Creating a Congregation of Learners: Introducing the Melton School

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Rabbi Boris, July/August 2013

In Judaism, life cannot exist without learning. We mark our days, from the most holy of moments, to the simple pleasures and struggles of daily life with an understanding that study, with all of the insights, challenges and questions that it entails is the glue that brings meaning to our lives. This core part of Jewish tradition, torah lishmah, “learning for the sake of learning,” has kept our communities strong throughout the generations, and has been the constant push to help us fix what is broken in the world.

The blessing said before study says it all: “La’asok b’divrei Torah”. We give thanks for the joy of “busying ourselves with Torah”. When we sit and learn Jewishly, we don’t give thanks for receiving any sort of simple truth, or learning a few important facts, instead we remember that the best learning should take real intellectual and emotional work. Study should challenge us, should bring meaning to our lives and ultimately should even cause us to rethink who we are.

In our community, this kind of deep and meaningful learning should be accessible to everyone. It should be seen as an opportunity for all members of the community, from the children in our Talmud Torah, to active members, to those who rarely step foot inside the walls of our synagogue. Everyone should be able to participate in this powerful part of Jewish life.

In this “Congregation of Learners” everyone is a vital participant in the creation of Jewish life and the community is a place where study becomes something that extends well beyond the walls of the synagogue.

In response to the changing nature of Jewish communities and their relationship with learning and adult education, TBI will be offering a new program starting in the fall, the world-class adult education program, The Melton School. This international network of schools was created over two decades ago to fill the need for quality adult Jewish education, providing a core program of Jewish literacy classes for people of all knowledge levels and backgrounds.

As a model for community learning, Melton has not only created more literate Jews, but also has strengthened synagogue leadership, and has had an impact on all levels of Jewish community life. Since Melton was developed to be non-denominational and pluralistic, participants range from Hebrew School parents who want to join in the commitment to learn along with their children, to community leaders, people interested in conversion, non-Jews interested in learning more about Judaism, and members of the Jewish community who simply want to expand their Jewish literacy. It is not an introduction to Judaism class, instead new learners and more Jewishly-knowledgeable students are able to study together in the unique environment that Melton creates.

The learning in Melton is serious, and there is a commitment to stay part of the program for the two core years, but there are no tests, and participants are invited to do as much “homework” and additional learning as they feel comfortable. I invite everyone to explore what the Melton School has to offer, and to look at more of the details of the program on the TBI website. Simply follow the link on the home page. You can also sign up on our preliminary list and let us know which days and times work best for you.

Torah Lishmah, learning for the sake of learning. It has the power to change our community, and it has the potential to strengthen us all. I look forward to joining you on this journey as we build a congregation of learners!