Working for Tzedek with the Makom Community Brit

Working for Tzedek with the Makom Community Brit

At the end of our first unit of learning at Makom Community, we conclude with painting our brit (two-way promise) on the wall. Kiddos always have so much fun painting directly on the wall, but it’s also a good time to reflect on how we conduct ourselves while at Makom Community, and in the world as a whole. This year, our first unit was about Working for Tzedek (justice). Living through this election season has provided us with an excellent context to dig into Jewish texts about tzedek. We’ve had a lot to reflect on about how we want to treat each other and live our lives.

3rd graders leading their parents in text study on zoom

Unlike in past years when we’ve made one brit for all of Makom Community to use together, the extra separateness due to Covid 19 compelled us to create a separate brit for each classroom. Our brit construction projects consisted of two components: physical form and content. Each class discussed what physical symbol most readily represented tzedek or the texts from the unit for them. Those symbols became the backgrounds for our britot:

  • The Garinim (preK and K kiddos) settled on a representation of the Ohel Mo’ed (the Tent of Meeting where Moshe often went to confer with God) with a big heart inside and a pillar of cloud on top. Bnei Yisrael (the Jewish people) regularly turned to their leaders and to God for guidance about how to best pursue justice in their community. Similarly, we have our brit to turn to for guidance.
  • The Shorashim (1st and 2nd graders) chose the outline of a big, open hand. Over the last few months, this class has been using hand shapes to help them track the wonderful, helpful, kind choices they notice each other making.
  • The Nitzanim (3rd-4th graders) opted for a set of balanced scales with a flame on top. The classmates in Nitzanim feel that they balance each other out. They have different strengths and weaknesses, and their class wouldn’t be complete without any one of them. Much like a ner tamid (everlasting light above an ark where a Torah is stored), the flame on top is always lit. As long as the flame is lit, we will continue to work towards tzedek, both in the classroom and in our day-to-day lives. 

Joint tefilah (prayer) between 2nd and 1st graders

The teachers drew or taped outlines of these shapes on our classroom walls in preparation for kiddos to get painting. Each kid got a taped section of their brit shape to paint however they wished. As sections filled in, kids later in line, painted their part to bring all the bits together with color and texture. Some kids chose to paint the designs that they had suggested for the brit background (ex: a fancy letter B, dinosaur bones) into their section. It was beautiful to witness each kid’s unique ideas and input come together as we removed the tape. 

For the content portion, we turned to each text or story that we’ve learned so far this year and asked, “What lesson can we take from this story about how we want to treat each other at Makom Community?” In that way, each class created a list of guidelines to help us learn and feel safe and loved here. We went through each item on our brainstorm lists and discussed whether it made sense, was necessary, or could be rephrased. We made sure every kid was either happy or neutral about each one before moving on. Here are the fabulous britot our learners created:

PreK, K, and 1st graders paint on their brit

Garinim – At Makom Community We:

  • Are kind with our words and our actions.
  • Have fun.
  • Trust each other and are trustworthy.
  • Pay attention to each other’s feelings, bodies, and needs.
  • Get to be ourselves and love each other for it.
  • Include everyone.
  • Make choices that keep each other safe.
  • Try our best every day, sometimes make mistakes, and then calm down and try again.
  • Speak up when something isn’t right.
  • Ask for help when we need it and offer help when we can give it.

First and second graders painting their brit background

Shorashim – At Makom Community We:

  • Respect feelings.
  • Are kind.
  • Listen when others are talking.
  • Apologize.
  • Give 2nd chances.
  • Take space.
  • Ask for help.
  • Support each other.
  • Use our words.
  • Use our bodies in a healthy way.
  • Create and clean up.
  • Help rebuild.

Nitzanim – At Makom Community We: 

  • Treat others the way they want to be treated.
  • Use one voice at a time.
  • Keep our masks on.
  • Treat people who make mistakes with kindness.
  • Keep our hands to ourselves.
  • Respect what others ask us to do.
  • Share our ideas.
  • Let someone know if they’ve made a mistake.
  • Apologize if we’ve made a mistake that affects someone else.
  • Have fun in a safe way.

While these britot do get painted on the wall, they are living documents. We will adjust them as we see fit if we discover that they aren’t helping us as much as we need them to. We will be keeping our britot in mind as we transition to online and outdoor learning, ready to update them as necessary for those new environments!

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