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!  


August 2018 School's Out Camp!

Local summer camps are going to wrap up well before school is back in session. We have FANTASTIC camp days planned for the third week in August. See below for all the specifics and SIGN UP TODAY! All camps are $70/day plus any additional field trip fees. Or sign up for a full week, $405 including all field trip costs.

Also, remember to sign up soon to make sure your kiddos get their preferred days of the week for afterschool enrichment this fall!

Monday, August 20 – Franklin Institute
8:30 Arrival and Games
9:30 Snack and Overview
10:15 Walk to Franklin Institute
10:45 Explore the Franklin
11:30 Lunch and Play Outside
12:15 More Franklin Institute
2:15 Snack
3:30 Walk Back to Makom
4:00 Reading and More Snack
4:30 Games and Relax
5:30 Last Pickup

Tuesday, August 21 – Dessert and Desert
8:30 Arrival and Games
9:30 Snack and Overview
10:00 Bake Brownies
10:30 Desert Finger Painting
11:00 Desert Water Project
11:30 Lunch
12:30 Play at Greenfield
2:10 DIY Desert Desserts
2:40 Snack
3:00 Desert Animal Models
3:30 Kinetic Sand Play
4:00 Magic School Bus
4:30 Games and Relax
5:30 Last Pickup

Wednesday, August 22 – Jump to It!
8:30 Arrival and Games
9:30 Snack and Overview
10:15 #7 Bus to Jump to It!
12:00 Lunch
2:00 Walk to Sprayground
2:30 Snack at Sprayground
3:30 #7 Bus back to Makom Community
4:15 Change Clothes
4:30 Games and Relax
5:30 Last Pickup

Thursday, August 23 – Winter Wonderland
8:30 Arrival and Games
9:30 Snack and Overview
10:00 Baking Project
10:30 Winter Clothing Relays and Improv
11:00 Snow Art Project
11:30 Lunch
12:30 Play Outside
2:45 Snack
3:15 Movie
4:30 Games and Relax
5:30 Last Pickup

Friday, August 24 – Smith Playground
8:30 Arrival and Games
9:00 Mixup Challah Dough
9:30 Snack and Overview
10:15 #32 Bus to Smith
11:30 Play!
12:00 Lunch
12:30 More Playing!
2:45 #32 Bus to Makom (and Snack)
4:00 Braid Challah
4:15 Games and Relax
5:00 Candle Lighting
5:15 Kiddush and Motzi
5:30 Last Pickup


June 2018 School's Out Camps!

Summer is upon us! We have FANTASTIC camp days planned for two weeks in June. See below for all the specifics and SIGN UP TODAY! All camps are $70/day plus any additional field trip fees. Or sign up for a full week, $405 including all field trip costs.

Also, remember to sign up soon to make sure your kiddos get their preferred days of the week for afterschool enrichment this fall!

Wednesday, June 13 – Zoo
8:30 Arrival and Games
9:15 Overview and Snack
9:45 Travel to the Zoo on PHLASH Bus
11:15 Zoo Time!
12:00 Lunch!
12:30 More Zoo time!
2:45 Travel to Makom on PHLASH Bus and Snack
4:00 Earliest Pickup and More Snack
4:30 Games and Relax

Thursday, June 14 – Messy Cooking
8:30 Arrival and Games
9:30 Snack and Overview
10:00 Make Monkey Bread Dough
10:30 Shredded Paper Skits
11:30 Assemble Monkey Bread
11:50 Lunch
12:40 Walk to Dilworth Plaza for shaving cream and water play!
2:30 R&R
3:00 Snack
3:20 Finger Painting
3:40 Baking Soda and Vinegar Volcano

4:00 Earliest Pickup
4:10 Slime Drawings
4:30 Games and Relax

Friday, June 15 – Jump to It
8:30 Arrival and Games
9:00 Mix up Challah Dough
9:30 Snack and Overview
10:15 #7 Bus to Jump to It!
12:00 Lunch
1:30 #7 Bus to Sister Cities
3:00 Snack at Sister Cities
3:15 Walk back to Makom Community
4:00 Earliest Pickup and Braid Challah
4:30 Games
5:00 Candle Lighting
5:15 Kiddush and Motzi

Monday, June 18 – Theatre Day
8:30 Arrival and Games
9:30 Snack and Overview
10:00 Improv Games
10:30 Storytelling Card Game
11:00 Collaborative Storytelling
11:45 Lunch
12:45 Play at Greenfield
2:30 Snack
3:00 Prop Plays

4:00 Earliest Pickup
4:30 Games and Relax

Tuesday, June 19 – Old City
8:30 Arrival and Games
9:30 Snack and Overview
10:30 #17 Bus to Old City
11:00 US Mint
12:00 Lunch outside the Constitution Center
1:00 Betsy Ross House
1:30 Story Benches
2:15 Snack
2:45 #42 Bus back to Makom
3:15 Watch a Thing
4:00 Earliest Pickup
4:45 Games and Relax

Wednesday , June 20 – Bartram’s Gardens
8:30 Arrival and Games
9:30 Snack and Overview
10:30 #36 Trolley to Bartram’s Gardens
11:30 Scavenger Hunt
12:15 Lunch
12:45 Play Time!
2:00 #36 Trolley to Makom
3:00 Snack
3:30 Nature Collage
4:00 Earliest Pickup and Watch a Thing
4:30 Games and Relax

Thursday, June 21 – Arts Academy
8:30 Arrival and Games
9:30 Snack and Overview
10:00 Tie Dye
10:30 Crayon Melting
11:30 Crayon Transfer Art
12:00 Lunch
1:00 Play at Rittenhouse
2:00 Watercolors in the Park
2:45 Snack Portraits
3:15 Toothpick Sculptures
4:00 Earliest Pickup and Cup Weaving
4:30 Games and Relax

Friday, June 22 – Franklin Institute
8:30 Arrival and Games
​9:30 Snack and Overview
10:00 Mix up Challah Dough
10:45 Walk to Franklin Institute
12:00 Lunch at Logan Square
12:45 More Franklin Institute
3:00 Walk Back to Makom
3:30 Snack
4:00 Earliest Pickup and Challah Braiding
4:30 Games
5:00 Candle Lighting
5:15 Kiddush and Motzi


On How Torah Shows Us All the Gender

What are the big takeaways we can glean from this whirlwind unit on gender in Torah? We went back and spent a day on each of three texts to parse out what gender models those stories present. I couldn’t choose just one day’s conversation to write a post about, so you’re stuck an extra-long record of your children’s insight and brilliance. Enjoy (-:

The first text we reviewed told the story of the creation of people. In one version, God creates an Earthling, in God’s image, both masculine and feminine. In the second version, God creates an Earthling and then uses one of his ribs to build him Woman as a companion.

What model for gender do you see in the first Genesis story?

  • In this version it’s more like men and women are the same or equal because they’re created at the same time and in God’s image.
  • I think the world would be more peaceful based on this gender model.
  • All people are both/neither gender.

What model for gender do you see in the second Genesis story?

  • That women are supposed to serve men rather than be their own independent people.
  • It’s unequal, like men deserve more or better things than women.
  • That women have some of both genders because they were taken from man.
  • That men have some of both genders because they were used to make women.
  • In order to be a good challenging helper to someone, you to have elements of both genders.

When you see the gender model where women and men are unequal in action in the world, what do you do about it?

  • Punch people who tell us that girls can’t do the same things that boys can do! My mom told me not to punch my brother, but she also told my brother not to tease me.
  • Sometimes I just ignore comments about girls not belonging or doing all the things.
  • Sometimes I feel like I’m done, I sit down and give up on doing what I initially wanted to do.
  • Sometimes I want to yell at the person for saying a mean thing, but I might choose to ignore them instead so I don’t get in trouble.
  • Not back away from spaces you’re not “supposed” to be: As a girl, to be in a STEM or a STEAM class. For a boy to be like a cheerleader or in a dance class.
  • Prove that you can do the thing that they don’t think you can do by showing them.

The second text we reviewed was the story of Rachel and Leah. Yaakov comes to their land looking for a wife. He makes a deal with Lavan, Rachel and Leah’s father, to work for him for 7 years in exchange for marrying Rachel. On the wedding night, Lavan tricks Yaakov by giving him Leah to marry instead. A week later Lavan lets Yaakov also marry Rachel, and then Yaakov works for him for another 7 years.

What models for gender do we see in the Rachel and Leah story?

  • If you’re a man, you have to work to get what you want.
  • If you’re a girl, you just have to be pretty to get what you want.
  • Women don’t get choices. Men make decisions and don’t even necessarily tell the women about them.
  • Men and women are supposed to marry each other.

What reactions do you have to those models?

  • It’s not fair!
  • I feel aggravated because this used to be (more) normal!
  • It makes me mad! Because I’m strong!
  • What about Beverly? She married another woman!

What do you want to do about it? How can you challenge those models?

  • Women should have a say in everything.
  • Women should also be judged by their abilities and not just their appearance.
  • I can warn people not to be fooled by appearances.
  • My mom is the one who makes more of the decisions in my family, and my dad listens to and supports her.

The last text we reviewed was the story of Devorah and Yael. Devorah was a prophet and judge who led the Jewish people while they were under the oppressive rule of Canaanite King Yavin and his general Sisra. Devorah guided the Jewish general Barak in a victorious battle against Sisra. Meanwhile, Yael killed Sisra all by herself in a devious and gory way.

What models for gender do we see in the Devorah and Yael story?

  • Women are capable.
  • Women can be leaders
  • Women can be leaders of an army.
  • Women can take credit.
  • Women can kill other people.
  • Some girls are stronger than they look.
  • Men can express fear and worry.
  • Men can turn down credit.
  • Men can make choices that help people other than themselves.

What reactions do you have to these models for gender?

  • I feel fine about it.
  • I feel great.
  • I generally think it’s a good model, especially if we read it as men and women can do all of these things, not that they have to.

Does God Have a Gender? Torah is Confusing

Does God have a gender? If so, what is it? This week we reexamined three familiar texts with an eye towards what God was doing, how we would describe God in those situations, and whether those actions and descriptions seem more masculine, more feminine, or both/neither. The texts we used for this process were from the leaving Egypt story—when God spoke to Moshe from the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-14) and when Bnei Yisrael (the Jewish people) crossed the sea (Exodus 14:23-30)—and from the Yosef story—when Yaakov prayed for El Shaddai (God) to protect his sons (Genesis 43:14).

Here’s a chart of some words we brainstormed to describe God and the gendered associations we have with those descriptors:

Based on the text, what gender do you think the author believes God has?

  • Both/neither, because God does some things that we think boys do and some things that we think girls do.
  • Masculine, because my initial instinct is to imagine men doing these things even if I want to push that away and imagine women doing them too.
  • Either way, not mostly feminine.
  • God is a boy because that’s what everyone says.
  • But God has so many names—God could be anyone!

Do you think this text about El Shaddai, where God is kind, gentle, and protective, depicts God more like a man/dad or a woman/mom?

  • Mom because usually moms are the ones who save you.
  • Both because all parents want to protect their kids.
  • Both because both love you and protect you.
  • I think both because I ask my dad and also my mom to save and protect me.

The conclusion we came to is that depending on which parts of Torah you read and exactly how you’re reading them, God can come across as more masculine, more feminine, or something that’s both/neither/confusing. Or, as one of our Boker students put it, “Most of Torah is just both/neither/confusing.”