Just down the street from the outdoor manger scene featuring live animals in front of an Old City church, the National Museum of American Jewish History was hosting its annual "Being Jewish at Christmas" event.

There were no toys, just plenty of oys. No live animals brayed (if you don't count the revelers who should avoid singing careers) and no pious Jews prayed, though some of the festivities were in the attached Mikveh Israel synagogue on Fourth Street between Market and Arch Streets.

An estimated 600 people turned out yesterday simply to have fun with family and friends on a day when there isn't much to do if you don't celebrate Yuletide.

That's why the museum has held "Being Jewish at Christmas" for more than 20 years, said museum spokesman Jay Nachman.

"Just the fact that there aren't things to do on Christmas - so many things are closed, and here's an activity people can do," Nachman said. "It's a way for the Jewish community to come together and celebrate our own culture."

Gwen Goodman, the museum's executive director emerita, said organizers had noticed through the years that the demographics of the event have been changing.

"In the last few years, we have geared it more toward younger children. We have more and more younger families coming with children up to 8 years old," she said.

"I want some jumping, I want some clapping, I want some fuuuuuuuun," shouted Jon Nelson, whose Rockin' Kids Review band had come from Rhode Island. Then, Nelson, with another electric guitar player and the drummer, piled into a rollicking version of "I've Been Working on the Railroad."

Yarmulkes (Jewish skullcaps) bobbed all over the room as generations danced and sang along, and parents paused periodically to snap photos of their children posing with the grandparents.

"How many of you have heard of Jewish rock?" Nelson asked next.

"How many of you have been to Israel?"

Dozens of arms went up, and the dancing began anew as Nelson's group rocked all ages.

Then, comedic juggler Michael Rosman of Baltimore took the stage. He asked for a volunteer from the audience to sit on his shoulders while he rode his unicycle.

Noah Ufberg, 4, of Wynnewood, complied and was hoisted up.

"I have three rules," Rosman told the audience and the boy he was carrying. Don't leave the stage without warning, no screaming in his ear, and no, well, accidents.

"You're allowed to say 'whee!' You're not allowed to go wee," he told Noah.

When asked if his ride atop a juggling comic atop a unicycle was fun, Noah's wide smile provided the answer he could not muster in words.

From 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., the Rockin' Kids Review, Rosman, and Philadelphia science entertainer Ken Fink of a group called Wondergy repeated their performances.

"What I love about it is it gives us something meaningful and fun to do with the family that's more interactive than going to a movie and eating Chinese food," said Joysa Winter, 38, a student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote.

She was at the museum with husband Aaron Rosenbloom, who wore a T-shirt boasting "Real Men Marry Rabbis," and their 17-month-old daughter, Adiel.

"I think in our society, people work so much. Most everyone is off today. People want to spend time with their kids," Winter said.

Back in the synagogue, the rock band was plugged in and playing again. Parents and kids sang along to "I'm a Believer," while in one of the sanctuary seats, a miracle had occurred: A man seemed to be sleeping amid the music and mayhem.

Elah Perelman, 7, of Philadelphia, was wide awake and enjoying the entertainment so much that she could not decide which act was her favorite - though juggler Rosman was enthusiastically pointing to himself.

The girl, not easily swayed, replied: "I think I like it all."

Next year, the museum expects to hold its Dec. 25 event at its new building on the east side of Independence Mall.

About $120 million has been raised toward a goal of $150 million for construction of the five-story building and an endowment. The facility is slated to open in November.

Contact staff writer Carolyn Davis at 215-854-4214 or cdavis@phillynews.com.