Makom to Hold Second Annual Conference


Makom Community, a Jewish enrichment center for children, will host its second annual conference from Aug. 8-10 to lead training in their pedagogy of Jewish placemaking.

Fifty to 70 attendees from more than 20 educational and religious organizations will attend the virtual conference, funded in part by two grants from the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, in hopes of finding ways to apply Jewish placemaking to their religious and after-school programs.

Makom Community provides after-school programs, b’nai mitzvah training and summer camps to children from pre-kindergarten through seventh grade in Center City Philadelphia through the lens of this pedagogy, which emphasizes the application of Jewish texts to how children move through their lives and interact with others.

Beverly Socher-Lerner (center) is Makom Community founding director and conference co-organizer. | Courtesy of Makom Community

“It brings our engagement with Jewish wisdom and with Jewish texts into our physical space,” said Beverly Socher-Lerner, Makom’s founding director and conference co-organizer. “It gives kids and families lots of agency to be interpreters of Jewish tradition.”

Among the conference attendees is Beth Tikvah-B’nai Jeshurun in Erdenheim. According to synagogue Rabbi Roni Handler, the conference will help inform how the synagogue’s after-school religious school program can instill even more joyful engagement in Jewish learning. The religious school transitions from an online to an in-person format next year.

“We all needed to take a step back over the last 18 months or so and really look at what we’re doing and why we’re doing it,” Handler said. “As we start to put the pieces back together, I don’t want to just go back to what was because that’s what we’ve always done.”

The conference, which will take place three hours per day over three days, differs from its first iteration last summer.

Though both conferences are remote over Zoom, last year, Jewish educational organizations shared how they were navigating programming over the pandemic year, and the conference wasn’t centered around Jewish placemaking consistently.

Gaby Marantz (right), Makom Community’s Jewish enrichment lead educator, co-organized the conference with Socher-Lerner. | Courtesy of Makom Community

This year, Makom will provide the conference’s entire curriculum and program, focusing on applying the pedagogy to in-person teaching and learning. Makom Community also hopes to learn from this year’s conference cohort what challenges and successes they have encountered when designing and executing educational programming. In this way, Makom hopes to learn from its attendees and mirror the bi-directional learning environment it hopes to instill in its students.

“We always approach our educational interactions as just that — as an interaction — and less like a top-down funnel,” said Gaby Marantz, Makom’s Jewish enrichment lead educator and conference co-organizer.

Additionally, through an accelerator funded by the Jewish Federation, a handful of organizations who participate in the conference will be able to follow-up with Makom through monthly seminars and coaching sessions to help reinforce the conference’s teachings.

The conference begins in conjunction with the opening of Makom’s new South Philadelphia location, which opens next week at 1505 S. 13th St. Makom serves almost 50 children between its after-school programs and b’nai mitzvah training at its Sansom Street location. Already more than a dozen families are enrolled in programming at the new location.

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