Can Online Study Impact Jewish Learning in Europe?

May 5, 2015

SourceeJewish Philanthropy


The Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning, a project of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was privileged to introduce an opportunity for pluralistic adult Jewish learning for young Europeans. Melton recently piloted “Melton Online Europe”, a 10-week synchronous online learning experience. Fifteen carefully selected participants representing communities in ten countries on the European continent formed the virtual class. The participants were between 25-40 years old, and all of them are heavily involved in informal Jewish education in their own communities. The Melton course in Jewish Ethics was adapted and taught by Rabbi Johnny Solomon, who supplemented the text-based learning with videos, photos, and other materials chosen to stimulate further discussion during and after class sessions. Debate online was lively and dynamic, and chats between sessions revealed the compelling nature of the topics in the real lives of the participants.


As a pilot program, at no cost to the participants, Melton was interested to learn more about the potential of this kind of online learning. Would the participants commit to regular attendance? Would they form a virtual community of learners? Would this experience contribute to their roles as activists and teachers? Could an online class have an impact?


Attendance was strong and consistent. Each individual learner actively contributed to the discussion while deeply appreciating the pluralistic approach to learning for which Melton is renowned. Virtual visitors to the class were impressed by the sophistication and depth of the comments and questions, as well as the signs of “community". In the feedback that we have received from participants, they particularly highlighted the benefits of this online course for networking and professional development, while being incredibly grateful for the unique blend of knowledge and inspiration. Participants described how they had directly used material from class in their own community work – whether leading a discussion at an organized Shabbat dinner, or teaching in a local school. They appreciated the absence of a religious agenda; no one was trying to change their Jewish practice. They relished the chance to explore the subject matter with a knowledgeable teacher who wasn’t judging them, but rather, who was encouraging and stimulating them.


Read the entire article at eJewish Philanthropy.

Updated: May. 12, 2015