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Seeking a Minyan in Disneyland (or) Kaddish In a Small World

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

Papa and Lala at It’s a Small World (Disneyland 2006)

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.

(Video of Reciting Kaddish in Disneyland with Or Ami 7th Graders)

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

One comment

  1. Barbara B Schwartz says:

    Yesterday I wrote Lindy to say how lovely it was, the Shiva Minyan, on Monday and asked her how I can mourn alone. when most everyone I know didn’t know my husband who died October 27 though they do know I am in mourning and support me a lot. She suggested I read your poems and this morning I have read three and even this early in the morning, they have given me a context for how to mourn alone. I have been writing poems too. Thank you for making yourself an accessible reference point for me. ( I am the person who asked you if you had Kipnis relatives in San Francisco. . Barbara Schwartz

    Melange of joy and grief

    To cancel a life
    First wade swamps
    Alligators demand
    Death certificates
    For safe passage
    Ten days in
    Sadness arrives
    Even in his last days
    He asked me what I needed.

    This morning
    the street cleaner
    drones heavily
    past my home.
    No more dead leaves
    gutters like new
    Still my to do list
    has ten items.
    It’s early.

    No possibility of attentive stillness
    This autumn
    Instead ambivalence, absurdity, denial
    And yet the music of hallelujah
    Proof he lived
    Proof I live
    Ancestors chiming in
    And on and on
    Accompanied by avalanches
    Reams of paper and demands
    The story is long
    My attention span short

    4. Dancing in a new reality
    The steps delicate yet tricky
    Is it even seemly
    To hum that music of joy
    With a broken heart?

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