Tot Shabbat Family Shabbat Service Cantors Carol Chesler & Arlyne Unger

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Tot Shabbat -- Family Shabbat Service

Cantors Carol Chesler & Arlyne Unger

  1. Know who your congregation/audience is. Young parents and young children (ages 2-7).

  1. Keep service short and varied, with different activities interspersed (ex.: Songs, stories, quiet moments, Kiddush or snack, a presentation of some kind by a guest, etc ). Be flexible – be willing and able to alter your plan and demeanor to meet the needs of the specific group.

  1. Keep both adults and children involved; make it interactive. If a child answers a question incorrectly, be prepared to validate their answer in some way. Be casual and welcoming. Consider stepping down from the bima or bringing the children closer to you.

  1. Make prayers simple (few words) with introductory explanations children can understand. Also, consider using transliteration where possible. Use your voice to create different moods.

  1. Choose easy, catchy Shabbat songs (knowing the repertoire sung during Shabbat celebrations in the Nursery or Pre School is helpful). Remember the importance of repetition. Routine is important with small children, so once you have developed a basic format, keep following it. Aim for developing a smooth flow from one activity or ritual to the next. Young children will lose focus very easily if there are breaks in the service or program.

  1. Create a songbook/prayer book specifically used for this service (spiral binding is preferable—it lays flat on a table or music stand).

  1. Knowing the children’s names is helpful; you can use a “Hello—Shabbat” type song to learn their names.

  1. Use props when possible, during songs, stories, and prayers. Visual aids keep them focused and interested (ex.: puppets, hats, beanie babies, large pictures, traditional symbols of Shabbat). Try to create a multi-sensory experience wherever possible. If you are going to use puppets or props, make sure they are arranged in an organized way. However, you should also consider keeping them covered or away in a bag or box until they will be used, so as not to be a distraction during the service.

  1. Create a support system by enlisting select parents who are already attending (because of their young children). They do the set-up, clean-up, advertising in local papers and Jewish papers, bulletins, synagogue website; also, place a large banner outside the synagogue, etc.

  1. A yummy Oneg/Kiddush afterwards is always enticing. Don’t forget to use B’rachot!


When mapping out the structure of the lesson plan, during which time the music of the Tot Shabbat service will be taught, follow these guidelines:

What age children are in the class? One age group

A range of ages

A mix of generations

How long is the class? 10-15 minutes

30 minutes


How large is the group? 1 class (8-15 children)

2 classes combined

An assembly in a larger room

What is the goal of the lesson? To sing existing repertoire

To teach new repertoire

To teach concepts/rituals of Shabbat

To teach basic music skills (melodies, rhythms)

When is Shabbat music sung? Friday only

Throughout the week

Every week




Is the Shabbat music class held in a different location, for example in the chapel or sanctuary?

How is Shabbat being observed in the classrooms? What songs are being sung in the individual classes? What Shabbat concepts are the children learning? Is there a connection between the music program and what is happening in the classrooms?

Does the congregation offer a family service or Tot Shabbat program (on Shabbat itself) during which the repertoire is re-enforced?

Do the clergy of the congregation celebrate Shabbat with the children with any frequency or consistency?

Do parents participate in Shabbat celebrations with their children during school hours?

Are any Shabbat resources being sent home with children to promote Shabbat observance? (Ex. Shabbat-in-a-bag, complete with ritual items, a CD of Shabbat music, and a booklet with simple instructions for celebrating Shabbat at home) Are Shabbat resources available to nursery school staff, like songbooks, CDs, picture books, ritual items, etc.?

Shabbat Repertoire for Nursery School Aged Children (2-5 years old)

[Following Shabbat Songbook of Cantor Carol Chesler:

Artists and recordings noted with the song selection]

  1. Bim Bom (Shira Kline)

  2. Mah Yafeh Hayom

  3. Yom Zeh L’Yisrael (Margie and Ilene)

  4. Yom Rishon Avodah

  5. Hayom Yom Shishi (Ofra Haza)

  6. L’cha Dodi/Shabbat Shalom (Mordechai Zeira -- Manginot #1, Ofra Haza)

  7. Our Sabbath Table

  8. I Baked A Little Challah

  9. Challah for Shabbat (Andi Joseph)

  10. Stir the Soup (“Soup Song”- Judy Caplan Ginsburgh)

  11. Let’s Set the Table for Shabbat (Andi Joseph)

  12. Mother’s Going Marketing (Robin Helzner)

  13. The Friday Sun is Setting/L’cha Dodi (Margie and Ilene)

  14. There are 7 Days in a week (Barney)

  15. Challah in the Oven (Raffi -- Manginot - #1)

  16. There’s a Dinosaur (Andi Joseph)

  17. Shabbat Shalom to You (Andi Joseph)

  18. On Shabbat, Shabbat. . .Menucha (Robyn Helzner)

  19. Shabbat, Shabbat Shalom (Julie Jaslow Auerbach – Manginot #1)

  20. Shabbat Shalom (Judy Caplan Ginsburgh)

  21. I’ve Got a Shabbat Feeling (Andi Joseph)

  22. Shabbat is here! (Andi Joseph)

  23. Circle Song (“Shabbat is Coming” - Judy Caplan Ginsburgh)

  24. Listen and Do (Hap Palmer, acc. To Andi Joseph)

  25. Yaakov (Judy Caplan Ginsburgh)

  26. On Friday Night, We Say Shabbat Shalom to You (Fran Avni)

  27. It’s Shabbat and I Feel Good! (Andi Joseph)

  28. Twinkle, Twinkle Kochavim (Andi Joseph)

  29. Shema Lullaby (Judy Caplan Ginsburgh)

  30. Erev Shabbat (Margie and Ilene)

  31. Let’s Set the Table for Shabbat (Andi Joseph)

  32. In My House (“Being Jewish is Fun!” - Judy Caplan Ginsburgh)


  1. We Sing Shabbat (Peter and Ellen Allard)

  2. Tot Shabbat (Peter and Ellen Allard)

  3. I Cannot Wait for the Sun to go down (Fran Avni)

  4. Shabbat Bamba (Shira Kline)

  5. I Was on My Way to Shul One Day (to the tune of “100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall”)

  6. Good Shabbas, Shabbas to You (Peter and Ellen Allard)

  7. Challah Days (Paul Zim)

  8. Bring the Sabbath Home (Peter and Ellen Allard)

  9. Shabbat, Shabbat Yom Menucha (Robyn Helzner)

  10. Mi Ohev et Ha-Shabbat?


Cantor Carol Chesler

Peter & Ellen Allard: Sing Shalom – Songs for the Jewish Holidays

Bring the Sabbath Home

Fran Avni: The Seventh Day

JUDY CAPLAN GINSBURGH: Amazing Songs for Amazing Jewish Kids

Havdalah Pajama (with David Marler)

Ofra haza: Songs for Children

ROBYN HELZNER: Clap Your Hands

ANDI JOSEPH: I’ve Got a Shabbat Feeling

SHIRA KLINE: Shir La La Shabbat!


Paul zim: Kids Tunes – Shabbat Top 40 Hit Parade

The Kooky Cookie Kids: Sing-a-long for Jewish Preschoolers

  1. Shabbat La Bamba [Shira Kline]

  2. Bim Bom

  3. Mah Yafeh Hayom

  4. Our Sabbath Table

  5. I Baked a Little Challah

  6. Stir the Soup [Andi Joseph]

  7. There’s a Dinosaur [Andi Joseph]

  8. I Was on my Way to Shul

  9. Good Shabbas To You [Peter & Ellen Allard]

  10. Challah Days [Paul Zim]

  11. Bring the Sabbath Home [Peter & Ellen Allard]

  12. Shabbat is Here [Andi Joseph]

  13. I’ve Got That Shabbat Feeling [Andi Joseph]

  14. It’s Shabbat and I Feel Good [Andi Joseph]

  15. The Friday Sun is Setting [Margie & Ilene]

  16. Shabbat Shalom [Judy Caplan Ginsburgh]


  1. Welcoming all students and parents upon arrival at school each Friday morning with spirited Shabbat songs in the hallway. (Sung by cantor and nursery school director)

  2. Shabbat sing-along sessions in the sanctuary for all students/parents/teachers once a month, using songbooks, song sheets, props, etc.

  3. Shabbat celebrations in classrooms each Friday, using similar repertoire as used in sing along and Family Friday Night Service. (All teachers have a copy of Cantor’s Shabbat song book in the classrooms.)

  4. Family Friday Night Service (or “Tot Shabbat”) 3 to 4 times during school year, lead by rabbi and cantor, featuring one age-group from the nursery school (doing selected songs from the Bima).



Because Nothing Looks Like God, Karen Kushner & Lawrence Kushner, Jewish Lights Publishing, Woodstock, Vermont. [like God’s Paintbrush]

Does God Hear My Prayer?, August Gold, Skylight Paths Publishing, Woodstock, Vermont, 2005 [good pictures-young children]

Does God Know How to Tie Shoes?, Nancy White Carlstrom, Wm. B. Eerdsmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1993. [Seeing God from a Child’s Perspective]

The God Around Us, Child’s Garden of Prayer, Mira Pollak Brickto, UAHC Press, 1999

God Lives in Glass, Robert J. Landy, Sklight Paths Publishing, Woodstock, Vermont, 2001 [children’s thoughts & words by children]

God’s Paintbrush, Sandy Eisenberg Sasson, Jewish Lights Publishing, Woodstock, Vermont, 1992. [Seeing God from a Child’s Perspective**** - four stars!]

God’s Quiet Things, Nancy Sweetland, William B. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1994. [appreciation of creation, nature]

Good Morning – Boker Tov, Michelle Shapiro Abraham, UAHC Press, New York, 2001. [Good, concrete explanation of Modeh Ani]

I am Thankful Each Day, Ideals Publishing, Milwaukee, Wisconsin [appreciation of creation, nature-child friendly pictures]

In God’s Name, Sandy Eisenberg Sasson, Jewish Lights Publishing, Woodstock, Vermont, 1994. [We may see God differently, but only One God]

Morning Has Broken, Eleanor Sarjeon, William B. Eerdsmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, Michigan. [good companion to Boker Tov; Creation through song]

The Perfect Prayer, Donald Rossoff, UAHC Press, New York, N. Y., 2003 [about the Shema]

Sweet Words to G-D, Rabbi Arnold Goodman, Longstreet Press, Inc., Marietto, Ga. 2001 [prayers for Jewish children ]

Thank You God, A Jewish Child’s Book of Prayers, Judyth Groner & Madeline Wikler, KarBen, 1993

Where Does G-D Live?, August Gold & Matthew Perlman, Skylight Paths Publishing, Woodstock, Vermont, 2001 [good pictures-young children]



Hazzan Arlyne Unger

Amazing Songs for Amazing Jewish Kids (CD) – Judy Caplan Ginsburg

Because We Love Shabbat: Songs, Stories and Activities For Young Children…And their Families. Leah Abrams, Tara Publications.

Bring the Sabbath Home Songbook. Peter and Ellen Allard, published by the composers,; Also available on CD.

Gan Shirim: A Garden of Songs. Carol Boyd Leon, Ktav Publishing House. Also available on CD.

Mitzvah Magic (CD) – Judy Farber

My Jewish World: An Early Childhood Music Curriculum. Ginsburgh, Judy Caplan, UAHC Press and Transcontinental Music Publications. [Includes CD]

Shabbat Shalom: Jewish Children’s Songs for Sabbath at Home (CD) – Transcontinental Music Publications.

Shirim Al Galgalim: Songs on Wheels. Debbie Friedman, Sounds Write Productions (now distributed by URJ Press).

A Singing Calendar: Early Childhood Songs, Nursery Rhymes and Playlets. Ruth Etkin, Tara Publications.

Songs for a Jewish Head Start: Based on Original Songs by Rita Gold. Presented by Peter and Ellen Allard, URJ Press. [includes CD]

Torah Alive – Music Connection. Ed. by Joel Eglash, URJ Press and Transcontinental Music Publications. [includes CD] Songs can be used when going over parasha]

Also useful –

Manginot: The Complete Jewish Songbook for Children, Volumes 1 and 2. Volume 1 ed. by Cantor Stephen Richards, Volume 2 ed. by J. Mark Dunn, Joel N. Eglash, Cantor Alae S. Katzew, Transcontinental Music Publications.


A Shabbat Evening Siddur for Young People. Rachel Anisfeld and Timothy Lytton, Torah Aura Productions.

Shabbat: A Family Service. Judith Z. Abrams, Kar-Ben.

A Shabbat Morning Siddur for Young People. Rachel Anisfeld and Timothy Lytton, Torah Aura Productions.

Siddur Kol Ha-Noar – The Voice of Children: A Siddur for Shabbat, ed. By Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso and Rabbi Jeffrey Schein, Reconstructionist Press, 2005

Siddur Ma Tov: A Family Shabbat Prayer Book. Rabbi Lauren Kurland and Julie Schwartz Wohl, Behrman House.

Siddur Shabbat B’Yachad: A Siddur for Young Children. Ed. by Iris Greenbaum and Judith Radousky, EKS Publishing Co. [also Leader’s Guide available]

Siddur Shabbat La-Tz’i’rim: A Young Children’s Shabbat Siddur. Concept by Lyndall Miller (contact her at Gratz College)

***Recommended Resource when getting a Tot Shabbat started:

The Tot Shabbat Handbook: A Practical Guide for Engaging Young Families in Congregational Life. Ed. by Paula Feldstein, URJ Press.

Possible Structure for Family Service – suggested from Ellen Allard

Submitted by Hazzan Arlyne Unger
Important that parents sit with their children, in the same row.

  • Make the starting point clear through body language. Put on Tallit very deliberately.

  • Start with Nigun.

  • Shabbat Shalom song and bless each other.

  • Ma Tovu/Tallit

Parents hold up Tallitot to form a line of tents. Children sit on bima floor under Tallitot. Sing Ma Tovu. After singing, have parents continue by humming the melody. Under Tallit do some aspect of Torah lesson. Also, Ma Tovu “compliment.”

  • Eilu D’varim -

Give out slips of paper in advance. Line those people up on the bima. Sing refrain only of “Eilu D’varim” by Jeff Klepper. Have people act out their mitzvah while leader says each mitzvah. In between sing refrain for “Eilu D’varim.” At the end everyone can shout out: “Torah study is equal to them all!”

  • Mizmor Shir L’Yom Shabbat – talk about something special that happened on Shabbat.

  • Barchu for community

Anyone who is celebrating a birthday can lead Barchu.

Why is it so special to pray together as a kehillah?

  • Shema – if younger children, then parents cover their children’s eyes. For all children – parents turn to your kids and teach them something. What is something new you want your child to learn this week?

Visual cue – poster with “large ear” - What are special things we “hear” that can connect us with God?

  • Mi Chamocha – something interactive regarding crossing the sea, etc. Imagine feelings of Israelites at that time. Also, sense of Mi Chamocha and challenges.

  • Sing Adonai S’fatai Tiftach as everyone walks to own private spot in sanctuary. Short time for silent meditation.

As the congregation sings Oseh Shalom, they return to their seats.

  • Conclude with Hine Ma Tov and people cross hands Girl Scout style and sway.


Based on a workshop given by Hazzan Arlyne Unger and Janice Jumbo (Educational Director and Assistant Educational Director at Beth Tikvah B’nai Jeshurun, Erdenheim, PA)

  1. Transition to Prayer Space

-Atmosphere – setting tone


-Walking/dancing –

Music in background

Ma Tovu:

Different melodies

Pass under Tallit

  1. Mode Ani

“Wake-up Modeh Ani” – Juliet Spitzer (“wake-up” motion)

“Morning Has Broken” - Arlyne

-Boker Tov book

“How did you feel when you got up this morning?”

  1. Birchot HaShachar

“Traditional” blessings and including English versions

Movement exercises

“Thank You God” – Doug Cotler (from his CD – “It’s So Amazing!”)

  1. Shema/V’Ahavta

-Song: “V’Ahavta LaYeled” – Hazzan Anita Schubert – CD: D’vora Ud’vash

-Song: “I See a Mezuza” – Sherrie Stohl (found in My Jewish World: An Early Childhood Music Curriculum by Judy Caplan Ginsburgh)

- Song: “Wake-up Shema – from “Olamama” by Hanna Tiferet (Siegel) (also found in her music book: Va-Ani T’filati: I Am My Prayer, self-published)


Related Books:

-The Perfect Prayer - Donald Rossoff, UAHC Press

-In God’s Name – Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, Jewish Lights Publishing

  1. Mi Chamocha

Marching ; Create sea experience and role play – tambourines, waves, etc.

  1. Amidah

-“S’fatai Tiftach” – from “Olamama” by Hannah Tiferet (Siegel) with movement. ) (also found in her music book: Va-Ani T’filati: I Am My Prayer, self-published)

-Adonai Sfatai – Craig Taubman

-“Visualization” – “Remembering Our Ancestors” from Kol HaNoar – p. 66.

-Good time for the family to share their week, parents offer blessings to their children, etc.

  1. Torah

“Dancing with the Torah” – Judy Farber (on her CD “Mitzvah Magic”)

“Torah Tziva Lanu Moshe”

  1. Closing

Oseh Shalom

Always, Always (sung to the “traditional” melody of Adon Olam)

Closure – activity revisited – What was very special to you today?

Song – “Always, Always, There was G-D” (traditional Adon Olam melody; words – Ida Rose Feingold)

Always, always there was G-D,

Ever, ever, G-D will be

I love G-D because G-D cares,

And always watches over me.

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