Israel Vacation Camp Getaway November 3-4

One week from today, Makom Community is hosting a two-day Israel Vacation Getaway Camp! Where better to escape than Israel, just as it is getting cold out?!

We will be exploring the tastes, sights, and culture of Israel for two days! Our camp programming includes time both days with our artist-in-residence Rabbi Mordechai Rosenstein. He’ll facilitate art projects around playing with Hebrew letters, including our students’ names.

Our Jewish Agencey shlicha, Neta Burstein, will also be joining us to facilitate activities around Israel’s environment and what people can do and are already doing to help take good care of Israel. 

Campers will play games over the course of the two day camp where they get to learn about a variety of cities all around Israel. They’ll participate in an archaelogical dig to gather puzzle pieces to create map to use in the rest of the game, cooperative games to learn about kibbutz life, playing Gaga, Israeli dancing, and more!

Full-day camps are just $40. Please let us know if your child will be joining us for this exciting camp experience by registering here.

Building Emotional Intelligence and Makom Community, Too

Our students are having a great time, and it is incredible to see all they ways they are already growing! We are spending much of our first unit of learning thinking about how we treat each other and how we build Jewish community. 

We studied the text from Deuteronomy 22:8 that commands us to build a fence around our roof decks, to keep anyone from getting hurt. The best part is that all these urban kids know what roofdecks are, so the text actually makes sense! In light of that text, we’re in the process of exploring a variety of physical and emotional ways that we keep each other safe at Makom Community.

We set up a trickly obstacle course and asked our students to make it safer. They took out the chair because it was too dangerous a hurdle, they taped down our hoola hoops so no one slipped, and they still gave each other great and fun challenges!

Then we spent some time articulating some of our own wants and needs. Each student made a prioritized list like this—and each item is on a velcro dot. That will allow each student to re-prioritize or move something to the “want” or “need” category as they see fit. We’re already hearing students ask each other, “Is that a want or a need?” when someone asks them to do something. Pretty amazing!

Thinking together about physical and emotional safety are the next steps toward writing our own Brit (two-way promise) for Makom Community—and great steps in building the emotional intelligence of our students, too.  That Brit will tell each of us what we can expect from each other and how to build up Makom Community each day, too. And our students are at the center of the process of creating that Brit. We’ve been brainstorming for weeks what kinds of things might go on it. We’ll write and sign it at the end of next week, and we’ll share it with our families on Friday night.

We also had a great time having our snack and learning last week in the Sukkah that Mekor Habracha graciously shared with us! Thanks for letting us be your guests!

Enjoy the pictures!


Getting Ready For Yom Kippur

Hello all!  Maya here, lead teacher at Makom Community.  I’ll be popping up on the blog here from time to time.  I have so enjoyed getting to work with our students these past few weeks.  I am continually impressed by the insights they share and the work they create at our different shulchanot avodah (learning centers). 

Last week we explored teshuvahTeshuvah is usually translated into English as repentance.  The students, together with Beverly and I, reflected on how each of us can be the best version of our selves, and how sometimes even when we try really hard to be our best self we may miss the mark or make a mistake.  We have been defining teshuvah as the actions we take to adjust or correct when we don’t quite hit the mark. And those actions get us closer to being our best self.  Check out last week’s blog post for more on activities the children did around this theme.  One way teshuvah ties into this High Holiday season is through the ritual of tashlich where we throw pieces of bread into the river that each symbolize a time we tried but didn’t quite hit the mark.  Then we let go of those mistakes as we watch our pieces of bread float away.  Enjoy these pictures below of our students doing tashlich at the Schuylkill River this past Tuesday. 

This week, in preparation for Yom Kippur, we studied the line from the High Holiday machzor (special High Holiday prayer book)which says “Teshuvah, Tfilah (prayer), and Tzedakah (charity) are things that can help us be our best selves.”  This week we are focusing on tzedakah and tefilah.  Today we discussed all the different ways we can give tzedakah, by giving time, food, money, or other items in need. Then we thought about why giving tzedakah might help us be our best selves.  Then we began our tzedakah project: the students braided miniature loaves of challah.  Tomorrow, we will deliver that challah to the Mitzvah Food Project (at 21st & Arch) for our neighbors who don’t have enough to eat.

It has been a great week, and I can’t wait to share more of our exciting learning adventures with you soon! Enjoy the pictures below of tashlich and tfilah with Makom Community at the Schuylkill River.





Shana Tova Umetukah-- Wishing You a Sweet and Wonderful New Year!

It has been amazing seeing our students get to know each other and enjoy exploring such deep and fruitful ideas from Jewish tradition! 

This week, we’re exploring what it could mean to be holy. We’ve talked about being holy noticers—watching for body language, really listening to how our friends are talking, asking if we can help each other, and letting each other know when something isn’t working for us. I’ve heard students say to each other, “That’s all the hugs for me right now. Thanks!” and “I really love the project I’m working on with you. Could we each sit in our own spot while we work on this together?” Last week, we were talking about loving our neighbors, and the loving way our students have made these requests and responded to each other’s requests are truly impressive. 

This week we’re studying (also from Leviticus), “Do not hate another in your heart.” We added a number of shulchanot avodah (learning centers) that focus on the social-emotional skills to strive toward that goal. Our students are filling in this statement:

            I feel _________ when you __________. In the future, would you please _______ instead? 

Then they go to Omanut (art), and draw a comic strip that tells about that situation. The completed comic strips go to our Drama station. Then students at the drama station create skits using the “I feel…” statements and work on different ways to work out the situation. 

At snack each day, we’re revisiting our Makom Community Brit. A Brit is a special two-way promise where we can share what we expect of each other at Makom Community. We’re still in the brainstorming stages right now as we begin our learning together, and we’ll develop the Brit together over the next few weeks.

Maya, our lead teacher, also added some yoga into our week. We learned a few poses and some breathing techniques that we will incorporate into our daily Tfilah: prayer, music, and movement, too.

As we’re preparing for Yom Kippur and thinking about ways we can be holy, we are thinking about times that we tried our hardest, but did not quite succeed. Our students are writing down some of those times and dropping them into a jar to see their mistakes float right off the paper and into the water. This afternoon, we also wrote down things we want to do better in the future and tried to throw them at a target. It was challenging to hit the target, so we thought together about ways to make hitting the target easier. We don’t always get things right the first time, but this is a new year, and we get to keep trying! Next week we’ll to go the Schuykill River for Tashlichto throw bread into the river to symbolize letting go of times we tried, but didn’t hit the mark.

Check out the great pictures below of some of the fun we’re having!

Shana Tova U’Metukah! Wishing you and your families a sweet and happy new year full of great adventures and lots of learning!


Coming up… This week at Makom Community!

We’re so excited to have our kindergarten students join us this week! We’ll spend our first weeks getting to know each other and laying the groundwork to collaborate on our Makom Community Brit.

A Brit is an amazingly special kind of promise. It’s the Hebrew word used when God tells Noah that the world will never be flooded again, and it’s the same word when Abraham is promised many descendants and special place to live. We’ll be exploring brit as a special two-way promise: I’ll do this, and you’ll do that. In our shulchanot avodah (learning centers) in the next few weeks, we’ll be exploring what makes Makom Community such a special place where our students can learn and grow as they follow their own interests.

Each day begins gathered around the snack table. We’ll get to hear about each others’ days and begin the process of exploring and learning together. Around the snack table this week, we’ll explore these texts and really play with their complexities:

Be holy for I, your God, am holy. (Leviticus 19:2)

Love your neighbor as yourself. (Leviticus 19:18)

Here are some of the questions we’ll explore in relation to the week’s texts:

  • Who are my neighbors?
  • Can I list all the people I saw today?
  • Who do I usually notice? Who might I not notice?
  • When do I show love?
  • When do I feel love?
  • Could noticing, feeling love, and showing love be ways to be holy?
  • Could making sure my neighbors have enough food to eat be a way to be holy?
  • Could making sure my neighbors know they are my neighbors be a way to be holy?
  • All our shulchanot avodah (centers) will be in conversation with these questions, too. Since our new Makom Community friends are some of the first neighbors we’re getting to know, we’ll be playing get-to-know-you games.

At our tzedakah (charity) corner, we’ll explore organizations in our city that serve our neighbors-- Manna, Play on Philly, and Project Home. Then we will draw pictures of our neighbors who aren’t served by these organizations. Our older students will help research Philadelphia-based organizations that serve the neighbors we listed and share that information with our younger students.

In Omanut (Art), we’ll be drawing all the people we see each day.

We’ll also be playing with Hebrew letters at our sensory table, exploring showing and feeling love through dramatic play, and making up our own songs about love in the music center.

On Wednesday—our first half-day for both Chester Arthur & Greenfield Elementary Schools—we’ll go on a nature walk. We’ll collect late summer/early fall items to display at our nature table, and we’ll also explore ways that we an show love for our environment.

Can’t wait to start our first week with all our new students!


NEW at Makom Community

Half-Day Camps Beginning 9/17

Greenfield Elementary and Chester Arthur Elementary parents both got information this week about a significant number of half-days when their child’s elementary school will be closed. I can only imagine that’s a pretty stressful piece of information for families who have already made afterschool and other childcare arrangements.

So we leapt to our feet and began planning for exciting half-day camps in addition to the other full-day vacation and snow day camps that are already on our calendar for the year. 

Similar to our afterschool program, we’ll pick kids up from their schools at 12noon when they are dismissed and bring them back to Makom Community for an afternoon of fun! 

Our September 17 Half-Day Camp will feature…

    • Games to encourage our campers to meet new friends & learn Hebrew numbers and phrases
    • Photo scavenger hunt
    • Two healthy snacks-- one we make ourselves!
    • Extended playtime on the Greenfield Elementary School playground
    • Open Learning Time in 10 exciting centers including drama, creative writing, art, dance, and more
    • Supported Homework time
    • Special September Price-- only $15!

Click here to sign up for our September 17 Half-Day Camp! Or contact us for more information.

Fridays $5 @ 5pm 

You’re invited! We’re adding a new component to our Friday afternoon programming. Families with children ages 3+ are invited to come with their kids to enjoy our exciting learning and play space from 5-5:30pm for $5/family.  We’ll set up art, sensory, dramatic play, and a variety of other spaces, too. All you need to do is be here and enjoy!

Following $5 @ 5pm, we’ll have our Family Shabbat Celebration at 5:30pm where we’ll bring in Shabbat with joy, music, and quality time for your family. Both of these Friday programs are offered (almost) every week. Check our calendar to see all the dates for the year. 

Looking forward to seeing you soon!

Our House is Open!

We're SO excited for the opening of Makom Community Afterschool on September 8!

Thanks to all the families who joined us for our Open House today! Missed it and want to come visit? Join us for next week's open house-- Monday 8/25 from 5:30-7pm or be in touch to schedule a tour! Check out these pictures of our some of our exciting learning centers our students will have access to every day: 


Welcome to Makom Community! These cubbies are our students' first stop every afternoon. We welcome them here as they unload their backpacks and get ready for a fun afternoon!

Grab a book and get cozy in our reading nook! 

 Makom Community Afterschool students help us pick out the DELICIOUS things we make and share with our families each week at our Shabbat celebration. Come see what looks tasty!



Check out the Tzedakah (charity) organizations in our community we're learning about this week. Project HOME, Play on, Philly, and Manna


Want to help us collect nature for our nature table? Join us during the first week of Makom Community Afterschool to go on a walk and see what nature is in our neighborhood.


We're learning to count to 10 in Hebrew-- all while we keep moving!


Explore ideas we're learning about through drama here on our stage! 


Come sit in our ohel-- tent-- to think quietly or unwind from your day! 


Transform the letter Bet into anything you can imagine!



We're making hand cymbals in our music station this week. They'll add to our singing in our Tfilah: Music, Movement, and Prayer each afternoon.


You never know what you might find in our sensory bin...


It Takes a Village... Join us on Indiegogo!

We are just 37 days from Makom Community Afterschool’s opening day on September 3! And we’re so excited about it! Just like it takes a supportive community to raise children, it takes a supportive community to help Makom Community be prepared for our launch. And we need your help to make sure we have a high quality program ready to roll out in just over a month. 

We’re starting small to focus on the quality of our learning experiences and all the services we offer Makom Community families. Our teacher to student ratio will typically be about 1:6 so that all our children attending afterschool and camps will get personalized attention while they are at Makom Community. In addition to that very low ratio, we’re also subsidizing our afterschool program by 40% so that we are affordable for more families. We need your help making sure that every family who wants to enroll their child at Makom Community can do so.

All our child-led learning materials are brand-new. We’re creating them throughout the year as our afterschool students show us what they are interested in. Being responsive in that way requires some flexibility in the budget to be responsive to the interests of our learners.

We’re setting up our space to support child-led learning. Imagine…

  • A fully-stocked art center with changing projects related to our learning topic,
  • Sensory tables where our students can explore curricular objects and Hebrew letters
  • Child-sized podiums and puppetry stages for children to engage in story telling and dramatic play
  • A kitchen stocked for kid-friendly cooking projects
  • And much more!

All the right stuff could never be enough without our top-notch staff. Every day Beverly and our Lead Teacher will be there with all the students. Throughout the week, a variety of other staff with unique talents will join us to explore nature, spoken Hebrew, dance, and more! Each of these staff members are trained informal Jewish educators who are eager to build relationships with all our Makom Community children and families, ready to model their own love of Jewish life, and their own ongoing learning about Jewish traditions.

So join us! Donate toward our Indiegogo campaign for $15,000. It takes a village to raise thoughtful, curious children, and we’d love to have you join our village—from near or far—and help give Makom Community families THE BEST village to raise their children.

A New Model For Jewish Learning Community

Thanks to our friends at Jkid Philly and Jewish Learning Venture who shared this blog post about Makom Community (also below). Also, if your children are between the ages of six months and 8 years and are not yet getting free PJ Library books and CDs in the mail, definitely sign up for that while you're there! 

I’m working on an exciting project adds a new dimension to Jewish life in Center City. We are a meaningful and vibrant learning community through our daily afterschool, camp, and family learning experiences where we ignite joy for whole family Jewish engagement. Our work is driven by a few principles:

  1. Children are naturally curious and want to learn

  2. Parents want to interpret Jewish tradition for their own families

  3. Urban life needs Jewish infrastructure

1. Children are naturally curious and want to learn

Supporting children as they ask questions and discover the world is one of the most empowering things we as a community can do. When our children can ask deep, probing questions about themselves, Judaism, and our world, they have a strong start toward the skills that will help them make meaning of the world throughout their lives. At Makom Community, we explore child-generated questions through art, drama, music, and play.

These social-emotional skills we focus on also help our students to form friendships and be part of community throughout their own lives. They are the same skills they will need to make decisions today about whether to start a new project or take a few minutes to relax. And our students, at Makom Community are all engaged in thinking and communicating about their own emotions and processes as they play and explore in our fun and safe environment.

2. Parents want to engage deeply with Jewish tradition and be empowered to interpret that tradition for their children.

Parents love to have something to share, to give their children the most they can in every way. We believe that there are deep benefits to children seeing their parents engaged in Jewish learning. One feature of Makom Community family programming is this: Some element of the program is taught to at an adult level. The children are still in the room. They might be playing with the silks we’re getting ready to use or heading to the snack table to grab some food, but they hear what we are discussing in adult terms. After a couple minutes of sharing and grappling with a Jewish idea at an adult level, I step back and ask the adults to interpret that idea in a way that makes sense for their family.

This process sends a powerful message that we all have more to learn from Jewish tradition and that it is deep and compelling throughout our lives. Parents and grandparents—whether or not they had one kind of Jewish education or another themselves or whether they are even Jewish themselves—become the interpreters of Jewish tradition for their own children. This brings the thoughts and perspective of every parent into the conversation.

3. Urban life is a beautiful thing, and it needs the support of Jewish infrastructure to flourish and work for Jewish families.

Philly is a great city. I LOVE it here. Naomi, my wife, and I both moved to Philly when I began pursuing my masters at Penn. We fell in love with this city and want to stay here to raise our kids, one day. Makom Community represents the kind of learning and family environment that we want for our own children—empowered, deep, and personal. 

I see wonderful people working to make their neighborhoods better, more livable. Jewish infrastructure is one of the things we need to add to Philadelphia for more families to be able to stay living in the city. That means affordable access to Jewish life and Jewish education, having high quality and affordable care available after the school day, and it means a thousand other things, too. But one thing at a time…

The need for childcare after the school day provides an INCREDIBLE opportunity for immersive Jewish learning, where the rhythms of the day and year are those of the Jewish calendar.

After being active at Hillel, doing alumni work with Birthright Israel, creating quality learning and dynamic school environments as a synagogue Education Director in Maryland and in New Jersey, and dreaming about opening my own school for decades, I’m excited to be building this new community in Center City at such an exciting time.

All this excitement will be happening out of our new home base at 21st & Chestnut—we’re renting from the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia. Our afterschool program runs Monday to Friday from 3-6:30pm, and we also offer vacation camps during school breaks and on snow days. To learn more, go to