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Silver Linings in a Challenging Year


As leaders of an international organization, we try to view every challenge we face with perspective and a bias towards action. This year, while difficult for many reasons, has pushed us to connect with the Melton community in new ways, and driven us to innovate quickly to ensure Melton learners' needs are being met.

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly wreaked havoc on businesses and pushed many organizations to their limits. However, with a little perspective and innovative thinking, there have been silver linings. John Caplan, President, North America and Europe, at New York City-based Alibaba.com, an online commerce company, noted that "Leading during the pandemic creates immense opportunities for rethinking the way we work, do business and interact with the world. Personally, I'm seeing a level of simplicity…allowing me to rethink what the company should keep doing and prioritize building the bridge to the future for our customers."

As leaders of the Florence Melton School, we too have encountered a variety of "silver linings," specifically related to online learning. We have witnessed the steep increase in the number of online learners registering for our classes, which have helped bolster our international online community. Additionally, we've witnessed an overall growing demand for excellence in terms of both content and online delivery.

Our Directors have found silver linings in their own communities as well. Rabbi Laila Haas, Miami Melton Director, shares how the pandemic has brought her teachers together and strengthened their team's connectivity. "The transition to online learning has provided our faculty with the opportunity to take one another's classes, fill their own spiritual cups and learn from each other. The best part is that the request to participate came organically from the teachers. This opportunity was never possible before." One of the main reasons for the smooth transition is that it's so seamless to join an online class, without complications like traffic or travel. In fact, Rabbi Haas' learners convey just that. "Online learning has dramatically reduced longstanding barriers to participation like traffic and regional distance. As a result, our students are meeting other adult learners they never had the opportunity to learn with before, and they are able to study with a variety of teachers. This has created a real sense of community and meaningful engagement."

Rabbi Haas' Miami community isn't the only Melton site finding reasons for optimism…Cape Town, South Africa, like Miami, has a long-standing, thriving Melton program. The pandemic has enabled them to think creatively – including how best to involve teachers and learners from far-away places. Cape Town's Lauren Snitcher writes "In the Kabbalah course, our teacher is from Johannesburg and he has been literally life-changing for a few of the participants who just want more - and through him we have four other students from Johannesburg on the course. Also in the Kabbalah course, there are two students from Stellenbosch, which is a beautiful town in the winelands about 40 minutes from Cape Town. In our Jewish Medical Ethics course, our teacher is from Johannesburg but is currently in London and is teaching the course from there. And speaking of London, we have four students from London taking the course – all with South African connections." These opportunities have only been possible through virtual learning capabilities.

All in all, our directors worldwide have been finding many silver linings, and while we know our learners certainly miss their weekly in-person connections, the convenience and availability of online learning has enabled Melton to flourish in this challenging time. One long-time learner in Boca Raton, Florida now takes a regular Monday night class with her rabbi. "I had not taken an evening course in many years, "she said. "I do not drive at night anymore. But now, I just sit in my living room and study Melton at 7:00 PM. It's wonderful!"

At Melton, with COVID vaccines on the horizon, we're preparing for how Melton will be different in the future, when the pandemic is behind us. Given the opportunities virtual classrooms have provided, we are certain that an online component will continue to be a part of the Melton experience. We remain committed to doing everything within our power to maximize the number of learners studying with Melton worldwide. Enter your text here ...

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