Makom Community’s Ongoing Torah Story

Makom Community’s Ongoing Torah Story

Our Makom Community Torah tells a story. The physical Torah scroll that we are so lucky to have and use at Makom Community, has been on a journey to get to where it is today, and looking at it, you can tell. When we received this Torah from our friends and neighbors up at Beth Sholom in Elkins Park. It was pasul (unfit for use in, for instance, a Shabbat morning Torah service). Beverly brought it to Linda Coppelson, a fabulous soferet (scribe) in northern New Jersey, who cleared up some words that weren’t so visible anymore, repaired some tears and frays in the parchment, and fixed up the atzei chaim (wooden rollers to which the scroll is attached). In early January, Linda visited us at Makom, and our learners got to hear first hand from her a bit of the story of a soferet and of the life of our personal Torah scroll. You can read about this experience here.

Our fully repaired Torah scroll needed clothes and a home. Several years ago, the first group of Anafim (5th-7th graders, our BMitzvah cohort) designed and created a new aron (ark) for our Torah to live in. Their design and process was rooted in the text, Genesis 28:26, they were learning at the time, and supported by artist experts, family, and community members. Our Torah was still dressed in the traditional velvet cover that it came in from Beth Sholom. 

Over three years later, with our most recent curriculum unit on the Power of Communication and the story of the first public Torah reading from the book of Nehemiah, a group of learners was able to redesign and recreate our Torah’s cover. Each kiddo designed a rectangle of fabric to be quilted together into a new Torah cover. They considered the question of how we can use our unique voices to transmit Torah across our community and generations, following in the footsteps of Nehemiah. With the help of educators, each learner chose a Jewish Text that they felt connected to and wanted to share with others. Their work reflected on 21 different quotes of text from Makom curricula going back three years. Many of our learners have been learning with Makom during the last three years. After unpacking their text and planning how they wanted to visually represent it, learners used fabric, felt, paints, markers, and embroidery to create their designs.

When we talk about Torah, we might mean a physical scroll, or the stories inside it, or the full canon of Jewish text, or the broad expanse of Jewish wisdom. As one parent suggested at the Showcase presentation of the new Torah cover, we might also mean any unique wisdom a person has to teach others. Another parent suggested that Torah can also contain an aspect of l’dor vador, a generational reinterpretation and reimagining of more traditional senses of Torah, the continuous process of figuring out what this has to do with me, what I can add to it, how I can teach it to my kids.

At the Showcase on Wednesday, January 31, Shorashim (1st-2nd graders) and Nitzanim (3rd-4th graders) got to share some Torah with their grownups demonstrating their unique voices, ideas, interests, and skills. Grownups got to reflect with their kiddos on some of the Torah and wisdom they pass down in their families. At the end, grownups also had the opportunity to write a word or two of their family’s personal wisdom in some blank spots on the Torah cover. Now our Torah is dressed in the wisdom and art of our community and families. The cover tells the next chapter in the story of our Torah’s journey through the world. We’re so excited to create more installments of our Torah’s story together as our community moves and grows into our next chapter in a new space.

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