This month, we are thrilled to spotlight our Melton partner Moriah Congregation, an active, traditional, conservative synagogue, in the heart of Deerfield, Illinois. We have enjoyed getting to work directly with Moriah for the past few years – collaborating together as a team and witnessing their congregation's enthusiasm about Jewish learning in all its richness.
Read more about Moriah Congregation in our interview with Lori Kramer, Director of Education:
When did Melton begin at Moriah Congregation and how has it grown over the years?
Melton has been a part of Moriah for eight or nine years in some capacity. In the past year, we have grown by operating as a consortium – partnering with North Suburban Synagogue Beth El – which allows us to meet the demand of more learners, not just from within our own community, but theirs, as well. We currently offer two courses each semester.
Please describe the role that Melton plays in your congregation. What about outside your congregation?
As the Director of Education, I love that we can offer different things for different people at different times – both inside and outside of our congregation. Moriah is a very learned population, so it's a natural fit.
But, we also saw the Moriah Melton as an anomaly. Most of our students were not members, and they were also a younger demographic, composed of many elementary school-aged parents. There are people who joined the synagogue after taking Melton; others participate in the daytime programming offered at Beth El; and in both cases, everyone who goes through it develops a strong bond and a foundation for their Jewish learning.
How do you feel Moriah lives the mission of Melton?
As a synagogue, people are really engaged in their Jewish lives and are curious. The idea that the text is yours, it offers access to everyone, and gives the individual a sense of ownership really resonates with the Melton mission. With Melton, there's so much to learn and room to grow. The students fully embrace that through rich discussions and bring themselves and their experiences to each one of them. As a result, it is great modeling for their families and fulfilling for their own lives.
What is the impact of Melton learning on your congregation as a whole and on the lives of the congregants?
The Thursday morning group has been learning together for six years, and although some people have come and gone, the core has been the same. Learning together builds community. There's a really special social connection between them, and they stay connected by taking classes together. It may not be the person you sit next to at Shabbat, but they share a meaningful connection and bond.
What is something that surprised you most about offering Melton to your community?
One of the pleasant surprises or outcomes of offering Melton has been our partnership with Beth El. It offers us even more resources – people get to learn from others outside their congregation and there are more teachers available to us. We're lucky to be able to offer it like we do. It's also rewarding professionally to work with another synagogue who is dedicated to adult education in the same way we are. Most of all, it reflects a beautiful spirit of collaboration – two Jewish synagogues working together.
If you were to envision Moriah's Melton School 3-5 years from now, what would it look like? What are your aspirations for Melton?
I would like to see the partnership continue to grow – maybe even to expand to other synagogues in the Chicago area. There is a lot of potential here with new rabbis, educators, and organizations that do not even know the breadth of what Melton has to offer. There are new courses, as well as more flexibility with Melton now, too, so the potential is even greater.
If we were to ask one of your students what they love most about Melton, what do you think they would say? Least?
They like learning from each other and enjoy the conversation. Some for sure love the snacks! Least? I can't think of anything. The only thing I could think of is that people are often surprised by how casual the atmosphere is.
Describe Moriah's Melton in three words.
Engaging, community-building, authentic.
Is there anything else you would like to add about Moriah's Melton School?
Melton is something unique that we offer AND it is really special. We've been so lucky because we have awesome educators who make the curriculum come alive … that is the real magic! There is also something extra special for the participants. As adults, when you think about ways you can build community, there are, of course, many ways. But, when you are engaging intellectually with others, the connection that is built is on a different level. I love offering Melton and the work we are doing.
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