In the 1980s, inventor and activist Florence Zacks Melton envisioned a comprehensive program of Jewish learning for adults.
Today, The Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning is the largest adult Jewish education network in the world, with 50 Melton communities across the U.S., Canada, Australia and South Africa.
Through professionally developed curriculum, interactive classes and close study of Jewish texts and ideas that are relevant to their lives, the program seeks to nurture learning and Jewish community around the world.
Rabbi Brad Levenberg teaches a popular class for Melton students at Temple Sinai. One of the major draws, he says, is the location. “Whether it’s because they live closer to Sinai than to another Melton location or just that they enjoy coming to Sinai to learn, folks tend to appreciate having a Melton class in their spiritual home,” Levenberg said.
Convenience and accessibility is another. Temple Sinai staff and leadership “intentionally plan the classes when we believe they will be most accessible to our students,” he said.
“The current iteration builds off of Rabbi Kranz’s very popular Tuesday morning slot. Following his retirement, we filled the time with Melton classes, as we knew that the format would resemble the class that Rabbi Kranz taught and would still enable learners who had committed to adult learning to continue a familiar routine at a time that was already built into their schedule.
“We chose similarly when holding classes aimed at Temple Sinai Preschool parents; we offered classes just after preschool drop off which would conclude in time for students to have lunch and then pick up their children.”
Students enjoy learning alongside their fellow congregants. “The conversational and communal nature of the class enables people to get to know fellow congregants whom they are likely to see at other Sinai functions,” Levenberg explained.
Over the years, he has seen the Melton curriculum continue to evolve in order to remain relevant for students. “While the style remains the same — traditional texts in conversation with contemporary thinkers on a particular subject matter — the depth of understanding of those texts continues to impress,” Levenberg said. “I am always excited when Melton comes out with a new curriculum and find myself eagerly anticipating the impact it will have on the lives of students and their understanding of Judaism.”
Melton student Linda Bachmann has been enjoying the program for many years. “Attending a Melton class is almost a given part of my weekly routine,” she says.
Bachmann’s adult learning journey began in 2006, with the introductory two-course Melton curriculum at the MJCCA: Rhythms of Jewish Living and Ethics of Jewish Living.
“A group of us attending the class registered together year after year. We called ourselves Rashi’s Daughters – and enjoyed weekly lunches following the classes for years,” Bachmann said.
“When we completed those first two years, we called the next level of selections our ‘graduate courses’ – the Palestinian/Israeli Conflict, Comparative Religion, Jewish Humor, Jews in America and anything taught by the engaging and energetic Shelly Buxbaum. The Cairo Genizah and Salons of Europe come to mind.”
Bachmann continued the program at Temple Sinai on Tuesday mornings with Craig Perry, Rabbi Brad Levenberg and Rabbi Natan Trief. The virtual Zoom courses, she says, “continued to be a Tuesday morning highlight – and connection to something normal.”
She stores the huge blue binders and pages of Xeroxed Melton lessons in various folders in her cabinet, along with more current paperback books.
“I often joke that I could take some of the courses over and over again, both because some of the details are hard to remember, and because my own experiences and perspectives are always changing,” she says.
“I am so grateful for the Melton foundation and, of course, our local team of instructors. It’s a privilege to learn and grow in such an encouraging, welcoming atmosphere. Jewish lifelong learning at its finest.”
- Susanne Katz Karlick
- Florence Zacks Melton
- Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning
- Jewish Education
- Rabbi Brad Levenberg
- Temple Sinai Atlanta
- Rabbi Kranz
- Linda Bachmann
- Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta
- Palestinian/Israeli Conflict
- Comparative Religion
- Jewish Humor
- Jews in America
- Rabbi Natan Trief