Capping two years of study
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Capping two years of study

Melton graduates reflect on 'Jewish journeys'

Each of the 31 men and women participating in the Melton school graduation on June 11 would be capable of speaking at the event, says Frieda Huberman, school services and Florence Melton Adult Mini-School director at the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey (JFNNJ).

“But that would take far too long,” she joked, pointing out that, instead, one representative from each class will speak at the ceremony.

Nevertheless, she added, all graduates will get to tell people about “the impact of Melton on their Jewish journey,” since each one has written a small piece about the impact of the program on his or her life. These writings will be posted on the Melton website.

Of the three classes graduating this year, one has a particular distinction, said Huberman: Two-thirds of the class members are related to one another.

“I guess you could say that the family that studies together, stays together,” she suggested, noting that this particular class includes a father/daughter, aunt/niece, and husband/wife.

“The idea of learning without tests and papers was a big draw,” wrote Ilene Nolte of Wyckoff in her personal reflection. “But the biggest draw was my dad, who enrolled with me. The idea of going to class each week with my father was too good to be true.”

Melton affects entire families – even when only one member attends, said Huberman. She cited the reflection written by Closter resident Cheryl Phillip noting that “the discussion that I have with my husband when I get home from class each week” is one “of the most enjoyable parts of Melton” for her.

In addition, said Huberman, the program helps to create Jewish leaders. Roselyn Rauch of Washington Township noted that she now attends Shabbat services regularly and participates in shul committees. Recently, she even became a member of her shul’s board. Wrote Rauch, “My Jewish connections are deeper; my love for Israel greater.”

This year, graduates of the two-year program – which has served the community since 1989 and is currently sponsored by a consortium including JFNNJ, 19 congregations, and three JCCs – come from some 17 towns and 12 congregations.

Huberman pointed out that the graduation ceremony is open to the public. Those unable to attend but are interested in learning more about the Melton program can attend the “Taste of Melton,” June 18 and 19. The two sessions – one in the evening, one in the morning, both at the JFNNJ building in Paramus – will give participants “a sense of the pluralistic, text-based, interactive Melton approach.”

Every issue discussed in Melton classes “is viewed through the prism of Jewish texts,” said Huberman. “But what’s most important is what every student brings.”

She noted that this year’s graduating class – with students from their 20s through their 70s – “illustrates the heterogeneous nature of Melton.”

“One student started with very little, if any, formal Jewish education,” she said. “Another had gone to day school. And there was everything in between. The life experiences we all bring…help inform how we react to and ‘unpack’ the text. In Melton, you don’t just learn from the text and from our phenomenal teachers, but from each other.”

Melton instructors – including “veterans” Rabbi Shammai Engelmayer, Jewish educator Bette Birnbaum, and “avocational Jewish educator” Harman Grossman; and such recent faculty additions as Rabbis Amy Bolton, David Fine, Rachel Steiner, and Molly Karp – “represent a range of Jewish denominations,” said Huberman.

At the graduation, to be held at Temple Emanuel of the Pascack Valley in Woodcliff Lake at 7 p.m., students will receive Certificates of Jewish Learning from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which produces the program and oversees the curricula. In addition to hearing from fellow students, graduates will be addressed by Jason Shames, chief executive officer and executive vice president of JFNNJ, whose wife, Amy, is herself a Melton graduate.

For further information about the graduation or the Melton program, call Huberman at (201) 820-3913.

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