Many Meltonians recognize the name of Rachel Wasserman as the honoree for whom our Rachel Wasserman Scholars Curriculum is named. Rachel was a beloved wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, and extraordinary human being who passed away last week, twelve years after her diagnosis of early-onset dementia/Alzheimer's Disease. Rachel died a few days before her 76th birthday, and her funeral on Tisha B'Av was a fitting farewell to a great Jewish woman on a day of national mourning for the Jewish people.
The daughter of the renowned Jewish educator Ben Aronin, Rachel was raised with all the riches of Jewish tradition, song, and story, and carried those riches throughout her life, sharing them with family, friends, and her students. She met her soul mate Norton at Jewish summer camp at the age of 9 years (he was 10), which led to 56 years of devoted marriage, love, and partnership. Her passion for all things Jewish and her love of children made her a treasured teacher at Solomon Schechter Day School. Her daughter Judy Wasserman Rosenberg recalled one of Rachel's guiding principles as a teacher, mother, and grandmother: "When a child is most unlovable is when that child needs loving the most."
Rachel had many other roles of significance in her Chicago community, and she is widely remembered as a person of singular spirit and a unique appreciation for all the brachot, the blessings of life—a spirit which was not altered by her diagnosis of dementia. Among the many journeys, safaris, and adventures of her life that she shared with her beloved Norton was the Melton experience, including two Melton Israel Seminars after her diagnosis. Their shared love of Melton was what inspired Norton to establish the Scholars curriculum in Rachel's name.
The Rachel Wasserman Scholars Curriculum has impacted thousands of students in the few years since its inception, and has provided a strong connection and important opportunity for continuity to the Florence Melton School for many more thousands of graduates and entering students. Rachel's good name established a remarkable legacy of learning.
The Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning is the largest pluralistic adult Jewish education network in the world. With 50 locations in North America, Great Britain, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Hong Kong, the Melton School sets the standard for high-quality, text-based, interactive Jewish study. Founded by Florence Zacks Melton in 1980 with the vision of impacting the destiny of the Jewish people through transformative learning, the Melton School has more than 30,000 graduates worldwide today. The hallmark of the Melton School is its world-class curriculum, which continues to inform and inspire adult learners from all knowledge-levels and backgrounds.
The Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning — Adult Learning for the Wondering Jew.