Last March, I wrote about my heart feeling heavy after going to synagogue with Isabelle since she seemed unable to participate. While Isabelle has been participating more at our synagogue in the past year, she still seems unengaged most of the times we take her to services.
But today we went to an Orthodox synagogue in town since her religious school teacher was leading the kids’ service. I figured it would be a good change of pace for us. And it was! Even though the setting was new, Isabelle seemed at-ease since her teacher was there. I was floored watching Isabelle’s level of participation in the Pre-K/Kindergarten services. She sang prayers like Modeh Ani, Sh’ma/Va’ahavta, and Adom Olam. She even did the hand motions her teacher taught her and her peers in class. When it was time for a story, she left my side without hesitation to sit on the floor with the other kids. I sat – alone and astonished – marveling at how different she was today.
I’m not about to switch to an Orthodox synagogue (I’m an Egalitarian Conservative Jew.) as a result of today. Rather, I’m going to keep today’s experience top of mind, especially the next time I find myself in our synagogue with an unengaged kid. In the right place, Isabelle does just fine. More than fine… she does great!