Melton graduates sing for their diplomas at graduation on June 11
I am a graduate! For the sixth time in New Orleans, a class of the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School has graduated and each person received a degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (as in Israel) to prove it. The process began almost two years ago following my return to the city from Cleveland and my attending a "Melton minute" intended to give interested potential students insight into what the courses are like. The short course was led by Rabbi Martha Bergadine, who has since moved with her husband (also a rabbi) to Hong Kong. Two other teachers of my first year courses, Rabbis Julie Kozlow and Miriam Lichtenfeld, also departed for other posts in South Carolina and New York, but they made great impressions on me as teachers while they were here last year. Also, both last year and this, my own synagogue's Rabbi Uri Topolosky taught the first hour for my Melton classes. The beautiful aspect of the Melton coursework is that it is neither Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Secular or whatever bent one ascribes to Jewish philosophical thinking. It is all of these leanings and more with references gleaned from the Torah, the Talmud, and from eminent Jewish thinkers from the past several thousand years. Many of the issues we tackled dealt with morals and ethics and covered such controversial topics as abortion and euthanasia in addition to the seemingly mundane (but very important) Shabbat worship and kosher observance. So, after nearly two years of weekly classes, am I a better Jew? Most definitely! A friend of mine and I saw each other this past week at a friend's funeral. It turns out he was confronting the subject of death in his Melton class a few months ago. Both of us understood deeper meanings and had a shared experience despite the fact that he lives in Salt Lake City and we hadn't seen each other in over a decade. Yes, the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School will be something I will always treasure and I look forward to even more graduate-level courses in future years and, perhaps, a trip to Israel designed by Hebrew University of Jersualem to put the final frosting on the cake.