AMAZING first week!

New students and returning students are here, and we are so excited to welcome them in and get the year going! Next week, our kindergarten students will join us, too.

This year, we have a large enough enrollment in afterschool enrichment that we created two learning groups functioning in parallel. We have Boker for our Pre-K, K, and 1 students, and Erev for our students in 2nd through 5th grades. We have snacktime learning on different sides of our large classroom with our age groups. All our students are studying the same text together, in age appropriate ways. We are opening our year studying the experience of Matan Torah (receiving the Torah). Toward the beginning of November, that will culminate in a project where we create our own shared expectations for Makom Community for the year.

Following snacktime learning, we move to shulchanot avodah (learning centers), where all 8 of our weekly projects are in our large classroom. There are 4 smaller tables with activities geared toward our Boker group and larger tables with activities geared toward our Erev group. The beauty of that is that we saw some of our students choose any of the 8 projects on all the days they are here. Most often, our older students stay at the projects that we pitched older, and vice versa. But when a student is especially interested in a certain topic or modality of learning, they have the flexibility to sit at any table and work at any project. While this student-led learning is happening, our teachers circulate to provide support.

We are learning lots of new tefilot (prayers) together each afternoon. We have also added a brief mindfulness meditation to tefilah each day. Our new tefilot (prayers) are getting us thinking about when we are happy, what is wonderful in the world, how to be mindful, and how to gather as a community. There’s always so much to learn, and this helps our new and returning students share the experience of learning new tefilot together. I imagine you’ll be hearing these melodies on your way home and in the bathtub!

This week, in snacktime learning we studied Exodus 14:15-31, as Bnei Yisrael (the Israelites) were getting ready to cross the sea to freedom and the unknown. It lent itself phenomenally to processing the beginning of the school year. Your children had incredible, wise things to say about these questions—so feel free to ask them to share over dinner or while you’re out walking in the city in the days ahead:

  • Do you think Bnei Yisrael felt ready when they left Egypt?
  • Were you feeling ready for the school year to start?
  • How were you feeling about the school year starting?
  • How did your feelings about the school year change after the first few days of school?
  • What can we at Makom Community do to help you have a great year?
  • How do I react to something that scares me?
  • How can I help other people in Makom Community when they are feeling scared?

Can’t wait to see what they have to teach us and each other next week!

Top 10 Reasons to Enroll Your Child at Makom Community

Sign up today! You'll be glad you did. https://makomcommunity.org/Fall2017

1. Make new friends in different schools and grades.

2. Enjoy a camp-like, joyful Jewish education.

3. Jewish learning that applies to everyday life!

4. Unwind after a busy day at school.

5. Build relationships with loving staff who individualize the learning experience for your child.

6. Gain support on your journey as a parent.

7. Relax! We pick up from your child’s elementary school up to five days a week.

8. Explore the city during camp days when school is closed for snow days, conferences, or professional development.

9. Celebrate at family Shabbat on Fridays where you get to share your perspective on Jewish learning with your child. Yummy challah, too!

10. Connect with families like yours—interfaith, LGBT, one parent, two parents, Philly locals, Philly transplants…

They’ll LOVE it, and you will too. Enroll today! 

Summer Camps 2017

With this week’s heat, we certainly know summer is upon us! We also know that typical summer camp schedules leave working parents with huge gaps where we are struggling to have something our children are excited to do!

We have FANTASTIC camp days planned for one week in June and two weeks in August. See below for all the specifics, and SIGN UP TODAY! All camps are $70/day plus any additional field trip fees. We also offer a discount if you sign up for the full week, $400 including all field trip costs. www.makomcommunity.org/camps

June Camps
June 21 Philadelphia Zoo +$25 
June 22 U.S. Mint & Mini-Golf in Franklin Square +$15 
June 23 The Franklin Institute +$25

August Camps
August 21 Philadelphia Zoo +$25
We’ll take the Phlash bus up to the zoo for a whole day of exploring the animal kingdom, and a picnic lunch.

August 22 Messy & Cooking Day!
We will cook lunch and another project and have a full day of messy projects. Wear clothes that can get messy!

August 23 Jump To It! +$15
We’ll take the #7 SEPTA bus to 24th & Oregon for a day of jumping on inflatables and playing in the arcade.

August 24 Yom Teva—Nature Day at Bartram’s Gardens! +$15
We’ll visit and explore Bartram’s Gardens and do a variety of art projects with natural med ia.

August 25 Arts Academy
Art projects all day long in a variety of media, with a student gallery at the end of the day!


August 28 Franklin Institute +$25

August 29 Rain & Rainforest
We’ll play at Sister Cities Park in the water, create soda bottle terrariums, and a model rainforest while we learn about some of the AMAZING creations in the rainforest.

August 30 Old City +$25
We’ll travel to Old City for a special program at the National Museum of American Jewish History and play at Franklin Square.

August 31 Winter Wonderland
Summer heat getting you down? We’ll create winter projects, have winter snacks, and have a relaxing day at Makom Community.

September 1 Smith Playground +$15
We’ll take the bus to Smith Playground for a full day of exploring their playgrounds, water sprayer, and HUGE wooden slide.

Fall Enrollment
Remember to sign up soon to make sure your child gets their preferred days of the week for afterschool enrichment this fall! www.makomcommunity.org/fall2017

For more information about camps or afterschool enrichment, please contact Beverly Socher-Lerner.

See you soon!

 

Fall 2017 Enrollment-- Sign up Today!

What a journey we’ve had with you and your families this year! ­We created a brit (promise) to guide us through the year, made music, enjoyed Shabbat together as families, delved into how to make the world more just, and worked to understand our own freedom. We have welcomed new friends from a variety of schools and neighborhoods, new staff members, and learned, played, and celebrated together.

Fall 2017 Enrollment Now Open!

Ready to join us this fall? Enrollment is now open for children from ages 4-10 years old.

https://makomcommunity.org/EnrollmentFall2017

Come play with us in the afternoons! We’re open Monday through Friday 3-6pm. Your child will get to explore Jewish ideas in a meaningful way that works for them, among great friends and nurturing staff. We’ll learn Hebrew together and celebrate Shabbat and holidays, too. Two to five day a week schedules are available, though we recommend three to five days schedules so your child can get the most out of the experience. We currently have plans to pick students up from Greenfield Elementary School, Chester Arthur Elementary, and BZBI Pre-K. If you are interested in having us add other pickup locations, please let us know.

Arrange a Private Tour

Curious about Makom Community and want to come visit? Just click reply to arrange a private tour! We’d love to show you all the fun we’re having. Your child(ren) are welcome to join you for the tour, too.

Summer Camps

All camp days are 9am to 6pm and $70 + any associated field trip fees. To sign up: www.makomcommunity.org/camps  

June 21 Philadelphia Zoo +$25 
June 22 Old City—U.S. Mint & Mini-Golf in Franklin Square +$15 
June 23 The Franklin Institute +$25 

Stay tuned for more details about our end of summer camp days! We’ll be running camp these dates: 
August 21-25
August 28-September 1 

Looking for other great summer camp options? We have lots of great Jewish summer camps in our area. Check them out!

Be in touch anytime if you have questions about our afterschool or camp programming!
Beverly

 

What on earth is a hardened heart?!

Today, our students were AMAZING. Okay, fine. They’re always amazing. Today they shared their wisdom in especially wise ways. 

We are winding down our study of the narrative of Bnai Yisrael (the Jewish people) leaving Egypt. Today, we focused on when God hardened Pharaoh's heart. 

We asked, “What can you tell me about the personality of someone with a hard heart?” 

  • Stubborn 
  • Meaner 
  • Angrier 
  • Lacking self-control 
  • Unable to love 
  • Lacking in emotions and feeling 
  • Can’t (or won’t) build relationships with other people 
  • Can’t make friends, because the potential friends would reject them 
  • Not popular 

Then we reflected about what we could do if we encounter someone with a hardened heart: 

  • Show extreme kindness in order to move them 
  • Show extreme meanness in order to show them what they are doing 
  • BIG emotions to model how they work 
  • I can’t help. They have to want to change and do it themselves. 
  • Only God can help Pharaoh, because God hardened his heart, so only God can unharden it. 
  • Help the person with a hard heart have better language to share about their experiences 
  • Ignore them to show them how they are treating people 

Seems like having open hearts is an important part of being free! Pharaoh provided such an interesting example of what not to do in relating to other people.  

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Their Spirits Were Crushed...so why couldn't they be free yet?

Bnei Yisrael had trouble hearing from Moshe that they would ever get out of Egypt. Slavery was all they had known for generations, and the Torah says, "their spirits were crushed." Thankfully, our students had relatively little in their lives to compare crushed spirits to, so we did a demonstration with two small apples. 

Before the students arrived, we had taken one apple and dropped it on the table and floor a number of times. From the outside, it was indistinguishable from the other apple. We asked the students to compare the two apples-- they told us one had a green spot, while the other was entirely red, one had a stem and the other did not, one was slightly larger. They were correct on all those comparisons. But there was something they couldn't see yet.  

Then we cut both apples in half and asked them to compare the insides. Our students collectively gasped when they saw how different the insides of these apples were. They quickly understood that one had a rougher life than the other. We pointed out that even though they looked the same on the outside, something had happened on the outside to one of them that had affected them on the inside. 

Before we jumped into that day's text, we asked our students to watch out for who in the story might have had something happen to them that affected them inside, in a lasting way. 

This is the conversation that followed: 

Why can't the slaves listen to Moshe? 

  • They were promised freedom, and instead they got harder work after the first time Moshe went to Pharoah to say, "Let my people go!" 

  • Their spirits were crushed—their hopes and dreams were lost, they gave up and didn't want to go on, they saw no way for life to be better. 
     

Why can't they be free if their spirits are crushed? 

  • They won't be happy ever again, so they can't be free. Being free means at least the possibility of being happy. 

  • It's like they were locked in a cage of sadness. Even if they don't have to work as slaves, they just couldn't see outside the cage.  

 

What can we do when someone feels stuck?  

  • If you are someone the persons already trusts, you can listen to where they are and try to help. If you're not already someone the person trusts, try and find someone they do trust to help them. 

  • Cheer them up—help them imagine other places, opportunities, and maybe even being happy. 

 

 

Moshe's family-- Just like ours!

Today, we studied the text where Moshe and his wife Tzipora (from Midian) name their son Gershom. We delved into the ways their son’s name reflects both Moshe and Tzipora’s life experience and family tradition.

First, we asked our students to share with us some of the holidays they celebrate with their extended families:

  • Chanukkah
  • Passover
  • Shabbat
  • Christmas
  • St. Patrick’s Day
  • Thanksgiving
  • Pi Day
  • Halloween
  • Easter
  • Holi

A great list! American holidays, Jewish holidays, and holidays from other faith traditions, too.

Moshe and Tzipora name their son Gershom, which means “a stranger there”. Our students developed the theory that this resonated with Moshe since he was a stranger from his own past, since he didn’t (yet) know what people he was from or what their traditions were.

What did Moshe want to remember about being a ger (stranger)?

  • What he’s been through
  • Finding out that he’s a Hebrew
  • Seeing the world in a new way and wanting to remember that newness
  • Remembering being warmly welcomed as a ger by Tzipora’s family in Midian
  • Wanting to remember the warm welcome he received and welcome newcomers warmly in his own life and home in the future

We concluded our text study that day by exploring ways that Moshe’s family is like our own families we know in the Jewish community. We circled back to our opening conversation about what our experiences are like celebrating all kinds of holidays with our extended family and neighbors and supporting each other. 

Why do we retell the story of leaving Egypt?

We just began our final unit of the school year—hard to believe that summer is just around the corner! We’ll spend the coming weeks studying the narrative of getting Bnei Yisrael (the Jewish people) out of Egyptian slavery.

We opened our new unit by reflecting on how well our students already know the story of leaving Egypt from our services every afternoon. Our amazing storytellers vie for the opportunity to retell (in creative, metaphorical, and silly ways) the story of leaving Egypt each afternoon before we sing Mi Chamocha in Tfilah (prayer, music, and movement).

As we were getting ready for Passover, we asked “What do we gain by retelling the story of Passover in every generation?” Our students said:

  • Knowledge about the story of our people
  • Understanding of Torah
  • Telling the story gives us freedom, too
  • Helps us understand how we might have felt if we were slaves

We also asked, “Why do we retell the story today? It happened so long ago.”

  • To keep it in our hearts and on our minds
  • To remember where we came from
  • So we don’t take our freedom for granted
  • So we can be on the lookout for who needs our help to be free

After that last insightful comment, we had to ask, “What makes people into slaves today?”

  • Feeling suck with a friend who treats you badly
  • Feelings of rejection
  • Feelings that you can’t shake or move on from
  • A job with an unfair boss, or where you get less pay for equal work
  • Hiding feelings to keep a friend or keep a job
  • Being addicted to phone and work, where you can’t put them down to do something else
  • Mistakes we make, especially if we make them a lot of times and they hurt someone

How can we be free of what enslaves us?

  • Fight for your friends—be a good friend
  • Protest bad or unfair working conditions
  • Be thoughtful not to hurt people with what you say
  • Get a new job

Can’t wait to hear what they have to say as we dig into the text in the weeks ahead!

Unchecked Power Yields Unending Cruelty—What is our responsibility to check power and end cruelty?

How does the movie Aladdin shed light on a Jewish text written by Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan? Well, they’re both thinking about how people handle power.

First, our students reflected on the way Jafar (the villan) sought out limitless power in the movie. We reflected on him being too greedy and forgetting that he is responsible to people other than himself.

What do you think would have happened if Jafar got all the power he wanted?

  • He would have made  a great big mess of everything and eventually weakened himself.
  • He would forget that there are people and forces more powerful than him.
  • He wouldn’t know what to do with all the power he had, and he needed to have a plan in mind of what to do with all the power.
  • Unchecked power like Jafar’s comes from greed. People want more and more and more and more power, endlessly, regardless of what that actually gets them.

Then we jumped into one of the most challenging texts we have studied together this year, written by Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan.

All unchecked power, all unending cruelty [for generations], that uses people as game pieces does not only hurt the recipients of the cruelty.  They also decrease the recipients’ tzelem Elohim (divine likeness) by denying their endless potential to live lives that are meaningful and holy.

We discussed the text one piece at a time and then put it all back together. First, we looked at the ways that individuals, our government, and our courts each serve as checks on power. Then we also talked through each of the bolded questions below.

What does it mean to use people as game pieces?

  • Mess around with them
  • Treat them harshly
  • Not caring about their thoughts or feelings
  • Pushing them around
  • Only interact with them to get what you want

How can someone’s tzelem Elohim decrease? What does that mean?

  • Ruin their reputation
  • Not let them be responsible for their own lives
  • Not let people do the things they love to do

 

Cycle:

  1. Unchecked power + Unending cruelty
  2. Means that we use people like game pieces
  3. Diminishes tzelem Elohim
  4. No lives that are meaningful and holy

What could we do instead?

  • We could replace this cycle of generational cruelty with generational kindness.
  • Increase tzedek by teaching it to your children. (We then connected this to the line of Shema that instructs us to teach our children about the commandments.)

 

Better Cycles

  1. Checked power + unending kindness
  2. Treat people fairly  and like human beings
  3. Increases tzelem Elohim
  4. Fulfilled potential

OR

  1. Checked power + tzedek
  2. Treat everyone equally
  3. Increases tzelem Elohim
  4. Holy and meaningful lives

We closed our conversation by brainstorming, “Right now, I am responsible for participating in the kindness cycle by…”

  • Calling out cruelty when I see it
  • Step out of the cycle—make a kinder choice, even if someone is cruel to me
  • Treat people the way I want to be treated

Wow! We can't wait to see what they'll teach us next. That was incredible. 

 

 

How do I love myself? When is that challenging?

We continued our unit on tzedek (justice) by unpacking what barriers to self-love might be. In particular, we were looking at the idea of loving ourselves from “Love your neighbor as you love yourself”, (Leviticus 19:18). During snacktime learning, we watched a short film titled “Just Breathe ”https://youtu.be/RVA2N6tX2cg. In this film, children explain different strategies for feeling better when they are feeling disappointed or angry. Afterwards we discussed our own strategies for making ourselves feel better when we are disappointed or angry.

Some thoughts our students shared:

“I get angry at myself when I am angry at other people for no reason, and then I stop being upset at other people by taking a deep breath.”

“I get upset when I do poorly on a test in school, but then it empowers me to work harder for the next one.”

“I distract myself to get out of a bad loop.”

“I make myself feel better by drawing in my mental coloring book.”

We continued on to explore ways that we love ourselves.

Some thoughts our students shared:

 “I love myself by doing a good job in something.”

“Loving other people and giving them a treat is loving myself.”

“If you love someone else for who they are, then you love yourself because you feel good.”

“Loving someone else when they are hard to love is loving ourselves because we are never giving up.”

During shulcanot avodah, we continued on with the themes of loving ourselves and loving others. We made our own lists of top ten ways that we love others. We also created warm and fuzzies for our friends at Makom Community by writing kind and loving messages on cards. To practice being kind to ourselves we listened to a guided meditation from Sitting Still Like a Frog called “Dealing with Unpleasant Emotions”.

This week and next week we are celebrating the month of Adar and Purim with fun, food and games. Stay tuned!

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