With in-person activities strictly suspended in Canada, Ottawa's Jewish community has stayed connected by expanding online learning opportunities through the Melton School. Rabbi Steve Garten, the Melton School's Ottawa director and educator, has worked hard to creatively meet the needs of his community with courses that speak to their interests.
The Ottawa Jewish community has a history of collaboration with the Melton School. A 4-year run with Melton courses was cut short in the early 2000s, but Rabbi Garten was determined to bring them back to the fold. Their Melton offerings, hosted by the Soloway Jewish Community Centre, resumed in 2016 and have expanded to reach learners far and wide.
"Prior to the pandemic we offered about two to three courses twice a year, but we were restricted by weather conditions and classroom limits," Rabbi Garten recalled. "We've since expanded beyond Melton's core curriculum, and remote learning gives us the flexibility to engage more learners even in the winter."
Sue Potechin, adult education and cultural program manager at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre, plays an important role as administrator. She works closely with Rabbi Garten to keep things running smoothly, appreciating the little moments of connection along the way.
"We're really encouraged by our community and their interest in growth," Sue said. "Ottawa really is a special community that looks out for each other, and Melton provides perfect opportunities for people to chat and spend time together while we're physically apart."
The sense of community has spread beyond the Canadian border to learners of all denominations. As Rabbi Garten and Sue consider the next steps for their widespread cohort of learners, they aim to encourage more thought-provoking conversations and engagements that speak to each individual's unique background without deviating from their original goal.
"The Living Wisdom series has been a huge success with evidence of true growth among many of our learners," Rabbi Garten said. "We can't wait to expand our reach by offering courses on specific topics, such as powerful women from the Bible, while ensuring that anyone and everyone can log in and relate, discuss, and grow together."
To learn more about Melton Ottawa and view courses offered, visit here.
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