What is the importance of the mitzvah of giving tzedakah?

We continued our unit on tzedek (justice) by exploring the mitzvah (commandment) of tzedakah (charity) We dug deeper into the texts of the Talmud which sparked several conversations, ideas, and opinions about what a mitzvah  is and the importance of giving tzedakah. During snacktime learning, we explored Maimonides' eight levels of tzedakah. We discussed how giving a little of what you can is better than giving a lot and expecting something in return. We also explored how our actions are important and represent who we are. We read aloud the text “We are required to be more careful in fulfilling in the mitzvah of tzedakah than any other mitzvah because tzedakah represents the righteous person (tzadik), the descendent of Avraham our forefather” Maimonides, laws and gifts to the poor 10:1

Here is how our students responded to those ideas:

*You have to give a little to give a lot, give a little with lots of generosity.

*God will do good things for you as soon as your start doing good yourself.

*It’s nice to not expect things in return.

*If you have a lot to give, give it!

*It’s hard to put yourself in someone else’s shoes but if they are in need, help them.

*It’s important to give tzedakah because someday your children and grandchildren may need it.

*Be careful of who you give your tzedakah to.

In shulcahnot avodah, we enjoyed a variety of activities that related to mitzvot and tzedakah. In relation to our discussion on tzedakah, we created our very own tzedakah boxes. The boxes came out beautifully! Students had the chance to imagine that they were sitting on city council and they were in charge of deciding how $100,000 was to be divided to food, housing, health care, job training, and other services.

Stay tuned for next week’s post about Purim and tzedek. We can wait to hear the wise ideas our students develop next.

Making Mezuzot!

Last week we had three exciting half-day camps. It was a fun change in our normal schedule to be at Makom Community for more immersive time together. Our themes and activities this week included Arthur (the TV show), getting ready for Shabbat and Israeli art. During our Israeli art day we invited students from Temple Beth Zion Beth Israel (BZBI) to join us here at Makom Community for a delightful afternoon of mezuzah making. Beverly opened up the project with an enriching learning piece where we discussed the meaning and symbolism of a mezuzah, the prayers it relates to as we listed different ways that we show love to each other. We prepared ourselves for mezuzah making with an understanding that a mezuzah in our doorway is a reminder to carry the loving words of Torah with us everywhere we go.

 

Then, we got to making our mezuzot! We used upcycled markers cases and model magic to make our own unique mezuzah. The students did a beautiful job decorating and creating together. Each student received their very own kosher mezuzah scroll rolled it up into the empty marker then covered it was model magic. Each child’s creative decoration was so personalized and thoughtful! It was such a joy to collaborate on this Israel camp day with BZBI, with the support of the Israeli Art and Culture grant from the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. We are looking forward to many more Israeli themed camp days in the future as part of this collaborative project with BZBI, specifically two in March and April! Stay tuned!

Hate Evil? Love Good?

How does a person hate evil? How does a person love well?  This week we continued our unit on Tzedek-Justice. We started the week by establishing justice and welcoming everyone into Makom Community by practicing good discussion, infused with intentional listening and sharing our own ideas. During snacktime learning, we studied a text from Amos and discussed the importance of loving good and hating evil. “Hate evil and love good, And establish justice in the gate”Amos 5:15

Many of our students had some touching ideas of what this looked like.

*If you are good, you hate evil and you are making a peaceful environment

*You hate evil by being nice to the world.

*When you let all communities come together you are loving well.

*You can help someone who makes a bad a mistake.

*Justice is the same as freedom; hate evil, love good.

 

During Shulchanot Avodah, we explored more ways to express our love for the world. We read Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids which related to our discussion of Amos. In this book, we read about how we can spread love and kindness wherever we go. We continued on to brainstorm our own ways that we can fill other people’s imaginary buckets through our own actions.

Next, we focused on learning three new melodies to the prayer Lo Yisa Goy it is now becoming a popular tune to sing around here, just like Mah Tovu! We created art with own peace glasses and depicted what our peaceful version of the world would look like through our own imaginary glasses. In our shulchan ivrit, we played aleph-bet bingo, which was a lot of fun! We also created our own prophetic rants which proved that our students have some fantastic ideas of how to shape our world and make it into a better place.

 

Tzedek Justice!

Who is holy? What is justice? How do we go after justice?

This week we began our unit on tzedek (justice)! We began with a discussion of what we thought holiness is and what it means to be holy. A lot of students had varying opinions of what they thought holiness was.

  • Helping people in need
  • Being nice to our friends and family
  • Finding God in everyone.

We explored the idea that there is holiness in everyone, we just have to find it.

During snacktime learning, we read the book Hanukkah Cookies with Sprinkles which is a story of a little girl who helps a man in need in her community. We dove deep into ideas of giving Tzedakah (giving that makes the world more just) and doing tzedek (justice) work. Our students had so many wonderful ideas:

  • Donating to schools
  • Inviting someone over for Shabbat dinner
  • Donating food to a food pantry.

We even learned about several organizations in our area that practice Tzedek work these included Philabundance, HIAS and Project Home.

On Wednesday, we brainstormed about ways the world is unjust, how we can we fix it, and whether it is permanent or not. Topics that came up were President Trump, Pollution, Gun Violence and Lying. The students came up with some astounding ideas and arguments about how we can fix and solve these problems with Tzedek.  We read aloud the text Tzedek Tzedek tirdof  (Justice, Justice, chase after it!) from  Deuteronomy 16:20. After looking at most of the injustices our students noticed in the world and realizing that many of them can be handled momentarily but not permanently, we explored ways that pursuing justice (even if it isn’t completed) help us to live and to contribute to our world. At Makom Community, we always think that Torah is about our day to day lives. We are finding that this tzedek until is applying in especially powerful ways.

  

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Pursuing Justice Today

צֶ֥דֶק צֶ֖דֶק תִּרְדֹּ֑ף לְמַ֤עַן תִּֽחְיֶה֙
Pursue and chase after justice, that you may live. –Deuteronomy 16:20
 
For the next eight weeks, we embark on a journey with our students to explore Jewish concepts around justice. And it couldn’t feel more timely. Our students come in from school daily with questions about justice in their worlds—both at school and about what they are hearing from the news.
 
And we must be clear. Jewish tradition offers us a compass for intensely challenging moments like these. We are to “pursue and chase after justice, so we can live,” (Deuteronomy 16:20).  This is no easy task. Our world can always be made more just, and Jewish tradition invigorates us with life by setting a task that is never complete.
 
The process of pursuing justice is our mandate as members of the Jewish community. When we are not sure what to do or how to react to our changing leadership and policies, we pursue justice, and we teach our children to do the same.
 
Every day, before we sing the prayer Mi Kamocha in Tfilah, we recount our ancestors transformation from a disorganized cohort of slaves into the Jewish people. Our redemption began when “…the Children of Israel cried out because of the [harshness of] their work, and their cry went up to God. God heard their cry, and God knew” (Exodus 3:23-24). When we realized there was a problem, we cried out. Only after the people noticed their plight and cried out could God set the stage for plagues, redemption, and Exodus.
 
And now, it is our moment to cry out and to continue our constant quest for justice: A version of justice that recognizes all of humanity is created in the Divine image and expects our government to treat all people, citizens, immigrants, and refugees, with true reverence for that divinity.
 
Makom Community invites you to cry out with us against injustice. We invite you to engage in the holy work of bringing more justice to our world as we love our neighbors and teach our children that love, justice, and the essential holiness of people are core Jewish values.
 
At Makom Community, we stand together in educating our children for a more just world. We are deeply concerned about the executive orders, early policies, policy promises, and appointments coming from our new administration. With so many of our families’ stories rooted in our own immigration to the United States, the Executive Order barring immigration from seven majority-Muslim nations is especially concerning. We cannot and will not ignore faith-based discrimination. We stand in solidarity with our Muslim neighbors, who should never be afraid in their homes, on the street, or in school. We will continue to support you in every way we can. We will continue to instill in our children a moral compass that helps them know when to stand up, speak up, and cry out for justice for the Jewish community, their Muslim, LGBT, immigrant, and people of color friends, and anyone who is victimized.
 

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Hebrew Intensive

Hello and Happy February! As the new month begins we started a new chapter of learning at Makom Community! We had our Hebrew Intensive week. We focused exclusively on Hebrew reading. Though our students know lots of Hebrew words and use them conversationally, this was an exciting way for them to focus on reading and writing skills. During snacktime learning we practiced with giant cut-out letters and read words together. We discussed the importance of Hebrew and examined the Torah text from Genesis in three different translations “And God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. They shall rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the cattle, the whole earth, and all the creeping things that creep on the earth.” After seeing how different the three translations were, our students understood that each translation is an interpretation. They now have a great sense of the value of studying text in Hebrew and creating their own understanding instead of just taking in someone else’s interpretation.

In Shulchanot Avodah, we had a variety of ways to play and practice with our Hebrew skills. We sang along to the aleph-bet song on YouTube while arranging the letters in order. This was a good vocal warm-up for our T’Filah! We practiced writing by tracing letters in both our notebooks and on the iPad. We also got to draw with the white boards and even write in Hebrew with shaving cream! To move our bodies around, we had Hebrew relay races. All in all, last week was a really helpful and fun way to focus on our Hebrew reading!  

Fabulous Fun at Winter Break Camps!

Welcome back and Happy 2017! Our 2016 Winter Break school’s out camp came and went by so quickly! Time really does fly when you’re having fun! It was a joy to see all the children shine in all of our experiences together. Trying to new things, learning, sharing, exploring and discovering new found passions were just some of the things that occurred during Winter Break Camp's.

While we did have some fabulous off site trips we also enjoyed a lot of in house fun here at Makom Community. The rain didn’t even get our way. We were too busy enjoying activities and playing inside! Our two in-house days included a talent show and cooking projects. Our campers showed off their talents in the talent show and everyone did such a fantastic job. I was thoroughly impressed to see all of the talent that we have here at Makom Community. And they were such a great audience for one another, too!

During our cooking day we made delicious pizza and cookies. In the evening, we went to the Rittenhouse Square Chanukah celebration to light Chanukah candles with a few hundred of our friends and neighbors.

Our trips included a trip to the Arden Theatre to see A Year with Frog and Toad, ice skating and a trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The campers really enjoyed all three of these trips. The best of the trips for me was definitely ice skating. The children seemed to really come out of their shells during ice skating and challenge themselves to build this new skill. They did such a phenomenal job skating that it was almost like they were pros all along!  

We made fantastic memories from magical moments during the week. Some of my favorite moments include meeting the actors of A Year with Frog and Toad, Seeing the kids perform in the talent show, our yummy homemade pizza and our tour on Israeli and Middle Eastern Art with an art educator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Overall, I would say that this Winter Break School’s out camp was one for the books. We hope that everyone had as great of a time as we did! We’re already hard at work on plans for snow day camps, President’s day, and Spring Break. Stay tuned for more information about that soon. If you haven’t already, please like us on Facebook and check out the whole album of pictures from winter break.  

 

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Freedom and Community

We just began a new unit on Hallel / Praise. We’re looking to a few different Jewish texts to think about how praise can help us notice, appreciate, and protect the best parts of the world around us.

These are some snippets of conversation from this week when we studied some of the birkhot hashar (morning blessings). The day of these conversations, we were studying these two brakhot (blessings) in-depth:
 

“Wow God! You gave me the opportunity to be part of the Jewish community.”

“Wow God! You created me a free person.”

 

We told our students to story from 20+ years ago of how Billings, Montana rose up as a community against white supremacist groups in their town as a way to think about how we freedom and being in community are so intertwined. To read more about that story, click here.

What communities are you a part of?
  • School
  • Driveway
  • Block
  • Sidewalk
  • Classroom
  • Makom Community
  • Synagogue
  • Ocean City Beach
  • Pool club
  • family
 
What do I do to stand up for people in my community?
  • Tell a bully that what they’re doing is wrong
  • Tell someone who is bullied that I see what’s happening
  • Tell an adult that you need help to protect a friend
  • Say, “What are you doing? That’s not right.” when I see someone hurting someone in my community
 
How do I contribute to the communities I’m a part of?
  • By being kind to the people in the community before me (“the people who own it”)
  • Respect what was built before I got here-- standards of behavior, brit
  • Take something that isn’t great about a community you’re a part of and change it

Do free people get to do whatever they want?

  • Yes! No one tells us what to do!
  • No! Being free means everyone gets what they need and does what they can. That’s not what’s happening yet. People wouldn’t have everything they need if they could do whatever they want.
  • No! Even adults have someone who tells them what to do-- bosses.
  • Yes! Free means not having big evil things in life like torture and hate. It’s not about someone telling you that you can’t have ice cream.
 
Who is not free?
  • Someone who is homeless-- less resources = less choices
  • Children- have parents and adults who make lots of choices for them
  • Parents- responsible for children, and that limits their lives
  • Animals- people use them for clothes and food
  • A prisoner- whether they are innocent or guilty

 

What am I free to do?

  • Help other people
  • Use it [freedom] wisely! Watch TV, but don’t get spoiled. Make sure your teacher doesn’t get mad if you get a bad grade
  • Play! Do things that bring me joy
  • Stand up for my friends. If I don’t, they could be locked in a cage of a bad situation.
  • Get what I need [not just what I want].
 
 

School's Out Camp! December 27-January 3

Winter is soon approaching and with that comes our fabulous Winter Break Camp days! We are so excited for this year’s camp days as we have some especially awesome and fun-filled days planned! Winter Break Camp will run December 27-January 3, for 4-10 year olds. Our Winter Break Camp includes 4 field trips and 2 jam-packed days right here at Makom! Registration is now open. www.makomcommunity.org/camps Camps are $70 each plus admission/ticket fees for our field trip days.  

As snowy weather approaches, remember that if the Philadelphia School District is closed, we’re open! Check your email and our facebook page for information about snow day camps.  

We look forward to having your child(ren) join us at Winter Break Camp 2016! Here’s a sneak peek of our camp days: 

Tuesday December 27 A Year with Frog and Toad at Arden Theatre +$25  

*We’ll buy tickets to the show on December 19th. If you would like to sign up for this camp day after that, please check with us to find out if we can get more tickets in our group. 

Wednesday December 28 Creative Cooking Fun Day and Hanukkah Celebration

Thursday December 29 “Makom on Broadway” A day of all things showbiz including a screening of the Movie “Annie” and The 1stAnnual Makom Community Talent Show! 

Friday December 30 Ice Skating and New Year’s Eve Party +$15 for Skating

Monday January 2 Trip to The Franklin Institute +$25 

Tuesday January 3  Israeli and Middle Eastern Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art +$15 

Space is limited, so please sign up soon to save a spot for your child(ren). If you have any questions, please contact Carlee, our new camp coordinator. carlee@makomcommunity.org 

 

Looking forward to winter break! 

Collaborative Fairytale from Shrek Camp

During our Shrek camp day, we created fairytale creatures and then wrote a FABULOUS story using all of their unique and special skills and talents. And each one's sense of humor got to shine through, too. 

Makom Community fairytale

Aliza: Aliza monster would be really good at helping if someone gets hurt.

Drew: Pizza Belly monster would eat all the pizza.  Also has a special pocket that can carry a lot of things and also is a magic wand that can open directly into his belly.

Remi: Structure of our fairytale – beginning all the monsters introduce themselves, middle problem, end solution.

Beverly: What if we start with the monsters at a club meeting and then someone comes in with a problem and all the monsters’ powers need to be combined to solve it?

Zoey: Wilgapolk monster is really nice.  She can transform into having a regular shirt, or a snake, or a man with a mustache and a beard – anything she wants.  She’s the treasurer at the club meeting because she has a lot of pockets.

Remi: Pumpkin monster on Halloween gets extra powers to scare away robbers by transforming into a jack-o-lantern.

Brody: Ploody monster can eat money to stop people from stealing it, and then she can take it out of herself to give it back to the people it belonged too.  It can actually do it with anything, even a baby, to save it.

_________________________

Hugger the monster stood up to start the Monster Club Meeting.  “Hello everyone!  I’m Hugger.  Welcome to the first meeting of the Monster Club!  I’m so glad you’re all here.  Please introduce yourselves so we can get ready for our mission.”

“Hi, my name is Aliza, and I can help anybody that gets hurt.  I have special things inside me that I can take out to help people.”

“Hello everybody,” said Wilgapolk in a vaguely British accent, “my name is Wilgapolk! My power is to transform or transfigurate into anything I want.  And I also have a lot of pockets, for your information.  I shall be the new treasurer this year.”

“My name is Pumpkin! And my power is that on Halloween, if someone tries to steal any candy or anything like that, I transform into a jack-o-lantern to scare them.  OK, everybody?”

“My name is Ploody.  And if someone tries to rob something I put it in my throat and I can take it out and track it with my tracker to give it back to the person that it’s from.”

“Hello, monsters.  My name is Pizza Belly.  I eat pizza!  My super power is, with a wand, I have a secret pocket inside me, and I use it to bring anything into my belly: pizza, bananas, and marshmallows, but mostly pizza.  And I eat pizza, everywhere I go, or else I throw up.”

Hugger said, “There’s this really big problem and I need your help.  I can’t solve this problem alone and it will take all of our strengths to do it.”

Aliza said, “Someone got hurt, and we have to help them!”

Wilgapolk offers, “I can transform into a bird to see where they are.  Where did it happen, Aliza?”

“Halt everything!” shouted Pumpkin, “I see a person crying over by the lake, and they’re almost rolling in there.  Come on, people, help, Help, HELP!”

“If the person that’s hurt has any money that someone stole then I can take it,” offers Ploody. “Where is it?”

“Wait! I see something!” exclaims Pizza Belly, “I see someone taking pizza from the pizza shop without asking!  And there’s a cat in the bag with the pizza!  We need to save that cat and my pizza right now!”

Hugger looks desperate.  “What can we do?!”

Aliza turns to Wilgapolk and asks, “Can you fly me over to the lake to help me save the person there?”

“Yes, my dear, I can turn into an owl and you can tell me where to go.  You can be my GPS.”

“Hey Ploody!  Hey Pizza Belly!” cries Pumpkin.  “Do you want to come to the pizza shop with me to stop the pizza robber? I can carry the cat, Ploody, you can carry the money, and Pizza Belly can take the pizza.”

Ploody agrees, “OK!” and opens the window for Wilgapolk and Aliza to fly out to the lake.

Pizza Belly sees the robber take the pizza, the money, and the cat into a car to drive away.  “Let’s go get that pizza back now before it’s all gone!  Like now, people!”

Aliza and Wilgapolk arrive at the lake.  Aliza approaches the person there and says, “What happened?  How did you get hurt?”

The person answers, “My name is Goo-Ga.  The robber who stole the pizza, the money, and the cat also took my car.  And the cat cut me while it was trying to get away.”

Wilgapolk says, “I think Aliza has a first aid kit in her compartment.  She’ll help you get better.” Aliza and Wilgapolk administer first aid to Goo-Ga and then they are all better.

Pumpkin gets to the pizza shop and puts on her googly eyes, nose, and mouth and jumps out in front of the robber’s car.  “I’m coming to haunt you!”  The robber got so scared that he dropped the money, and the cat, and the pizza, and ran away.  Ploody ate the money to keep it safe.

Then Pizza Belly said, “How about my lucky Knuffle Bunny, I’m going to send him to fart on the robber so he’s gone for good.  And then I’m going to take the pizza, put it in my stomach, and take it back to the shop, so everything is safe.  Now our mission is all done!”

HURRAY FOR THE MONSTERS!

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