What’s New at the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School?

What’s New at the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School? Everything! New Teachers, New Classes, New Location!

A whole new year of exciting discussion, engaging text, and dedicated educators is about to begin at the Melton Adult Mini-School. Classes begin this week and several new topics are in store, along with new teachers and even a new location.

“Every year the chemistry is different,” said Rabbi Cary Kozberg, of the Melton Adult Mini-School. The veteran educator with the long-standing institution of the Jewish Community Center is excited to launch his 25th year teaching with the program.

Even for returning students, it’s a whole new Melton. That’s because each year the school that began as a comprehensive series of text-based lessons under the guidance of founder Florence Zacks Melton has new classes, new students, and with that, new questions, allowing for limitless discussion in an open-ended and open-minded forum.

“There’s an old saying that we learn from our teachers, but we learn more from our students. I’ve learned that there’s a lot of different ways of understanding Judaism,” Kozberg explained of the curriculum that’s now studied across the globe.

Students of the interactive and non-denominational program can expect to learn many new things each year, from the teachers and from each other– and 5775 is no different. “Melton is a great way to continue your Jewish journey no matter where you are in life,” explained JCC Program Director Melanie Butter.

Now, no matter where you are in Columbus, there’s a Melton location for you. Melton is taught at three locations: at the JCC on College Avenue, at the JCC New Albany, and new for the 2014-15 school year, at Congregation Beth Tikvah.

Rabbi Rick Kellner of Congregation Beth Tikvah is excited for the new partnership. “We are a congregation that has always dedicated itself to education. Part of our vision is to open the doors to Judaism for all people. Now here’s another way to set foot in the doorway,” he said. Thanks to the new partnership, the core introduction class, “Rhythms and Purposes of Jewish Living,” is now only a short drive away for Northwest Columbus residents.

Professor Matt Goldish of The Ohio State University is returning to Melton from a year-long sabbatical to teach the core curriculum at Congregation Beth Tikvah, as well as several new classes. “I am now back and energized for my beloved Melton groups…. I have missed those great friends who have been with me doing Melton programs for years, and I am looking forward to working with new people, as well.”

“Story Time with Matt” is one brand new course Goldish is especially looking forward to. This class will feature folkloric stories in the Jewish tradition as a platform for delving into Jewish values and ideas. “Each story is intended to communicate a lesson or meaning. And, in the new short-course Melton paradigm, stories are great because they can work as stand-alone discussions,” Goldish explained. Milk and cookies will also be served during class, adding an element of fun to the discussions.

A returning class with a new spin this year is “Melton at the Movies,” which will have an international focus. “We have brilliant films in store— from Mexico, France, Israel, and America,” said Goldish. “The discussions [of these films] will be even better than the films themselves. We will compare Jewish cultures in other countries with our own; consider conflicts of age, gender, religion, and class; and try to fathom what subtle messages the filmmakers are trying to impart.”

Rabbi Deborah Lefton is excited to teach one of Melton’s newest offerings, “A Jewish Response to Illness and Healing.” Always drawn to visiting people in the hospital, Rabbi Lefton currently serves as Zusman Hospice Rabbi at Wexner Heritage Village and community rabbi serving to visit the sick.

Rabbi Lefton was in high school when her mother’s best friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. From those early impressions of the staff caring for her friend’s ailing mother, she was inspired to take chaplaincy classes in rabbinical school.  “Much of my career as a rabbi has been visiting those who suffer. I find that this sacred work inspires me to connect with people and value life differently,” she said.

“There is nothing worse than hearing a family member is sick or a friend is beginning treatment for a serious illness and you don’t know what to do. You want to help, but may feel paralyzed by not knowing the right thing to say or do. We are commanded to take care of each other; visiting the sick is a part of expressing loving-kindness that heals the world,” Rabbi Lefton added. In her class, students will explore lessons from the Talmud, learn the foundations of Jewish values that emphasize visiting the sick, and talk about the different ways to visit the sick.

Also new to teaching at Melton this year is Rabbi Michael Ungar of Congregation Tifereth Israel. He will be teaching a three-part series covering Jewish views of love and sexuality. The first class consists of biblical laws and stories. The second will investigate rabbinical texts look at how marriage and divorce rituals are reflected in them. And the final class will explore contemporary issues.

Rabbi Ungar explained why the new course will be a new twist on love and relationships for Melton learners. “Many folks think that Judaism has little to say about sexuality, but nothing could be further from the truth. Folks may be surprised to find that traditional views were quite progressive for their time—and set an ethic that is progressive even today. My goal, as always, is to have an opportunity for interaction—rather than just a lecture—and to have the discussion be a safe, no-judgment zone.”

Rabbi Kozberg will continue teaching a class that began last year: “What Say You.” The current events course doesn’t require any prior Melton experience. It involves a current topic in the media that affects the Jewish community. “This year, we’ll certainly be looking at more topics focusing on Israel, on good and evil, particularly with regard to ISIS. Things could come up weekly that change our topic completely.”

Come be a part of the conversation and see what Melton is all about! Community classes are open to everyone, no matter their faith or background. The Melton School of Jewish Learning is now registering students for fall classes.  There is no homework and there are no tests, only fun and interactive learning with others.

Enroll today! To see the full schedule of classes, learn more, and sign up, visit

www.columbusjcc.org/programs/adult-programs/florence-melton-adult-mini-school/ or contact Melanie Butter at mbutter@columbusjcc.org. Registration is also available online. Visit Columbus Melton Mini–School on Facebook for updates, too!