The space in which Kehilas Torah Temimah meets is not visually distinctive, comprised of basement classrooms and a cafeteria in a school basement. The appearance is no-frills, and often the davening feels that way. But my daughter looks forward to davening here, no matter the weather. The children’s groups here are that good. At age four, she has plenty of toys at home, and she is excited to go to school, but the shul is by far her highlight of the week.
“We are a young shul and our future lies with the youth groups,” said Rabbi Elan Segelman, the mara d’asra of KTT. “As we’ve received chinuch, we have an achrayus to pass it down.” Last Sunday, the members of this shul held a Chinese auction in support of its children programs, which include Shabbos classes, as well as parties on Purim, Simchas Torah, and Chanukah. Up to 40 children attend these programs, divided over the ages of two through five, and those up to age ten.
“It’s important for our children to feel connected to the shul. The moros are fantastic and it is structured. It makes a big difference,” said Ariella Goldhammer, whose two daughters attend these programs. With her husband Marc, she put together decorated tables while he emceed the event, listing off dozens of sponsors from near and far. Those providing prizes included three sheitel companies, nearly a dozen upscale kosher restaurants, and vendors of s’farim, jewelry, and massages. Zev and Gabrella Nirenberg also helped organize the event. “I know that the songs that Emily learned aren’t taught in her school. She learned them here,” said Gabriella Nirenberg.
Rabbi Segelman noted that the youth leaders are not babysitters. They were selected for their chinuch experience and love of their work. Rather than seeing children as disruptive to davening, KTT sees itself as having a role in fostering their love of the synagogue and Shabbos. In turn, the children look forward to Shabbos as the highlight of their week, where friendships are formed and the shul feels like a second home.
There have been times when I wanted to daven at other shuls to hear their scholars-in-residence or catch up with old friends. But my daughter behaved well the entire week in anticipation of Shabbos morning at KTT. She chose her dress, and she packed up a bag of snacks, extra clothes, and a pocket siddur. At this point, there is no other Shabbos shul for me. I follow my children.
By Sergey Kadinsky