Tiferet Israel in Washington D.C., USA
Breastfeeding in the Sanctuary:
It is permitted. Opinions about how advisable it is vary. One person said that “Clergy and seemingly all congregants are comfortable with nursing taking place in the sanctuary. The synagogue goes to great lengths to accommodate participants’ needs, including the needs of nursing mothers.” Another said “it is generally a relaxed kahal [but] I wouldn’t” breastfeed in the sanctuary.
Private Nursing Locations:
Private breastfeeding can be done in the Nursing Room, located behind the sanctuary, or the Bridal Room, which is also located behind sanctuary, beside the play room and the balcony stairs, but is not labeled. Many congregants know where it is, but some do not. The nursing room is sometimes open, sometimes locked. However, when open it has often been taken over by older kids using it as a space to lounge. Sometimes the lights are not on. People sometimes come in, although the door is closed. It contains a couch and a comfortable rocking chair.
The bridal room is across an open foyer from the children’s play room, which itself is a reasonable nursing room alternative to the bridal room (particularly for a parent with other small children). The play room contains two rocking chairs and has sound pumped in from sanctuary. “There are lots of places around the building to nurse: often-empty classrooms upstairs, the children’s playroom just outside the back of the sanctuary, the sometimes-empty small chapel, spaces downstairs. The rabbi has also offered me his office. One woman nurses on a folding chair in the lobby in the back of the sanctuary.”
There is no publicized information about the synagogue’s breastfeeding policy.
Congregational attitudes are mostly very welcoming to breastfeeding in any modest manner, including not using a cover. However, “there are a few cranky members of the kahal when it comes to kids and/or what they perceive as inappropriate behavior, so I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if someone were to shoot a nursing mom a questioning or unwelcoming look, especially if she was nursing without a cover”.
General Child Friendliness:
There are changing tables in both the women’s and the men’s bathrooms, as well as in a family/children’s bathroom. Strollers are generally parked against the walls in the main hallway as well as “the space outside the rabbi emeritus’ office/in front of the elevator, and sometimes in the summer, in the coat closet.”. There is a ramp to enter the building. There is no particular space for children’s supplies.
An excessively disruptive child in the sanctuary might be asked to leave, but this seems quite unusual, and within normal childhood noise expectations, children are welcome in the sanctuary. On multiple occasions congregants have approached guests with small children, in order to tell the guests about the playroom and then emphasize that their children are also entirely welcome to stay in the sanctuary. The website stresses this welcoming attitude to children as well. Toddlers frequently travel up and down the aisles with a parent following. “As long as the kids are being quiet and not running around like crazy people no one seems to mind if they use the front of the sanctuary between the first row of seats and the bimah as a space to play. The same is mostly true of the space in the back of the sanctuary.”
However, a few people do react badly to kid noise and movement, which can be stressful for parents. The community lacks a set policy about expectations around kids’ in shul.
There are regular age-appropriate services/activities for all children from eighteen months.
This synagogue received ratings of
- “Great, could barely be better- 1”
- “Alright, it works pretty well- 3”
out of 7, where 1 is the best rating, and 7 the worst.
Rabbi Ethan Seidel at TIRabbi@Tifereth-Israel.org or email@example.com
Synagogue Website: http://www.tifereth-israel.org/