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. 

How do words of Torah change a home?


Saying words of Torah in my house makes my house more welcoming, more like a home.” – A wise fourth grader.  This week we continued exploring Shema, specifically the verse that says “speak [Torah] when you’re sitting in your house”.  We unpacked what it means to say words of Torah in our houses and what that does for ourselves and our communities. 

Home is… 

  • A place with people you love. 
  • A place that you feel welcome. 
  • Somewhere that you live and enjoy your life. 
  • A place where there is food.
  •  A place where you can be yourself. 
  • A place with animals. 
  • Not necessarily a house. 
  • The bathroom at school. 

How do you feel when you’re in your house? 

  • Tired 
  • Relaxed
  • Cozy  
  • Safe 
  • Good 
  • Happy 
  • And if I’m mad I feel mad. 

What are other places where you feel that way? 

  • Park 
  • Makom 
  • Camp 
  • Friends house 

What are some ways I can speak words of Torah in my house? 

  • Try not to argue with the other people who live there. 
  • Saying Shema. 
  • Focus. When I am focused and paying more attention I can be more careful with my actions and words. 
  • Using polite words like please and thank you. 

To whom am I speaking words of Torah in my house? 

  • Family 
  • God
  • Myself 

How does it change me to speak words of Torah in my house? 

  • I am listening to God. 
  • It makes me happier. 
  • It makes me think about other people.  

Check out our younger kiddos showing off pictures they drew of their houses, and the word map our older kiddos made, detailing what home is to them! 


“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!