Tot Shabbat. Many synagogues host worship services, specially designed for families with young children. on either Friday evening or Saturday morning. These intergenerational services often feature storytelling and music, and are an easy way to learn about Judaism as a family and to learn more about the style and warmth of the synagogue you are visiting.
Kabbalat Shabbat. On Friday evening, medieval Jewish mystics in the Israeli town of Safed went to the field outside of town dressed in white clothing to welcome Shabbat. They pictured Shabbat arriving as a bride who they accompanied to the synagogue with singing. They called this “Kabbalat Shabbat,” Hebrew for the “reception of Shabbat.” Jews have taken on their custom of singing a series of psalms on Friday evenings as part of a short service of about an hour. Some congregations offer an oneg Shabbat (enjoyment of Shabbat), an elaborate snack with a social atmosphere, after the service. Some offer snacks before the service for those who have rushed from work and arrived without dinner.
Shabbat morning services. Morning worship includes a reading from the Torah which may include a youngster’s first reading, marking their bar or bat mitzvah. There may also be a sermon or a teaching (d’var Torah) on the Torah reading of the week.
There are always guests at morning services who are strangers to the liturgy. If you have trouble following, ask someone to be your buddy and help you track the pages, though in many congregations the service leader will announce them. People like to be experts and they will be happy to help you.
At the end of the service, in many congregations, there is a light lunch served after the blessing over the wine (Kiddush) by the service leader.
In some congregations, there is a Saturday afternoon service (minchah) that is shorter than the Saturday morning service. It features a shorter Torah reading of the portion for the coming Shabbat.
For more information, download our Shabbat: What to Expect at a Synagogue booklet.
The Guide to Shabbat and Havdalah for Interfaith Families is available as a PDF and our booklet Shabbat: What to Expect in the Synagogue, Shabbat Made Easy, and Havdalah Made Easy are available for download.