“Teach Them To Your Children, THAT’S YOU GUYS!”

“Tell it to them, sing it to them, read it to them, have them hear the words of Torah, and then try to explain it, and talk about it, and see what they understand about it.” - A wise 4th grader.   We're studying the Shema this unit. We're working through the V'ahavta paragraph, and zooming into the line, "Teach [Torah] to your children and speak of them [the commandments]," this week. That gave us the opportunity to explore how we teach and learn, and what our responsibilities are there.  


What are the qualities of a good teacher? 

  • They keep everyone safe. 
  • They are good at rephrasing, and they never give up. 
  • They help kids get unstuck. 
  • They turn a boring thing into something fun.
  • They make complicated things more simple.  
  • They make time for everyone, and give everyone a turn. 
  • They make sure everyone understands a thing before moving on. 
  • They teach tricks to make things easier. 
  • They prepare you for your next steps in education. 
  • They are nice and feed me snack. 
  • They let me play with all kinds of things. 
  • They bring me to gym, music, and art. 
  • They are smart like a lawyer. 
  • They have to know about things.


How do we know when we’re done teaching a thing? 

  • When the student can teach it to someone else. 
  • When you die you stop being a student/teacher, because you’re always a student/teacher! 
  • You’re never done, there’s no way to know when you’re done. 


Shema says, “Teach it to your children”, but what if you don’t have children? 

  • It is for the future! 
  • If your sibling had kids, you could teach them, or kids at shul, or other places. 
  • You can teach yourself. 
  • You can go back to school and learn it. 
  • You can teach your siblings. 
  • You can teach other people’s children. 


What if a parent doesn’t know Torah? 

  • They can go on Youtube and learn it. 
  • Or they can just not obey the commandment because they’re not Jewish. 
  • Or they can do what all of our parents did and send them to a place that will teach them Torah, like Makom Community. 


How are we supposed to teach it? 

  • Tell it to them, sing it to them, read it to them, have them hear the words of Torah, and then try to explain it, and talk about it, and see what they understand about it.  
  • Read it to them. 
  • Speak it to them. 


Why do we teach it? 

  • Because you want us to have a better life. 
  • So we don’t get killed by God, because even though one of the commandments is don’t kill people, God kills people. 
  • So we can learn Torah. 
  • If you teach Torah you’re learning about your history so you can connect to yourself and your ancestry and you’re also learning about God so you can connect better with God. 
  • It is something you have to do, because you were commanded to. 
  • You can connect with younger Jews, and they connect to older Jews. 
  • Because we are a place with a doorway that has the Shema in it.


Who gets to be a teacher? 

  • You.
  • Me. 
  • All of us....if we want to. 
  • We all have the opportunity. 
  • We are teachers now because we teach all the time, even when we are just teaching each other our names. 
  • Sometimes we (the older kiddos) teach the younger kids. 
  • Grown-ups. 
  • People who know things, I know lots of things.


Your kiddos do know lots of things, and we love learning from them every single week.  We love how we all get to learn from each other at Makom Community.  Stay tuned next week, as we continue to unpack Shema.   



Amazing Mezuzot!

This week we are talking about and looking at mezuzot (click here for more info about mezuzot).  What is on the inside? What is on the outside? We looked at a variety of mezuzah cases, and your kiddos had a lot to say about them! Check it out. 

First we talked about mezuzot in general. What are they, and what do we notice about the piece inside? 

  • It’s for the door. 
  • It’s a mezuzah! 
  • It has the Shema. 
  • It has Hebrew letters. 
  • It is made out of animal skin. 
  • It has fancy writing like in Torah. 
  • There are lines across it. 

Then we looked at some specific mezuzah cases.  Kiddos reflected on what they noticed, how they felt about these cases, and what they thought mattered to the people who made them. 

  • ​It makes me think of Israel. 
  • It has a Shin. 

  • It is made of glass. 

  • It is medium fancy. 

  • It is pretty. 

  • Everyone: “Ooooo! 
  • Now that is the fancy one! 
  • It is surprising because you can’t see the actual hyde inside it. 
  • It is surprising because it has flowers on it. 
  • They’re beautiful. 
  • I would expect a mezuzah to be more simple.
  •  It has so many more details than the one before it. 

    • It looks like a screwdriver with two ends.
    • It looks like a part of a building with a spiraly platform
    • It looks a little bit sharp. 

 We wrapped up by asking your kiddos why they thought there were so many different kind of mezuzot. 

  • Because there are so many designs you can make. 
  • Because everyone wants to be rare, and every one of these are different. 
  • There are a lot of Jewish humans. 
  • Because they don’t want them to be boring. 
  • Because everyone who makes mezuzot have their own personalities and are all unique. 

In looking at all the different kinds of mezuzotwe celebrated the beauty and diversity of the Jewish community. Next week we will reflect on how we can use words of Torah whenever we speak!  

We've Got Soul!

What is a soul? What do we do with it? What makes us who we are?  We are looking at the part of V’havta that talks about loving God with all of our hearts, our souls, and our power, and we are unpacking what all of that really means. Check out what your soulful kiddos had to say! 

  • What’s a soul? 
  • I don’t get what your soul is because you still have a heart and your heart and your soul. Are they just the same thing? 
  •  A soul is something that many people think is real but for me it doesn’t exist. But if it did, I think it would be the way a person feels. 
  • You soul is love and memory, and also feelings. Because people say your memory lives on when you die and people say your soul lives on so it makes sense that your memory and your soul are connected.  And your love will live on, so if you’ve ever said I love you to someone, then you’re passing some of yourself to them, and so they’ll always remember you. 
  • Something you can see someones potential from. 
  • I don’t think it’s a part of your body. If someone died their soul wouldn’t be dead too. What happens to it? I don’t know. 
  • With music, the sound goes into your ears and then it goes down, and your soul decides if you like it or not. 

What responsibilities does having a soul give us? 

  • Youre responsible for creating your own path in life, and to use your soul wisely and do good in the world. 
  • To take care of yourself and the people around you. 
  • We have to love God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and bodies, and power. 

What makes a person who they are? 

  • Things they like.
  •  The choices they make. 

What makes you who you are? 

  • I can do a flip. 
  • Im the only person with my name who lives where I live. 
  • I love swimming. 

Why do we point to our heads when we sing the line about nafshecha? 

  • Your soul might live inside your body 
  • Your head is a hotel for the soul and the mouth is the door. 

Enjoy these self-portraits that your kiddos painted of their souls! Catch us next week when we talk about mezuzah! 






What Is Love?

What is love? Is it a choice, or something that just happens, or maybe a bit of both? What does it mean to do something with all of our hearts? This week, we are looking at the first line of Vhavta, and we are unpacking what it means to be commanded to love. Take a look and see what your kiddos have to say about love. 

Is God commanding love? What do we do with that? How can we be commanded to love? 

  • That’s strange. 
  • Its really none of their business, the person who is forcing someone to love, its none of their business, its someone elses love, not theirs, no one asked them to interfere. 
  • You don’t go up to someone and say “you gotta love me” its your actions that do that. Like if youre punching or kicking someone, theyre not gonna love you. It’s the actions that you do that makes someone love you. 
  • That’s a mean way to tell someone to love somebody. 

Is love a choice we make or something that just happens (or doesn’t)? 

  • It happens or it doesn’t. 
  • It can be both I think because it can just happen, like if you were a parent and you had a child youre gonna love that child no matter who they are or what they do, it just happens.  But a choice would be like if you were not in the family, you have a choice. 
  • It’s a choice. 
  • Sometimes you just love someone, but nobody is perfect, and they can be annoying, but you still love them!  

What does it mean to do something with all our hearts? 

  • All of your effort.
  •  All your love, all of your support, like when someone is starting something really big like going to college or something, you need to support them with all your heart. 
  • You really really love them. 

What does bchol levavcha look like? How would you know if you saw it? 

  • If youre being nice to that person. 
  • If theyre saying no to everything but that one thing, like they don’t want anything else but that one thing. 
  • You can love something with your whole heart without choosing it over everything else. Whether it be grapes or water bottle, it should understand that you need food and water to live. 

What kind of love can exist between God and a person?  

  • The people listen to what God says. 
  • God made you and I feel like a connection between you and God is the ground and everything you walk on, because God made it.  Before meals, my family and I thank God for everything that God gave us. Basically you know how in the Shema God is instructing you to do things, and if you obey then youre being a good person and you have a good connection between you and God. God has powers and humans don’t but people love God even though God is more powerful. 
  • You don’t really have to try to love God because God made you and God is everywhere so you love God no matter what you do, you don’t even try to. 
  • God is inside you. 

What do you love with all your heart? 

  • My mom and dad. 
  • Pizza. 
  • Everyone in the whole world. 
  • Macaroni and cheese. 
  • My house. 
  • My own heart. 
  • Myself. 
  • My body, because without it I would be gone and I wouldnt even be a person. 

How do you show it? 

  • Like when me and my sister make a mistake, my parents always say “No matter what you do we’re gonna love you with our whole heart and nothing can change that.” Youre staying with your commitments. You make sure that when you say youre gonna love someone with your whole heart,  then you always have to love them even when they make a mistake. 
  • You show that youre respecting somone’s body and their choices, like if theyre saying no I don’t want this to happen and youre like ok and you stop doing what youre doing, then that shows that youre respecting their body and that youre showing that you really care about someone. 

What does it mean to lovGod with all your heart? How do we/can we do that? 

  • The commandments and the Shema. If youre showing love to other people than youre also showing love to God because God could be seeing that and that makes God think youre being a good person.
  •  If you love something, because God made everything and is a part of everything.  

Your loving kiddos had a lot of different ideas about what it means to love and to love with our whole hearts.  Stay tuned next week for our conversations about what it means to love with all our minds and all our strength! 


Sorry: A Whale Of A Word

Why is it so hard to say “I’m sorry”? What makes a good apology? Should we apologize when we don't mean it? This week the Erev kids (grades 3-5) took a look at the Jonah story and talked it out! In the story, God tells Jonah to warn the city of Ninveh that God is going to destroy thebecause they were wicked.  Jonah doesn’t want to, he runs away, things get fishy. Jonah changes his mind and warns the people of Ninveh, who fast and apologize to God (sound like a familiar holiday you may have just observed?). If you want to read the story for yourself, click here. 

  • What do you think happens next for the people of Ninveh? Do they really permanently change their behavior? 
  • Yes, it became a part of their routine. 
  • Yes, they didn’t want to go through the whole thing where Jonah comes into their town and tells them God is going to kill them for being bad, again. 

What compelled the people of Ninveh to be better? Do you think they would have changed without having their lives threatened? What do you think that says about how sorry they were? 

  • No, the main reason they changed is that God threatened them that God would kill them with a storm, and if that hadn’t happened they would be like “oh we don’t need to worry, we can keep doing this because nothing bad is happening”. 
  • Maybe they would stop being bad when they’re like 100. 
  • They weren’t that sorry, because the only reason they changed was because they had their lives threatened, they were just worried about their lives, not changing their behavior. 


Is worthwhile to apologize if you don’t mean it? Is it important for the apologizer? The apologizee? Both? 

  • It is important to apologize to make a fight not last so long. 
  • The apology is for both. You feel good if your apology is accepted and the fight is over and your friendship isn’t ruined. It is still important if the apology isn’t accepted, it’s not a bad thing if the apology isn’t accepted, it just means they’re not over it yet. 
  • It’s so weirdI feel like I have never had an apology not accepted, because I feel like most people are taught that you’re supposed to accept people’s apologies. 

Why is apologizing hard? 

  • Sometimes it makes me feel really bad because I did something really wrong, or if I didn’t do anything wrong and I feel like I have to apologize anyway. Like when a teacher makes you.
  • It feels awkward, I totally understand why I should apologize, but I’m afraid I’ll look weird and it will turn out wrong or they won’t accept it and then I’ll look weird.  
  • It feels maybe awkward and confusing. 

What should an apology include to be effective? 

  • It should be loud so they can hear it. 
  • Sorry I did this, next time I’ll try not to ___, will you forgive me? 
  • It helps that they know that you know what you are apologizing for, and you have to ask them to forgive you. 

Apologizing is tricky business! We’re going to keep talking about it and working on it together throughout the year, not just on Yom Kippur.  

Shofar Sho Good

Tekiyaaaa! That’s the sound of a shofar, a special horn that we blow in the weeks leading up to and during the High Holidays. Like the Shema, a shofar asks us to wake up and pay attention. 

We started off snacktime learning each day this week by blowing the shofar. Then we unpacked what the shofar is asking us to pay attention to:  

  • Everything  
  • Reading the torah  
  • The rabbi 

What about ourselves is the shofar asking us to notice/pay attention to?: 

  • My body  
  • What’s happening around me
  • My heartbeat – to know if there is something wrong or right  
  • Water 
  • Marshmallow fluff  
  • What we are eating  
  • Time  
  • Friends – when they are trying to tell you something  


We connected the conversation back to the Shema and how our practices around saying it help us pay attention. Your kiddos noticed that when we say Shema we are quiet, we cover our einayim, our eyes, and at Makom Community we put a single finger across our einayim. But why? How does covering our eyes help us say Shema? 

  • We cover our eyes so we can’t see  
  • We put one finger over our eyes to think about the "one God" part of Shema 
  • So we don’t see anything, so we don't get distracted  
  • It gives you good luck  
  • It helps us listen because sometimes people need to just close their eyes and listen  
  • Because you're meditating and you have to relax  
  •  You gotta close your eyes and concentrate on what you're doing  

Tune in next week when we dig into Yom Kippur, apologizing, and what’s next in the Shema text! 

Pay Attention! Why and How We Listen

Hey you! Shema! Listen up! Did we get your attention? Good! This week we have been talking about listening: how we do it, why we do it, and the factors that make listening a challenge at times. We did all this exploring in the context of the first line of Shema, a central piece of Jewish prayer.

Every year at Makom Community we create a new Get Quiet Chant together. Anyone can use it to get the group’s attention when they need the group to listen. Before coming up with this year’s Get Quiet Chant, we asked our students why someone might want a whole group’s attention:

  • If you have something important to say
  • If you’re trying to hear something important
  • If there is an emergency
  • If it’s time for recess

Then we explored what listening means and feels like. We went to Rittenhouse Square to listen to our surroundings. We also did some mindful listening to our bodies during tefila. Here are some ideas your thoughtful kiddos had about listening:

  • You listen with your brain, your brain is the boss of your body
  • You listen with your eyes, when a person is having emotions, you can see that with your eyes
  • Listening feels like understanding
  • You listen so you don’t die or get in trouble


Our students translated the first line of the Shema: “Listen up, Jewish people! God is our God, and God is one”. We asked them what they would include in a prayer that started that way. Even though we’ve been focusing on the listening piece, most of their guesses were about God:

  • More numbers. If God is 1, what is 2?
  • God is special
  • God is beautiful
  • You should praise God every day for providing us with life
  • We honor God every day for creating candy, so every time you eat candy or food you should thank God

You’ll have to stay tuned as we dive further into the text of the Shema in the coming weeks to see if they’re right! Looking forward to learning with your kiddos next week in the new year! May your celebrations be sweet and full of deep listening.

Handling Newness with Love

What’s new at Makom Community?  We have doubled the size of our space, the number of bean bag chairs, and the glitter supply. The erev kiddos (grades 3-5) are enjoying their own space for snacktime learning and shulchanot avodah (project centers) up on the third floor. The boker kids (grades pre-K-2) are settling in downstairs. Towards the end of our day, we all come together for tefila, just like we did last year.

We eased into snacktime learning this week by discussing how we respond to and prepare for new things. We also unpacked how we take care of each other during new experiences. 
Here are some ways your self-aware kiddos say they feel about new experiences:

  • Nervous
  • Excited
  • Curious
  • Brave
  • Proud

One of our boker learners added, “When I do something new that seems a little scary, I feel nervous, and also curious. Because you want to know what it is, and if you were just super scared then you won’t know what this brand new thing that you never saw is, like a brand new animal that no one’s ever seen before!”

How can we take care of each other at Makom Community?

  • Everyone can ask about anything
  • Everyone gets to be who they are
  • We make sure to call people by the name they want to be called
  • Help everyone be able to trust each other by being nice and helpful
  • Thinking before we act
  • Lots of marshmallow fluff and Nutella!

At one of their shulchanot avodah, the boker students role-played scenarios where they helped out kids with solving problems. They practiced how they would have conversations with kids who needed friends to play with, couldn’t find places to sit at lunch, or really missed their parents. Meanwhile upstairs, the erev kids brainstormed ways they can help support all of our new boker friends. Boker-erev buddies may be coming soon!

We are so grateful to be starting out this school year on a note of such love and support! Can’t wait to experience all the growth and learning of the months ahead.

Flashback Friday: Learning Highlights from 2017-18

Do you remember all of the amazing learning we did last year? What about all the brilliant, quotable ideas your kiddos shared? Check out this recap highlighting some of my favorite moments, and get stoked to start it all again in just over a week!

Our first curriculum unit last year was about Bnei Yisrael’s (the Jewish people) experience receiving the 10 commandments. It culminated in our rock star brit, the two-way promise we create every year to guide our interactions as community members. Here’s what our students came up with:

  1. We love everyone in the best way we can.
  2. We show gratitude.
  3. We get to be ourselves.
  4. Mistakes: make them, don’t copy them, and apologize for them.
  5. We speak with truth.
  6. We help everyone get what they need.
  7. We listen and respond respectfully to each other’s ideas.
  8. We all help clean up.
  9. We are good listeners.
  10. We help keep each other’s feelings and bodies safe.

I can’t wait to find out what we’ll create this year with the help of our new kiddos.

After winter break, upon our students’ request, we had a mini-unit about God. We tried to figure out who exactly God is, and noticed that it’s different depending on what story we were reading. We grappled with all these different versions of God, and what it means for people to all have tzelem elohim (godliness). Here’s what one kindergartener suggested:

  • We can be brave, kind, and creative.
  • We can be generous and giving.
  • We can help each other find our way when we’re lost.

We unpacked more about God at the very end of the year during our short, final unit on gender in Torah. Does God have a gender? What might it be? What gender roles and expectations do Torah stories present to us? How do we feel about them? These were such great conversations! Looking forward to all the new innovation and brilliance your kiddos will bring to our learning during the 2018-19 school year.


Top 10 Reasons to Enroll Your Child at Makom Community Fall 2018


  1. They’ll LOVE it. 
  2. New friends in different schools and grades. 
  3. Fresh challah every Friday! 
  4. Playful, joyful Jewish education. 
  5. A community of supportive parents for you. 
  6. Staff who loves your child and works with them individually. 
  7. Pickup from your child’s elementary school five days a week. 
  8. Camp days when school is closed for snow days, conferences, or professional development. 
  9. Family Shabbat on Fridays where you get to share your perspective on Jewish learning with your child. 
  10. Families like yours—interfaith, LGBT, one parent, two parents, Philly locals, Philly transplants… 

Enroll today!