulness, and response to sadness, fear, or happiness. Prayer may be spontaneous from the heart or happen at certain times in fixed format. Prayer may be written by others, ancient or contemporary, or made up on the spot by the person praying.

Spend some time thinking about what prayer means to you, and share that with your children. What do you pray for, to whom, and why? Encourage children to find ways to express their prayers as well. 

Do you know what you’re doing for the High Holidays?

Does anybody?!

As the High Holidays approach, use these links to find services that fit your plans:

Adat Shalom CongregationConservativeFox Chapel
Beth El Congregation of the South HillsModern ConservativeSouth Hills
Beth Hamedrash Hagadol-Beth Jacob CongregationTraditional OrthodoxDowntown
Beth Israel CongregationWashington County
Beth Israel SynagogueIndiana County
Beth Samuel Jewish CenterReform/ConservativeAmbridge
Beth Sholom CongregationJohnstown
B'nai Emunoh Chabad OrthodoxGreenfield
Chabad of GreenfeildOrthodoxGreenfield
Chabad of Monroeville OrthodoxMonroeville
Chabad of PittsburghOrthodoxSquirrel Hill
Chabad of the South Hills Jewish Center for Living and Learning OrthodoxSouth Hills
Congregation Ahavath Achim - The Carnegie ShulTraditionalCarnegie
Congregation Bet Tikvah Unaffiliated, queer-centric independent minyanShadyside
Congregation Beth ShalomConservativeSquirrel Hill
Congregation B'nai AbrahamReform/PluralisticButler County
Congregation Emanu-El IsraelReformGreensberg
Congregation Kether TorahOrthodoxSquirrel Hill
Dor Hadash CongregationReconstructionistShadyside
Gemilas ChesedTraditional OrthodoxWhite Oak
Kesher PittsburghPost-denominational, JewniversalShadyside
Lubavitch CenterOrthodoxSquirrel Hill
New Light Congregation / Ohr ChadashConservativeSquirrel Hill
Parkway Jewish CenterConservativeMonroeville
Poale Zedeck CongregationOrthodoxSquirrel Hill
Rodef Shalom CongregationReformShadyside
Shaare Torah CongregationOrthodoxSquirrel Hill
Temple B'nai IsraelTraditional ReformWhite Oak
Temple DavidReformMonroeville
Temple Emanuel of South HillsReformSouth Hills
Temple Ohav Shalom ReformAllison Park
Temple SinaiReformSquirrel Hill
Tree of Life*Or L'Simcha CongregationTraditional ConservativeSquirrel Hill
Young Israel of PittsburghOrthodoxSquirrel Hill
Young Peoples Synagogue TraditionalSquirrel Hill
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