Denver’s JLI Offers Melton Graduates Unique Courses

by Rena Greenberg – Denver, CO

The Rohr JLI’s division in Denver, Colorado has recently partnered with the Colorado Agency for Jewish Education (CAJE) to offer “Medicine & Morals,” an intriguing 6-week course in Jewish law and medical ethics, to members of the greater Denver Jewish community as well as graduates of the local Florence Melton Adult Mini-School.

The spring semester course, which began in late February, was led by local Chabad Rabbi Yossi Serebryanski and focused on the ethical dilemmas in medicine. The course dealt with the new quandaries that modern medicine creates and examined both ancient Judaic texts and contemporary case studies, comparing secular and Jewish approaches as a means of developing ethical understanding. The course was available for CME and CLE credit for students pursuing continued education.

Sue Parker Gerson, the CAJE Florence Melton Adult Mini-School Director, was grateful for what the unique JLI curricula offered her clientele. “The Medicine & Morals curriculum met several of our benchmarks in that it was a well-organized text-based study, taught in an open and thoughtful manner, by an outstanding teacher. Although as a Chabad product the JLI materials come from a traditional perspective, the conversation about those texts was always open and accepting, and this was largely due to the guidance of the discussion and text study by Rabbi Serebryanski, who was gifted at working with a diverse group of learners.”

The Melton Mini-School is part of a franchised network of community-based schools that work through the Hebrew University in Jerusalem to offer adult learners a two-year-long associated degree program in basic Judaic study.

Denver’s course marked the first time the Rohr JLI, an international provider of adult Jewish education associated with Merkos L’Inyanei Chinuch, the educational arm of Chabad-Lubavitch, collaborated with a Melton-associated organization in providing classes to their similar demographics.

Rabbi Efraim Mintz, Executive Director of Rohr JLI, called this collaboration “somewhat of a revolution.”

Rabbi Yossi Serebryanski explains, “The well-established Melton program is a one-time deal. You complete the course and you are done.” It seems a natural course, he says, for people who’ve graduated from Melton’s program and are interested in serious Torah study, “to continue their engagement and enrichment in Jewish studies through the JLI’s distinctive products.”

Because of the unique differences between JLI’s 6-week semesters on various subject matters and Melton’s year-long commitment of arranged study, Serebryanski believes that for adult Jewish education organizations like Melton seeking to enrich their diversity of offerings, partnering with local providers of JLI is a “logical progression.”

Serebryanski points out that oftentimes the local Chabad Rabbis who teach JLI courses have a unique background in Yeshiva education where they acquired a rich knowledge of Jewish culture and are more fluent in original Judaic texts in a way most other Jewish community leaders are not. He applauds Denver’s CAJE for its openness to this partnership notwithstanding the cultural differences between Chabad and Melton, and hopes other communities will also take advantage of the “resource sitting there in the community” and draw upon the skill of Chabad rabbis in navigating primary texts. He also pointed out that “JLI, while being an international body, allowed me the flexibility to creatively adapt this program so that it facilitated this collaboration toward community building.”

JLI’s focus on the individual’s journey to spiritual growth with no fixed outcome was not lost on CAJE. Gerson notes “This is the first time we have offered a JLI class, but it won’t be the last. Students asked for more of these, especially with Rabbi Serebryanski. For all of our Melton graduates and members of the community, the joy of studying Jewish text with Rabbi Serebryanski became paramount.”

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