The Florence Melton Adult Mini-School is becoming The Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning.
The new name recognizes the woman behind the vision articulated 32 years ago: to create high-quality, meaningful Jewish learning for adults. Florence understood that unless adults were engaged in a powerful and substantive learning experience, the community would suffer a dearth of leaders, families would be missing the Jewish values to help them make the right choices, and the Jewish people would be threatened by an identity crisis. In her original proposal, she described the need to “address ourselves to a massive effort to match the special needs of Jewish adults in bold and creative ways never attempted before.”
For this determined entrepreneur, the inventor of comfy slippers and shoulder pads, the “Mini-School” was Florence’s marketing genius at work. In her new book, Reinventing Adult Jewish Learning, Dr. Betsy Katz, former North American Director of the Melton Mini-School, describes Florence’s reasoning: “Participating in a two-year program could be very intimidating. By calling it a ‘mini-school’ it’s less frightening.”
In the environment of the 80’s when the Mini-School was launched, Florence’s instinct was right. In the intervening 30-plus years, much has changed in the Jewish community, and in adult Jewish learning. With 30,000 graduates and hundreds of faculty providing feedback over the years, the curriculum which is the lynchpin of Melton, has also changed. Starting with the two-year core curriculum, the curriculum now includes nine additional courses for graduates, and the Foundations of Jewish Family Living course, designed especially for parents. Several new courses are in development. The curriculum is text-based and includes a greater variety of sources, reflecting and contributing to the riches of Jewish texts now available in translation.
Pluralism is the hallmark of Melton’s curriculum, its faculty, and the broad community of participants and alumni, and the diversity of contemporary Jewish thought is reflected well in Melton’s revisions and updates of the curriculum.
The field of adult Jewish learning has also burgeoned – in both numbers and range – since the creation of the Mini-School. Melton is distinguished by its curriculum, developed at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, as well as its focus on interactive study that translates learning for literacy into learning that leads to a meaningful life. This significant process is animated by exceptional faculty in each Melton community, and it is called “transformative” by alumni.