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Makom

Makom is a place to explore Judaism and Jewish values, to consider who we are and how we can make a difference in our community and world.  (*The Hebrew word “Makom” means place and also is one of the names for God.)

Our program is designed for students to be learning concurrent with SAJ’s main Shabbat services so that parents could attend services or other community conversations, while children learn Jewish living in Jewish time. We affectionately call this a “Shul/School.”

Makom typically meets weekly on Shabbat/ Saturdays (10am-12pm).

If you are interested in learning more, or experiencing a tour of Makom,  please call Debra Fricano, Director of Education and Family Engagement at 212-724-7000 x 15 or email debra@saj.nyc

Program Overview for 2022-2023

  • Babies through 4 year old with a grownup: Shabbat “Pela” (a play on the word “pele” meaning wonder), joyful music, movement, puppetry, and storytime.
  • (New) Kindergarten and 1st Grade: What is part of the Jewish world? We begin to learn Hebrew phrases and daily greetings, Jewish holidays, Torah stories, and blessings, through experiences, especially those focused on our senses.
  • 2nd -3rd Grade: What does it mean to be part of a Jewish family? We begin to learn ethical values, holiday rituals, interact with Torah stories, and expand our awareness of cultures around the world. We use many modalities including art, drama, music, discussion, and writing, to connect with each other and our tradition.
  • 4th-5th Grades: What does it mean to be part of a Jewish community? We grapple with the characters from our Torah text,  relate to our inherited traditions to create new rituals.  Formally begin learning how to read Hebrew, and introduce the formal structure of Tefilah/Jewish prayer.
  • 6th Grades: What does it mean to be part of the modern Jewish world?  Students learn about Jewish history, and the evolution of traditions and rituals. Consider issues of social justice, and have critical thinking conversations.  As they learn about traditional rituals, and the values behind them, they continue to explore how they own their Judaism as modern Americans.
  • 7th Grades.  What does it mean to think about the future of (my) Jewish life?  Students examine the areas that are still evolving with reconstructionist Judaism, with a focus on celebrating all genders and sexualities, adaptation of rituals, authentic G!d conversation.  We also dive into political activist history, hugging and wrestling with the State of Israel, and how to give back to the synagogue community and the world.  Students will support each other at their respective B*Mitzvah ceremonies.
  • 8th grade+  Join the Teen Program, which includes social events, field trips, learning, community service and (optional/additional) working/volunteering in the Makom classrooms as “Teen Assistants.”

“While we live downtown — with 11 synagogues in walking distance — we chose to join SAJ because we love SAJ’s warm and welcoming community. SAJ is a perfect fit for our diverse family and our two boys love Makom, the Jewish learning program.”

Aaron F.

Core Elements of MAKOM 2022-2023

Shirah/Music : In Grades K-3, students sing each week with a Shirah/music teacher. The music, in English and simple Hebrew, includes popular songs they may recognize if they were to enter other progressive Jewish spaces, as well as new artists who reflect our Reconstructionist values. Students are also exposed to some of the liturgical songs. Periodically all grades come together as a whole congregation for “Community Shir” singalong in the Sanctuary, led by Cantor Lisa. 

Tefilah/prayer: Grades 4-7, every week students learn Tefilah/prayer with a teacher.  As a ritual gift, students are given their own copy of Kol Hanshema, the Reconstructionist Siddur.  Tefilah/prayer is a setting for setting a mindful intention for the day, discuss core spiritual concepts, as well as learn Hebrew, and how to participate in and eventually lead a Sanctuary service. 

Ivrit/Hebrew: Learning Hebrew vocabulary is an opportunity to directly access understanding of Jewish texts, to connect with Jewish people around the world, and to practice critical thinking skills.  In grades K-3, students are exposed to Hebrew phrases in daily living and holidays.  Starting in 4th grade, students participate in a one-on-one Zoom/Skype based Hebrew tutoring program at another time during the week of your choosing. This program allows students to study SAJ approved curriculum at their own pace, at a time that works best for their schedule. Beginning approximately 9 months before the B*Mitzvah (in 6th or 7th grade), students transition to working with Cantor Lisa and a B*mitzvah tutoring team, to learn trope and the Torah portion.  Our team will work with your child to identify which prayers they will lead at the B*Mitzvah service, to feel confident and have a meaningful experience. 

Talmud Torah/study: We expose students to a diverse array of Jewish texts in order to understand how Judaism has come to be, and to see their role in shaping our Jewish future. Throughout their years at Makom, students will have access to and will explore Torah, Prophets, Mishnah, Talmud, Medieval Philosophy and Mysticism, modern and contemporary texts. 

Values of inclusivity

Our curriculum is centered around middot/virtues and universal human ethics that we can explore through Hebrew language, inspirational Jewishly sourced stories, and meaningful holiday rituals.  For example, Hakarat HaTov” acknowledging the good, and “Betzelem Elohim / Kavod” seeing the Divine Image in others, and giving respect. 

 Listen to some of Middot themed songs: 

Hallelujah” by Rick Recht                Betzelem Elohim” by Dan Nichols 

SAJ strives to be actively anti-racist, and with guidance by several organizations of Jews of color, are working to make our curriculum to better reflect these values.  We teach about Mizrahi and Sephardic culture as well as Ashkenazi culture. We use children’s books and videos that show people of color, and we talk about modern social justice applications of Jewish values, including Black Lives Matter. 

SAJ is a safe space for LGBTQ+ and strives to celebrate all genders and sexualities. We are supported by Keshet to make our curriculum and administrative processes reflect these values.  We have calendar events that celebrate Pride, and use children’s’ books that show diverse family structures.  We talk about the heteronormative challenges in Jewish tradition, and participate in the innovations of Jewish ritual.

If you have questions or want to join an upcoming tour, please call Debra Fricano, our Director of Education and Family Engagement at 212-724-7000 x 15 or email debra@saj.nyc

To receive your family’s personal enrollment link, please contact Rachel Bitterfield, rachel@saj.nyc, our Synagogue Office Administrator.

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