Vandalized Jewish after-school center uses it as a way to spread peace and build community

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A Jewish after-school center in Center City Philadelphia was the target of vandalism over the weekend and the director is using it as a learning opportunity.

Vandals spray-painted the message “Free Palestine” on the front window of Makom Community, located at 20th and Sansom streets.

The executive director of Makom, Beverly Socher-Lerner, later covered it up with a message that read “We all deserve Peace & Safety! Happy Chanukah! Let your light shine!”

“For the kids and for our staff to be honest, to come in and hear that there had been graffiti on our building was really surprising because for the kids who come here after school this is a really important safe place,” Socher-Lerner said. “To feel like maybe somebody wanted to indicate that maybe it wasn’t a safe place for them to be, was really distressing.”

Socher-Lerner said they overcame that by centering their values: human dignity and community.

She said while the vandalism was a surprise when they came in, through the help of the community they were able to clean off the spray-paint and in its place hang up a sign that made sure when the kids came in they knew it was still that safe place.

“Even though they were surprised when they came in yesterday, by the time they left I think they really felt held by Philadelphia as a city and by Makom as their community,” Socher-Lerner said.

Makom is an enrichment center for children aged 5-12 and Socher-Lerner said these types of issues are things that they are constantly talking about as they come up and discussing ways they can be allies and spread peace.

Following the vandalism over the weekend, Makom posted on social media about the support from the community.

Socher-Lerner said many family members showed up to help paint the sign.

“At the end of the day, kids and families feeling safe is the top priority of our community,” Socher-Lerner said. “For us from a place of Jewish values we want to be really clear that what we have to say is that human dignity is the place where all of this starts.”

Makom Community was vandalized during Sunday night’s Pro-Palestine “protests” in Center City where hundreds of pro-Palestinian supporters marched through Center City and gathered outside of a Jewish-owned restaurant.

Police have not yet revealed if the vandals were part of the same groups that protested outside of Goldie.

No arrests have been made and police continue to review surveillance footage. If you have any information on the vandalism, please call or text the PPD tipline at 215-686-TIPS (8477).

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