What does it mean to be “Chosen?” Why us? What is kosher? What is the significance of a Bar Mitzvah? What do we mean when we pray? What are the significant moments that have shaped Jewish history?  And what do ancient scholars have to say that still holds true today? These are some of the many questions Melton students discuss.

For Leslie Black,  it’s a never ending quest for Jewish knowledge. “For me, Jewish learning is a lifelong commitment. Melton was simply what got me started.”

For Susan Yesenko, Melton has been a great adventure, culminating in the first-ever Detroit Melton Scholar’s Journey to Israel. “It was a thrill to walk in the path of ancient scholars and to stand together at the Southern Wall Excavations.”

According to Carol Gers, it was everything she didn’t know but was afraid to ask about Judaism. “This class is the best thing I have ever done for myself. Otherwise, I would have had to go to countless sources and classes. The answers are all here.”

Marking 10 Years of Excellence

On Thursday, May 13, 2013 the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning of Metro Detroit will mark its first decade with a gala celebration of its 2013 graduating class. This year, 42 students will join the ranks of the Detroit Melton School’s 1,000 graduates. Another highlight of the event will be the presentation of the prestigious “Florence Melton Award” in recognition of the “highest standards of education, leadership and support within the community.”

The award originally was presented last January at the Annual International Directors Conference held in Israel. Federation’s Alliance for Jewish Education, director of adult education and Melton Director, Judy Silberg Loebl, and Melton Assistant Director, Gail Greenberg, represented Federation at the conference.

A model school, internationally recognized

All smiles in anticipation of this year’s Melton celebration, Loebl explains, “The Melton School is the cornerstone of Federation’s Alliance for Jewish Education’s adult education (FedEd) programs. With more than 75 Melton School programs in English speaking countries around the world, the Detroit Melton School is the fourth to be recognized since the award was established in 2009. This award recognizes one outstanding Melton school in the world that meets the high standards established by Florence Melton. It was a thrilling and proud moment for us to represent our city and the Detroit Federation on the world stage in Israel!”

Loebl first learned that the Detroit Melton School was to receive the award in October while on a mission to Israel with a group of Melton students. Melton Director of Education, Rabbi Morey Schwartz,  shared the closely guarded secret while the Detroiters were visiting Schwartz’s home in Jerusalem.

In presenting the award, Judy Mars Kupchan, Chief Executive Officer of the international school stated, “The Melton School of the Detroit Federation, Alliance for Jewish Education, is the model that has raised the bar for Melton organization as a whole.”

At the ceremony, Loebl accepted the award on behalf of the entire Detroit Jewish community with praise for the leadership of the Jewish Federation and Jewish Community Center, thanked the rabbis in Detroit for their ongoing support, and applauded the outstanding faculty and staff.  She concluded by dedicating the award to Detroit’s community of learners.

“We want the Detroit Jewish Community to celebrate this achievement so we are planning a very special awards presentation at the 10th annual Melton Graduation,” remarked Jeffrey Lasday, Director of Federation’s Alliance for Jewish Federation.  “I’ve been involved with the Melton School program in three other communities and Detroit’s program is second to none.”

Kupchan and Gordon Zacks, son of Florence Melton and International Chairman of the board of the Melton School, will be on hand to present the award. Plans are to call to the stage everyone who has made Melton in Detroit a success through the years, including Federation and JCC representatives, past Melton directors, current and former faculty members, and Melton staff.  “We hope to have a stage full of people, just like when they give the acceptance speech for “Best Picture” at the Academy Awards.” exclaimed Linda Lee, Chair of the Detroit Melton Advisory Committee.

The graduation also will be marking ten years of graduations “and beyond.”  The beyond refers to, and acknowledges, the two years that the Melton program was offered in the early 1990s.

Two honorary degrees also will be presented recognizing Mark Lit, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Center of Metro Detroit on behalf of the Center in recognition of its commitment to adult Jewish education and to Beverly Baker, adult learner and President of the Morris and Beverly Baker Foundation.

The graduation is free and open to the public. A gala dinner and speaker is planned prior to the graduation. For information, or to learn more about the award winning Melton School of Detroit,  call 248-205-2557 or jewishdetroit.org/melton.

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