Congregation Etz Chaim of DuPage County

Shabbat Programs for Children

If you have a child under five,

you should know about Shabbat Chaverim!


If you know me, you know that my passion is educational programming for adults.

I am, however, also a member of the Connections Team, which several years ago in response to parents of preschoolers, created a play group for children under five and a parent/grandparent/significant adult. As you may also be aware, with Anne Stein’s guidance, this play group morphed into Shabbat Chaverim: Jewish education and a whole lotta fun for the little ones, as well as a chance for the adults who bring them two Friday mornings each month an opportunity to get to know each other. Shabbat Chaverim meets on Friday mornings from 10:00 - 11:30 AM in the pre-school room.

Since Shabbat Chaverim has been going on for a couple of years, I decided it was time to check it out for myself. After participating in a few 90-minute sessions this past spring, I’m hooked and looking forward to it resuming in the fall.

So what goes on there?  First, Carrie Barrera (mom of Leah), guides the group in a simple Jewish themed craft, often related to a holiday. These have included making edible Torahs out of pretzel sticks and fruit roll ups, colorful bookmarks with stick-on stars of David, delicious hamentashen, Hebrew alphabet snowflakes, dried orange slice pendants, and matzoh s’mores, to name a few. This period of creativity and open play also gives moms and/or other significant adults in their life to meet each other and build new relationships, as some of these children will be in Sunday school classes together for years to come.

After about half an hour or so, Cindy Michelassi leads a parade of children into a spacious classroom where everyone sits on the floor, while she tells a story relevant to the parsha of the week or current holiday and leads everyone in song. Some involve a little dancing, and others offer each child the opportunity to keep time with one of a variety of percussion instruments. This session opens with Shabbat Shalom and ends with Bim Bom

Following this, everyone returns to the playroom where the table has been set for a festive oneg. Everyone blesses the candles, and with great flourish, one of the children uncovers the challah. Following blessings over the grape juice and challah, a variety of tasty snacks and conversation are enjoyed around the table.

As co-chair of the Lifelong Learning Committee, I am thrilled to see how engaged our youngest congregants are as they begin what I hope will be long lives of Jewish learning. 

Submitted by Barbara Turner