Looking for crafty things to do with kids to prepare for Yom Kippur?
One theme is Jonah and the Whale. It’s the story we’re all going to hear on the afternoon of Yom Kippur, whether we are in the big sanctuary or in the kids’ service. Jonah’s tale is supposed to make us think about all sorts of Jewish values/middot: obedience, faith, repentance and forgiveness, to name the biggees. Yom Kippur is one heavy-duty holiday.
For little kids, I’m keeping the holiday simple. My ideal Jonah and the Whale take-home message is: Jonah screwed up, said he was sorry, and then did what he was supposed to do in the first place. Loosely, this is teshuvah, or repentance. But, still, the story is tricky. Far easier to extrapolate is the scary take-home message: if you screw up, God lets a whale eat you. Pretty creepy. To nip that in the bud, I bring in the midrash about how God made the whale [gently?] swallow Jonah to keep Jonah safe until he could make it to Nineveh and complete his assignment. I’m talking about little kids here, who hopefully won’t remind you the text also says God made the storm in the first place, or mention there are plenty of other unresolved questions and contradictions in the story. Complexity comes in many layers, my friends, and there is plenty of time for textual complexity to pile up as the years roll on.
But back to crafts and activities about Jonah and the Whale. I’ve written about using the Playmobil sperm whale and a Playmobil man to re-enact the story in or out of the bath. Read about it at Kveller.com and in a related post here. The whale really is fabulous— worth every penny of my hard-earned eBay money— and can hold up to 4 figurines in its gullet, if needed. No fluke.
I assure you, there is crafty material enough online already. The Christians have us beat with this sort of thing, you know. Countless Sunday School teachers, home-schoolers and relentlessly energetic moms have this stuff down. Maybe it’s because they have the critical mass to accumulate such a quantity of material, or maybe it’s because they don’t have to deal with the weirdness about no-graven-images, but there is an ocean of ideas out there. Much of it is at aggregated-content sites with more cheesy advertisements than actual crafts, so beware. Take what you like and leave the rest. Leave a comment if you have a link you’d like to share. I’m hoping I missed a bunch of genuinely good links.
Aklhah: Foldup book of Jonah and the Whale (Jewish site) Good idea, but there is no template. Your kid will need to freehand the storyboard.
Torah Tots Yom Kippur Page (not much here, actually, but it’s Jewish)
The other exclusively Jewish crafts that keep popping up, I just can’t bring myself to link: paper slippers (since we aren’t supposed to wear leather on Yom Kippur) and, eeek, fake chickens for fake kapparot. Speaking of complexity: kapparot. Give me a milk-jug whale and clothespin Jonah any day.
Oriental Trading Company craft kit for Jonah and the Whale. Lots of tiny foam pieces (aka choking hazard and fine-motor-skill challenge), and the printed quote—from God—is more than a bit scary: “Where are you going Jonah? You can’t hide from the Lord.” This, as Jonah is getting eaten. Take a look.
Jonah and the Big Fish “blowee” (uses a party blower to spit out Jonah) Adorable and fun in theory, but I can’t figure out how to blow the thingee without smashing my face against the whale. I’m trying to make this with the blowee on a different plane or angle…
Generic whale coloring pages, regrettably without captions which would show biological classification
A bunch of links for coloring pages, most of them truly awful, but if your kid loves coloring pages and has no artistic sensibilities to offend, these could be useful. One or two show Jonah with “praying hands,” which may or not be okay in your house.
“Jonah on the Web: for Kids and Educators” (adaptations, songs, resources, etc.)
Jonah and the Whale, a short, online game for older children: Okay, I like this one. You try to fling Jonah (with mouse or trackpad) out of the boat into the whale’s mouth, all the while gauging wind patterns and Jonah’s ever-shifting weight. Extra points for bouncing him off of seagulls on the way. The graphics hit just the right note of goofiness…