Florence Melton, Founder of Adult Mini-Schools

By Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Published February 16, 2007, issue of February 16, 2007.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Florence Melton, a pioneer in Jewish education, died February 8 in Florida at age 95. She will be forever immortalized in the schools of adult Jewish education around the world that bear her name.

Born in Philadelphia to Russian immigrant parents, Melton never graduated from high school; however, she described herself as having been born with “an extra amount of curiosity.” It was that curiosity that led her to a new concept in adult Jewish education, one that would become a global enterprise.

Melton was active as a philanthropist, entrepreneur, lecturer, yoga teacher and poet, even into her later years. After the death of her first husband, she married Sam Melton, a philanthropist who had been involved in financing Jewish education worldwide. From his research she adopted the idea of the “interactive classroom,” where students could be active learners rather than passive ones.

When she was in her 70s, Melton proposed a two-year program that would provide Jewish adults with answers to religious and spiritual questions. The Florence Melton Adult Mini-School, developed at the Melton Centre for Jewish Education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was launched in 1986 with three pilot sites in North America. Today it’s the largest pluralistic adult education network in the world, with 63 mini-schools across America, Canada, Britain, Australia and South Africa. The schools currently include more than 5,000 students and 20,000 alumni.

Melton retained her interest in the mini-schools’ development, serving first as board chairwoman and later as chairwoman emeritus. She said she believed she had “opened up the windows for learning opportunities for adults, regardless of upbringing, beliefs or background.”






Find us on Facebook!
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • In the six years since Dothan launched its relocation program, 8 families have made the jump — but will they stay? We went there to find out:
  • "Jewish Israelis and West Bank Palestinians are witnessing — and living — two very different wars." Naomi Zeveloff's first on-the-ground dispatch from Israel:
  • This deserves a whistle: Lauren Bacall's stylish wardrobe is getting its own museum exhibit at Fashion Institute of Technology.
  • How do you make people laugh when they're fighting on the front lines or ducking bombs?
  • "Hamas and others have dredged up passages form the Quran that demonize Jews horribly. Some imams rail about international Jewish conspiracies. But they’d have a much smaller audience for their ravings if Israel could find a way to lower the flames in the conflict." Do you agree with J.J. Goldberg?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.