Almost a Minyan
by Lori S. Kline
Almost a Minyan brings children into the world of a loving daughter and granddaughter whose family stays connected to each other and to the past through sacred ritual. Almost a Minyan subtly addresses one of the practices and controversies of modern Judaism: Can women and girls be part of the sacred minyan for public worship?
Please use these discussion questions to jumpstart the conversation with young readers.
- This story takes place in a small town. How would it be different if it took place in a large city?
(There would likely be more synagogues or the synagogues might be much bigger; they might not have trouble getting all 10 people they need)
- What about the setting reminds you of the place where you and your family live?
(Various aspects of illustrations of buildings and streets; family living nearby; many different types of people around; noticeable changes in seasons)
- Why do you think that it is hard to get 10 adult Jews to come “make a minyan” on weekdays?
(Hard to get up, get ready, and arrive by 7 AM; have to be at work or school by that time; it might be out of the way or far away from where you live; you might not even know the minyan exists; the prayers might be unfamiliar so you might feel uncomfortable there)
- “Shabbos,” the Jewish Sabbath that spans Friday night to Saturday night, is a very special time for this family. How can you tell?
(Candles, challah, grape juice; everyone smiling and being close; the Father and Zayde happily going to shul together)
- If you celebrate Shabbos what makes it special to you? What can you do to increase the specialness of the day?
(Having a day to relax; seeing friends at “shul"; engaging in activities that are different than the rest of the week; you can make the day more special by visiting friends, neighbors and/or relatives; playing games or cards; reading; taking a nap; taking a nature hike)
- In the story, people from the congregation come to the family's house each night after the Zayde's passing on. Why do you think they did that?
(They also were sad; to be supportive; that is a way that Judaism teaches us to be there for each other as a community)
- When people you know are sad, what can you do to help them feel better?
(Just sit with them; hold their hand; tell them that you love them; tell them that you care)
- The main character states that she thought her Dad “felt better in prayer with that crowd” while he was so sad. Why do you think that was?
(His friends were around him;saying the prayers out loud offered him words of comfort; the familiar tunes reminded him of happy times singing with his Father)
- How is it that the main character's American and Hebrew birthdays were not on the same day?
(The American calendar is based on the sun, while the Hebrew calendar is based on the moon)
- What are some other effects of having a “regular” and a “religious” calendar?
(The Jewish holidays occur on different American dates each year; some years you miss school or work to observe the Jewish holidays while others you don't; it can be hard to remember the American date of an upcoming Jewish holiday each year)
- The tallit and tefillin were precious gifts handed down from an older generation to a younger one in this book. What objects can you think of that would be meaningful for you to give to your grandchildren someday?
(A prayer book; a piece of jewelry; a special stuffed animal; a video of yourself as a kid)
- What do you think are some main ideas in the book?
(The shul is a place for Jews to meet-up and be together; we make sure to be there for each other during tough and happy times; Shabbat is a special time of the week and a great time for family to be together; becoming 12 or 13 years old in Judaism brings fun and important privileges and responsibilities; it is important to carry on the memories of the people before us in the things we do and the way we act today, and then pass our practices onto next generations)
- Would you say that, overall, this is a happy or sad story? Why?
Almost a Minyan is JWA's Children's Book Club pick of 2017. For more great books, and to learn about JWA's Book Club, visit our bookshelf.