Kid-friendly activities for Shemini Atzeret, Simchat Torah

Shemini Atzeret, which begins tonight, is probably the least known of the High Holy Days, and it’s also not especially kid-friendly.

When adults memorialize the dead, children can as well, by talking about who in the family they remember.

One of the easiest ways to mark the holiday with children is to say a prayer for rain, said Vicky Kelman, director of family education at the S.F.-based Bureau of Jewish Education.

Kelman suggests making rain sticks, an instrument used in some African cultures. Place lentils or other beans inside a piece of bamboo, and then close the ends.

Shaking the lulav branch can also sound like rain.

Celebrating Simchat Torah with kids, which begins Saturday night, is much easier. Go to synagogue, where kids can get a close-up look at the Torah. Many shuls will do what is known as a “Torah roll,” in which the entire Torah is unrolled and held up.

Kelman also suggests making flags for children to march with, or having a party in which kids can dress up as their favorite characters in the Torah.

“It’s also a good time to talk about beginnings and endings,” she said. “Ask them, ‘Where else in our lives do we have endings and beginnings?'”

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."