Makom Community: An Origin Story

 

This week we are exploring a text that is near and dear to Makom Community's personal history. We are looking at the story of Yaakov and the dream he had in a very special makom (place). In this dream, Yaakov receives some important information about his future: he is lying on the VERY land that his descendants will inherit, and God will protect them until they all safely return thereYaakov finds his dream awe-inspiring: he learns about his future, finds God standing next to him, and watches angels go up and down a ladder. In this makom, Yaakov becomes who he is meant to be. Our hope is that Makom Community is a place where all of us can become who we are meant to be, too. 

What do you already know about what a makom is? 

  • It's not ordinary! 
  • We learn stories of Avraham's son Yitzhak and his kids Yaakov & Esav when we're here. 
  • NO work like school! And definitely no grades. 
  • We say brachot (blessings) before we eat! Ya know, to say thank you. 

What are places where you especially connect with God or something bigger than yourself? 

  • Here, because of what we learn! 
  • When I was standing next to an impressively big tree that went all the way up to the sky, and I realized God is even bigger.  
  • In a store with lots of toys. I was connected to all the ways someone could be happy! 
  • At the movies. 
  • Florida because there are beautiful iguanas. 
  • My room makes me feel safe and happy because it’s all mine. 
  • My beanbag with a blanket and a candle makes me feel *does a bwahhh sound with a relaxed exhale*. 
  • In my dad’s arms, I feel all the feelings. 
  • In the morning when I wake up. 

What would a place where you can connect with God or something bigger than yourself look like? How do you know? 

  • It would be me alone on a sidewalk with God in the sky. I know God is there because it's private. There are no interruptions or distractions. 
  • It would look like the ladder we're learning about in the story. It's a place where something makes a connection between the ground and the sky for God to come to us. 
  • think  the rain forest because it's quiet there. 
  • It would be me dancing with everyone else on the world. The dancing is our conversation with God. 
  • It would be the world because God is everywhere. 

How was Yaakov able to notice God in the makom? 

  • He felt it in his own heart. 
  • He dreamed. 
  • God was in his dream. 
  • When you dream you think of stuff you haven’t thought of before and then it occurs to you when you wake up. 
  • He felt a powerful connection when he was right there, and he felt that the powerful connection was God. 
  • It was scary and holy at the same time, scoly. 

 What can we do to notice God in ordinary places? 

  • Dream and notice our dreams! 
  • Feel God. 
  • You have to sleep so you can have dreams with God in them. 
  • Close my eyes when I'm awake to be more like a dream. 

When asked how Makom Community got its name, one wise 4th grader had this to say: “It’s a special place where maybe Gods presence is, because Yaakov’s makom had God’s presence in it. And also Makom Community is a place where we can be ourselves and where we can help other people be themselves.”  We feel lucky every day that we get to learn and play together in such a special and loving makom. 

Tefilah: Building toward Lifelong Personal & Communal Mindfulness

Makom Community is in an exciting place with regard to Tefilah (prayerful conversations) right now. With our new space and growing groups of both older Erev and younger Boker students, we have all kinds of thrilling, new opportunities to expand our model for teaching Tefilah. Our younger students engage with Tefilah in a few ways:

1) Communal Singing

2) Movement that lends meaning to the words of the liturgy

3) Contextual conversations that support them in applying the meaning of the liturgy to their lives

 

Naturally, we want to take these even farther for our older students (mostly 3rd-5th Grade). That means having an eye toward teaching them Tefilah with these goals:

1) Being able to meaningfully participate in Jewish prayer in a variety of communities

2) Continuing to develop their skills to closely read and challenge the ideas and theology of a text

3) Learning the musical modalities of Tefilah and increasing skills for participating in and leading communal singing

4) Given their increased ability to understand abstract theological ideas, push them to create intertextual understanding of Jewish liturgy and add their own commentary for increased understanding

5) Navigating a siddur (prayer book) and feeling ownership of the book itself and its contents

6) Beginning the process of preparation for BMitzvah as a shaliach tzibur (prayer leader)

 

So how do we do that with our older learners?

1) We daven (pray) together! Every afternoon at Makom Community we all do an increasing amount of davening together, as we learn new tefilot.

2) Each learner has their own siddur. As a matter of the accessibility we demand of Jewish participation at Makom Community, we are using this siddur. It invites deep research, deep questions, and making theological choices to inform how we say many prayers. It’s also fully transliterated (Hebrew written out in English letters) so all of our parents will be able to participate with it fully as we use it in the years to come.

3) Transliteration for our Makom Community learners? Nope! We take colorful post-it notes and cover the transliteration. Then our learners can add their unique questions, pictures, and commentary on top of the post-it notes to represent their learning journey through the siddur. This also ensures that they practice their Ivrit skills by reading the words to the tefilot in Hebrew.

4) Collective learning with rewards! As every learner in our group masters a Tefilah (see #5 below), they get to choose together from a list of rewards they created to revel in and share their accomplishment.

5) Learning for mastery! For each prayer, our learners complete three parts of the process:

a) Be able to read every word of the Hebrew independently. If our learners are reading fluently, they will be more able to jump in and sing along, even with an unfamiliar melody.

b) Be able to start a melody so that others can join us. We are building the skills to be a shaliach tzibur and lead a community in prayer. 

c) Have a conversation with Beverly or another teacher that includes asking three great questions about the text of the prayer, summarizing the meaning, and making any necessary decisions about theological variants offered by our siddur. This is the richest and most exciting piece of mastering a Tefilah. These are the conversations that make clear that Jewish practice is not pediatric or for the faint-of-heart. We’re asking big, serious questions and grappling with them together. See below for some snippets of these conversations and the way we grapple.

 

Questions About God:

  • If somebody loves us, why would we fear them?
  • If we fear someone, why would we have a close relationship with them?
  • Is it really God making all these daily things happen? What is it that we’re doing?
  • Oh! We’re praising God for things we do every day.
  • If we praise God, maybe they will praise us back!
  • These were our ancestors, aren’t we like them? We want to be remembered like they were so God will help us.  

 

A Snapshot Conversation about Tefilah:

Beverly: Let’s Daven!

3rd grader: Yay!

Beverly: That made my day!

3rd Grader: It’s my favorite thing we do here. It’s when everyone is together.

 

Thoughts about Redeemer or Redemption as Models for a Better World

  • A redeemer would need superpowers
  • A redeemer might even need to be God, Godself!
  • Redemption…
    • More achievable
    • A group of people can get done more than just one person
    • We can hold each other up
    • We can help each other
    • We can pick each other back up
    • One person isn’t enough, even if they’re SUPER.
    • The world can’t be fully redeemed anyway. It’s too broken.
    • Some people carry too much hurt to be happy, so they stay sad and want other people to stay sad.
    • Redemption could be amazing, even if it only lasts for a moment and isn’t a permanent status.
    • No wars!
    • Even a little “I hate you” could ruin redemption.
 

A Day at the Theater and the Collaborative Spirit

My favorite part of theater making is the collaborative spirit. This spirit was in abundant supply at our Winter Break Camp on Wednesday. We all worked together to tell a part of the story of Yaakov and Eisav’s relationship. There were puppets! There were Legos! There was drama! Most of all there was a strong creative spirit, and a big group of wonderful kiddos supporting each other. Here’s what we did!

  

We started our day reading through the script (adapted by our very dramatic Camp Coordinator Wyatt). It was an excellent opportunity to delve a little more deeply into the relationships of some of the avot and imahot (patriarchs and matriarchs) that we’ve been learning about during afterschool enrichment. In this story, Yaakov wrestles with an angel, gets a new name, and emotionally reunites with his estrange twin brother Eisav. Good stuff for theater! After the readthrough we did, what we call in the biz, tablework. For us, that meant going through the story moment by moment and pulling out the big plot ideas.

Once we had our list of moments, we all worked together in groups to plot out what some of those scenes might look like on our fabulous felt boards.

  

Once we had an idea of what our show might look like, we started staging the production with our puppets! Readers and non-readers were paired together. One group of kids spoke the lines the other manned puppets that performed the action of the play. Kids who needed a break from performing made props out of Legos.

We of course took a break to play at Greenfield and have a dance party. When we came back we were ready to rehearse once more and perform for the guardians who came for the production.

  

We hope you’ve had a fabulous winter break! We certainly did. Winter Break Camp has been a fun and exciting way to explore the material we’ve been working on during afterschool enrichment in different ways. Did you love it as much as we did? Keep an eye out for a survey! We are looking forward to hearing your feedback so we can continue to make programming that fits your family’s needs. Happy New Year!

Oh No—Maybe Tefilah Can Help!

Have you ever desperately wanted something that you couldn’t have? What was that like? What did you do about it? What kind of support would you have wanted in that moment? This unit, we’re examining stories about the avot and imahot (patriarchs and matriarchs), with an eye to moments of tefilah (prayerful conversation) that these characters have. One such moment that comes up repeatedly is around the issue of fertility and having children. Both imahot that we’ve met so far, Sarah and Rivkah, struggle to become pregnant (Genesis 18:10-12, 25:19-21). Here are some of the conversations we’ve had about their experiences.

When Sarah hears that she’s 90 years old and going to have a baby, she laughs. We reflected on the range of feelings and situations that might lead to laughter. People laugh when something is:

  • Silly
  • Funny
  • Awkward
  • Uncomfortable
  • Embarrassing
  • Scary (we want to avoid it)
  • Surprising
  • Nonsensical or confusing
  • Shocking or unbelievable
  • Joyful

We also thought a little bit about how those feelings might be connected to wanting something that you can’t have. What does it feel like to really want something that you can’t have?

  • Really bad to want the thing and not get it
  • Mad and nervous
  • Worried and scared that I wouldn’t be able to get the thing ever
  • Sad to not have the thing

 

In the case of Rivkah, her husband Yitzchak is the one to actually do something about their fertility difficulties. He has a tefilah with God on her behalf, asking for help. Why is Yitzchak the one who had a conversation/tefilah with God?

  • Yitzchak wanted the child REALLY badly.
  • Maybe Rivkah wasn’t so sure she wanted a kid.
  • She couldn’t. She’s not a prophet.
  • Maybe God would get mad if Rivkah had gone to God.
  • Rivkah had access to God through her husband. She could ask him to talk to God.
  • She thought that having babies wasn’t a thing to ask God for or a thing that God could control.
  • Yitzchak didn’t want Rivkah to know he was asking on her behalf. He didn’t want her to get embarrassed.

Yitzchak reaches out to God to alleviate a difficult situation both for himself as well as for Rivkah. Why might you want someone to say a tefilah for you?

  • If I want something that I’m having trouble getting.
  • If someone is being really mean to me
  • If someone curses me

What about you—why might you want someone to say a tefilah for you? And also, what are the moments when you can notice someone else’s situation and say a tefilah on their behalf? I encourage you to think with your kiddos about the power tefilah can have to affect change in the world. Stay tuned for more conversations on how tefilah manifests in our lives coming up after winter break!

How would you parent if you could ALWAYS remember that you are LOVED?

As we worked with our learners this fall to craft our brit (communal expectations) anew through the lens of our unit studying Shema, we have been talking a lot about what it means to love and to show love. Our students came up with this brit text that we have all agreed to rely on each other to do:

  • Speak with respect. 
  • Only one voice at a time.
  • Give each other the benefit of the doubt.
  • Treat the space with respect.
  • Think before we move. 
  • Check in before touching—respect the response.
  • Be yourself. 
  • Help each other. 
  • Include everyone.
  • Love each other.

As we crafted that list of 10 expectations (where each one encompasses more ideas our learners hold dear), we realized that if we could all remember that we are loved, the rest would be easy and obviously the right choice.

So, let’s take another look at how those expectations work when we remember that we’re loved:

  • Speak with respect—Easy! Everyone will speak to me with respect, too. 
  • Only one voice at a time. – Happily! I know everyone is listening.  
  • Give each other the benefit of the doubt. – Of course! I know we’re all doing the best we can.
  • Treat the space with respect. – Naturally. I want to take care of a place where I’m so loved. 
  • Think before we move. –Yup.  I wouldn’t want to accidentally hurt any of these people who love me. 
  • Check in before touching—respect the response. Obviously. They do that for me, too.  
  • Be yourself. No reason not to. I know everyone will love me for who I am. 
  • Help each other. Definitely! It’s fun to help people who love me. 
  • Include everyone. For sure! I want to make sure everyone knows they’re loved. 
  • Love each other. So much love. I’ll look for ways to show it.   

The question I was left with was this: How might our parenting look different if we could, at all times, remember that we are loved? We spend so much time thoughtfully showing our children that we love them—but do we take the time to remember that we are loved? What moments could be different if we did?

  • How is the hard-to-wake child easier to handle if we remember we’re loved?
  • How could we have more patience for the child who doesn’t want to eat any food that is in the house?
  • How could I receive a child who is vying for my attention when I’m trying to get dinner ready?
  • How do we prioritize time for things we need, as adults?
  • Is our emotional regulation different with this in mind?
  • Is our task management and prioritization changed by this approach?

We made rainbow colored bracelets that say “LOVED” on one side and “Makom Community” on the other to help us carry a physical reminder of this very important learning with us on our adventures. We gave them out to all our students, AND we made them in adult sizes, too! We’ll have them available for you when you come to pick up your children in the next few weeks. Let us know if you’d like to have a reminder of how loved you are, too.

Tefilah As Conversation: Magen Avraham

Tefilah isn’t just prayer, music, and movement, it is also a conversation! We started a new unit where we are unpacking the ways in which Tefilah can be a conversation, and what those conversations can look like. This week we are looking at the part of Amidah that talks about our avot v‘imahot, aka our forefathers and mothers. Let’s zoom in on Avraham! God is described as being “Magen Avraham” (Genesis 15:1)That translates to “the shield of Avraham”.  What does that actually mean? This past week we looked at the story of Avraham and God, when God told Avraham that God would protect him and give him lots of descendants! Take a look and see what your smart kiddos had to say about the model of God as a shield. 

 

If you needed protecting, who would you ask to protect you?  

  • I would ask everyone. 
  • I would ask myself. 
  • I would ask someone I trust. 

 

What does it mean for God to be Avraham’s shield? 

  • God can protect Avraham from getting hurt. 
  • God will stand between Avraham and his enemies. 
  • God will comfort Avraham. 
  • Because God has superpowers. 

 

What makes this conversation Tefilah? 

  • It’s a conversation between God and Avraham, and when we do Tefilah it’s a conversation between us and God. 
  • Tefilah helps you focus. 
  • Tefilah helps remind you that God may or may not be protecting you. 
  • Avraham is asking questions. 
  • Avraham is thankful, or actually kind of confused. 

 

Today, when Jewish people say the opening paragraph of the Amidah, the end it with a bracha (blessing) that calls God Magen Avraham, the Shield of Avraham. Why do we find this this a helpful name/title for God? 

  • God was protector of Avraham, and He is our ancestor. 
  • If Avraham hadn’t been protected, we wouldn’t be here. 

 

Why is it helpful in this conversation to remind God who our ancestors are before we ask to be protected? 

  • We are honoring them (our ancestors). 
  • Wait, we’re reminding God who OUR ancestors are?! 
  • We are asking God for love, and to protect us because God protected them, it’s only fair. 

 

As we continue to explore Tefilahwe will look at the ways our relationship with Tefilah can reflect the conversations between God and our ancestors. Stay tuned next week, we are going to zoom in on Sarah!

Winter Break School’s Out Camp Preview!

Winter Break School’s Out Camp is coming up and we’re PSYCHED! As always, our camps are for your kiddos between the ages of 4 and 10. We are trying something new for Winter Break School’s Out Camp this year! Our new structure is a camp day with early- and late- care to add on as you wish. BONUS: You can save $ by signing up before 12/16. *AND* During this test-run, you can skip the website and call or email Wyatt to sign up.  (484) 278-1335 or Wyatt@makomcommunity.org. Following winter break camp, please share with Wyatt how this worked for your family.  

 

Here’s how schedules and pricing will work: 

Camp Day 10AM-3PM:  

  • By midnight 12/16 $45.  

  • After 12/16 $55.

Early Care Bundle8:30AM-3PM:  

  • By midnight 12/16 $50.    

  • After 12/16  $60.  

Late Care Bundle 10AM-5:30PM:  

  • By midnight 12/16 $60.    

  • After 12/16 $70. 

The Whole Shebang 8:30 AM-5:30PM:  

  • By midnight 12/16 $70. Just like always!   

  • After 12/16 $85. 

  •  

Schedule Sneak-Peek 

8:30 - Early-care including games and an art project  

10:00 - Snack and Schedule Overview  

10:30 - Drama, storytelling, crafts, games, songwriting and more! 

12:00 - Lunch 

12:30 - Play outside ( weather permitting )

2:00 - More fabulous programming 

3:00 - Snack 

3-5:30 - Late Care 

 

Our themes include: 

Fairytale Whimsy on the 24th with special guest storyteller Wyatt’s Mom, Theater Fun Times on the 26th, Let’s Art About It on the 27th, Active Games on the 28thand Game Builders on the 31st! 

Every day will be packed with FABULOUS activities that grow out of our curriculum designed by our camp coordinator, Wyatt. This pilot responds to your feedback requesting more flexible and affordable camp days with fewer trips. Choose what your family needs! Each camp day can include early- and/or late-care. Following, we’ll need your feedback to know how to continue to iterate. Stay tuned for a survey in January!   

 

For Questions or To sign up: Call us at (484) 278-1335, or email Wyatt at Wyatt@makomcommunity.org. 

 

Looking forward to seeing you at camp! 

Building Our Brit With Love

How can we make sure there’s room here for everyone to be who they are?How do I act in a way that lets people (both myself and everyone else) be who they are, with all their heart, mind, and strength? At Makom Community we value creating a space where we show love and feel loved.  One way we do that is by creating a Brit, a two-way promise, that outlines our expectations for how we treat each other at Makom Community. Here is what your inspiring kiddos came up with this year: 

  • Speak with respect 
  • Only one voice at a time (OOVAAT) 
  • Give each other the benefit of the doubt 
  • Treat the space with respect 
  • Think before we move 
  • Check in before touchingrespect the response 
  • Be yourself 
  • Help each other 
  • Include everyone 
  • Love each other  

We accumulated a big list of 60 or so ideas of things to include in our Brit. These ideas were largely inspired by the words of Shema, and fell into three categories: 

  • How we use our bodies. 
  • How we are loving. 
  • How we speak and listen. 

Some gems from that big list that we ended up consolidating into broader terms include: 

  • Give hugs 
  • Use our eyes/all our senses to take in information in lots of ways 
  • Great each other warmly 
  • Show gratitude 
  • Treat people the way they want to be treated 
  • Be learners, be teachers 
  • Ask thoughtful questions 

We spent some time unpacking why “be yourself” is an important element to include in the Brit. What does being yourself have to do with how we take care of each other at Makom Community? Here are some ideas about how being ourselves helps our community. 

  • I’m a leader sometimes 
  • I love to make jokes 
  • I like sports 
  • I like to share 

We are painting these values right on the walls of Makom Community where we can see them every day. We put the Brit in a heart for V’ahavta—“We will love”the first word from the first paragraph of Shema.  In thinking about the symbols from Shema, in particular the ones that help us remember our promises and values, we thought of Mezuzot. Your kiddos made their Brit signatures modeled after Mezuzot, putting their names inside empty marker cases covered with model magic. We also talked about ways we could remember the Brit as we go through our days and decided that the mantra “loved” would be helpful. We decided to put that word on bracelets that we can wear and remember our Brit. 

Here are pictures of our murals-in-progress. Stay tuned for pictures of the final product! 

 

  

 

Can You Escape Makom Community?

Only if you know your Shema! This week we made a big project that was the culmination of what we have been learning about for the past couple months.  The project was a build-your-own Escape Room!

 

We split the kiddos into three groups, taught them a few puzzles they could choose from and some tricks of the trade, and let them have at it! It ended up turning into something of a three-part escape, starting in The Bean Bag Room, going into The Snacktime Area, and concluding in a grand escape from The Carpet Area.

The first escape room required escapers to recite the first line of V’ahavta, locate a mezuzah, and unlock 6 locks by saying 6 numbers in Ivrit(Hebrew). There was even an extra credit bonus if you could say 1000 in Ivrit.

The second room featured the room designers in costume, staged around the room to present the puzzles to the escapers.  Escapers were required to recite all of V’ahavta with hand motions, label the parts of a giant mezuzah, and decode some Gematria.

The last group had their escapers find pieces of a puzzle with the Aleph Bet on it, put it together, correctly place a Mezuzah, and decode some more Gematria!


With only seconds left on the clock, the kiddos banded together to solve the final puzzles and escape. Stay tuned for more exciting camp day adventures!

Symbols and Reminders: Embodying Torah

What does it mean to have Torah on our bodies? How do we do that if Torah is words? Uk’shartam l’ot al yadecha v’hayu letotafot bein einecha.  Tie it as a sign on your hand and as a reminder between your eyes”.  This week we are exploring a Jewish practice of physically embodying Torah, not just speaking it! We are learning how to put on tefillin to experience how Jews throughout time have fulfilled this mitzvah (translated as “commandment” but at Makom Community we typically talk about mitzvot as “opportunities for connection”). 

Here is the video we showed about how to lay tefillin if you want to practice at home! Our students enjoyed watching it this week during shulchanot avodah (learning centers). 

 

Check out our big model tefillin we made to help kiddos get a good look! 

We also invited kids to make their own symbols out of model magic, to help them remember to make good choices.  Some symbols kiddos made include: 

  • A person to remind me to treat people with kindness.  
  • A watch that whispers to my mind what the right choice is. 
  • A bracelet that monitors my blood pressure. 
  • A little animal that helps me be calm enough to make good choices. 

We closed out this study of tefillin by exploring how it feels to intentionally use our bodies during T’fillah (prayer, music and movement). 

This week’s exploration of tefillin has been a chance to think about the different ways we can engage with this mitzvah.  When we look at mitzvot like this one as an opportunity to connect,  we love to explore and innovate around ways to make that connection. It’s been so exciting watching your kiddos find ways of connecting that are meaningful to them, while engaging with this ancient Jewish tradition of laying tefillin. 

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