The "Bayit Ham" Social Experiment

This year the education ministry started a new project known as Bayit Ham, or "warm house." A few times a year groups of 4-5 children meet at one of their homes for an activity planned by the parents.

Considering how much parental involvement is for the project, I’m surprised at the level of compliance. It seems that most everyone I know, across different sectors and locations, seems to be participating. I think it’s only for first and second grade.

We hosted ours last week. We got a list from the parents’ committee with the names of the four girls to invite. My daughter checked which day worked for them (we also get a range of dates) and prepared written invitations. We planned the activity: making blintzes for Shavuot, a quiz bingo game for Yom Yerushalayim, and a simple art project.

We invited the girls for 5:15 PM, a normal time for after-school activities here in Israel. When only one had shown up by 5:30, I called a couple of the girls’ homes. One mother said that she didn’t have a car today. She lives about a mile away, but the girl who did show up lives only a couple of blocks from her. Another girl’s mother wasn’t home. The third mother apologized for not letting me know, but there were too busy. I’ve always made a point of getting my daughter to this activity (even when I sat shiva!), and I don’t understand why the others didn’t. It really was not fair for us to prepare for a group of 5 and have only 2 girls participating.

After I called one of the mothers on the class committee she saved the day by shlepping her daughter and niece, who is also in the class, across town to our house. The girls had a fun time in the end, and so did I.

A couple of Facebook friends object on principle to this program, saying it’s not their job to make sure the kids get socialized. I see their point. On the other hand, kids today often spend much of their afternoons in front of the TV or in organized activities. And there are always children who get left out and need a little help. Another friend said it give the parents a chance to get to know the child’s classmates and see how everyone interacts.

So have you ever hosted a bayit ham,  or a similar social activity imposed by the school? How did it work out?


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Photo: striatic


  1. I think it is a great idea, although perhaps a little too “big government”. If it had come from a particular school and not a government ministry I would be 100% on board. We are supposed to work cooperatively with the schools, and we are supposed to – in theory- nurture and develop all students’ emotional intelligence as well as intellectual capabilities.

    I do see an issue with making it mandatory round robin, however. Some children are embarrassed by their homes or the disparity in economic status isn’t apparent to everyone, and this actually increases from such an activity. Some moms are undoubtedly better at it than others, and this could lead to girls having more socialization problems, not less.

    In the US we have a girl scout (brownie) troop for that age. The girls don’t get to choose who is in a clique, the parents sign up their daughters. And it often results in girls making friends with others they would not otherwise have chosen. The meeting is in a neutral place once a week, and we talk about being a sister to every girl scout, making the world a better place, etc. The moms who help are the ones who have some skills at this type of thing (in theory) and the girls LOVE it.

    I would love to see something like this developed more in Israel as an alternative. In my perfect world since the program emphasizes G-d, respect and manners but not religion, it would not have to be denominational at all and lots of different kinds of Jews could participate, unlike the scouts in Israel now. I know that Israel has scouts, but it isn’t girls separate from boys, or pervasive, isn’t multi-denonimational and as far as I know is irrelevant to six year olds. Maybe someday….

    • ima2seven, I suspect that the parents organizing it don’t ask the poorest/(most) dysfunctional parents.

      • At least in my girl scouts, we did have some girls in my group who were from very poor/very dysfunctional families and I grew up in a very wealth suburb, so it was probably my only encounter with people not in my social class for years…

        I’m with ima2seven on this– it’s not ideal, but it may be what your government is actually going for…

      • I don’t know that that’s (not asking everyone) better- parents who are sensitive to their situation may feel singled out

  2. I really like that idea actually. My kids are still fairly young, but I would welcome the chance to get to know their classmates better. We live in a fairly isolated neighborhood and the Israeli version of a “playdate” is really common here (“Hi! Noa wants to play with Hila, see you in an hour or so”). I like it – it’s a great chance to get to know other moms and I’d rather the kid be playing with a friend than watching movies or moping because I need to get dinner…

  3. I had not realized that this was from the ministry of education.

    The problem is of course is that not all the children show up. In our school it is the teachers who make the groups of kids etc., sometimes the children do not tell the parents when it is supposed to be, (both if they are guests, or even if they are hosting!).

    Not all parents are cut out for doing activities with the children

  4. nice. we don’t have that where I live (at least not at my son’s school) and I can’t decide if I’m happy about that or not (also I feel like it would be easier for girls than for boys at this age). I think it’s really not nice not to show up when you know it’s such a small group getting together, but I must tell you It wouldn’t have occurred to me to call the vaad kita if/when this happened to me…nice save!

  5. Observer says

    I’m in the US, so I can’t comment on the program per se. On the other hand,I’m dumbfounded by the idea that it’s not the parent’s job to socialize their children. Who else?!