Where do I find a minyan in Disneyland when I need to say Kaddish for my father? Outside It’s a Small World, after all! There, my students ensured I had a community for Kaddish.
My wife Michelle and I were chaperoning Congregation Or Ami’s 7th graders on a post-Shul-In trip to Disneyland to celebrate the beginning of the school year and the start of our new HUB teen program. Although I knew it would be challenging to find a minyan for Kaddish, I wanted to be with our pre-teens. I hoped, as the saying goes, that somehow God would somehow provide.
Papa’s Favorite Disney Ride
It’s a Small World was my dad’s favorite ride. As we sat on the boats to cruise into the attraction, I felt the pull of memory. Whenever we traveled to one of the Disney parks – after our wedding, during a family trip to Florida, after our son’s Bat Mitzvah, my dad – who we all called Papa – would tell us that as long as he had his whole family together for that one ride, we could do whatever else we wanted. And so we always entered Its a Small World together to fulfill Papa’s small request. The huge smile on his face made it so worthwhile.
This visit, I missed Papa intensely as we rode through the brightly colored, musical attraction, but our 7th grader filled the boat with so much singing and laughing that made it uplifting in a way that Papa would have appreciated.
How Do You Count a Minyan with 7th Graders?
We gathered together for Kaddish after exiting the ride. Although one needs ten Jews past the age of B’nai Mitzvah to complete the minyan required, Andrew Fromer (our awesome Youth Engagement Manager) and I counted only six adult chaperones and one recent B’nai Mitzvah. We were three worshippers short. Yet, our group of a few dozen students in B’nai Mitzvah training, l decided to get creative. They decided that since many were so close to their B’nai Mitzvah date, two pre-B’nai Mitzvah students should equal one countable minyan participant. So with their ingenuity, we counted a minyan.
I showed them a picture of my dad and me, explained how he loved It’s a Small World, and said that he would’ve loved the ride we just shared together. I thanked them for the fun today, and for their seriousness as we now shared a sacred moment of memory. I taught them what they might say to a mourner. Then I invited them to join me to say Kaddish for Asher Ben Elchanan v’Esther. Ken Kipnes. My daddy, who we called Papa.
They recited with confidence, caring, and strength. The students fashioned a community for their rabbi, carrying me through a moment of bittersweet memory. Uniquely, our prayer had a songtrack as It’s a Small World After All played in the background. Papa felt closer to us in the midst of the cacophony.
Prayer complete, I thanked our students, and dismissed them to continue our fun. A number of sweet ones came up to give me a hug. Then we all took off for Main Street to shop and nosh. Though the world seems so big and often impersonal during this year of mourning, thanks to Congregation Or Ami’s 7th graders, it (became) a small world… after all.
Explore my poetry about mourning Papa (my dad, Ken Kipnes).
Watch my videos about mourning
Enjoy more of my spoken word poetry