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Rising antisemitism, Israel-Hamas war result in 226% rise in registrants to adult learning

“I expect that we will look back and say there was something of a revival that began in the wake of Oct. 7,” notes professor Jonathan Sarna.

Rabbi David Goldstein at the inaugural four-day “Conference of Learners,” sponsored by the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning, in Chicago, May 2023. Credit: Courtesy.
Rabbi David Goldstein at the inaugural four-day “Conference of Learners,” sponsored by the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning, in Chicago, May 2023. Credit: Courtesy.

As the global Jewish community nears the six-month anniversary of Hamas’s Oct. 7 terrorist attacks on Israel and the explosion of antisemitic incidents across the world, the Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning has seen a more than a 226% increase in registrants for its online Jewish learning offerings.

The Melton School is an international movement that has been empowering Jewish adults through the life-enhancing study of Jewish texts and ideas for more than 40 years.

The institution credits the significantly increased interest in Jewish learning to a historical trend noted by Brandeis University professor Jonathan Sarna demonstrating that significant increases in antisemitism precipitate a heightened thirst among Jews to better understand their heritage, faith and tradition.

“It is sad that it takes antisemites to lead Jews to learn about their heritage, but it has happened before, and I expect that we will look back and say that there was something of a revival that began in the wake of Oct. 7,” he said during a recent Melton session focused on the History of Antisemitism in the United States. “A lot of Jews came to realize that they needed to depend on other Jews. They wanted to learn about Judaism and Israel in response to hostility towards both.”

Melton has met the increased interest by offering an additional number of online programs through Melton International, including both traditional multi-session courses, as well as special seminars focused on specific topics related to Israel and antisemitism. One of those is the group’s Parent Empowerment Initiative, which sought to provide parents of college and high school students with a greater understanding of the conflict in the Gaza Strip to help them prepare their children to address these topics when faced with adversity online or on their high school and college campuses.

“Already from the moments surrounding Hamas’s attack on Israel and the increased frequency of antisemitic events across the globe, we understood there was going to be a greater sense of need within the wider Jewish community for more educational resources,” said Melton executive director Rabbi Rachel Bovitz. “Immediately, our team began to scale our offerings to meet the growing demand, and to give people the opportunity to connect to each other and to our shared tradition during these challenging times. These courses have ranged from those about the conflict in the Middle East to those about Jewish history, practice and culture.”

Click here for Melton International’s course offerings.

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