Asking questions and a lifelong pursuit of knowledge is part of the fabric of Jewish life; here we call this 'Jewish Innovation.'  


Konikoff Center for Learning


The Konikoff Center for Learning (KCL) is Tidewater’s hub for experiential Jewish education and engagement at the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater and Simon Family JCC. These are high-impact learning experiences that include programs, classes, workshops, and symposiums that span generations and interests. KCL engages, educates, equips, and inspires individuals to deepen their Jewish knowledge and connection.


Upcoming KCL Events

ORIGINS: Ancient Jewish History in International Context


October 27 - November 17, 2022


Thursdays, 12:00 - 1:30 PM


The Jewish religion has a core story: a narrative of our people’s early history. What, in fact, is the history behind the narrative? We can better understand our history — as well as our “story”— by exploring the international framework in which our people emerged. This course is focused on that exploration.


Session 1: The Collapse of Ancient Superpowers
Session 2: The People “Israel” Emerges
Session 3: From Bronze to Iron
Session 4: From Gods to God


This 4-week course will be taught by Rabbi Michael Panitz. In-person and online learning options available.


Register Here


Course Cost


Standard Registration: $60

Register Here


About the Instructor


Michael Panitz

Michael Panitz is a rabbi and an academician . He has served as rabbi of Temple Israel of Norfolk since 1992. He has also taught Jewish Studies, Religious Studies, History, and Hebrew language courses at area colleges and universities since 1996. Two foci of Rabbi Michael’s work are raising the level of engagement with the intellectual riches of the Jewish tradition and facilitating inter-religious understanding.


Rabbi Michael and Sheila have been married for forty four years, and are devoted to their three children and four grandchildren.


Register Here






The Florence Melton School of Jewish Learning in Tidewater engages adult learners in a life-enhancing study of Jewish texts and ideas that nurtures and deepens Jewish community. Through classes (both in-person and online) and travel seminars, Melton learners find Jewish texts and ideas accessible and relevant to their lives. They become part of a worldwide movement of committed learners who are empowered to enrich Jewish life.

Melton is the largest pluralistic adult Jewish education network in the world, with 50 Melton communities throughout the United States, Canada, Australia and South Africa. More than 50,000 learners have experienced Melton’s professionally developed curriculum and lively interactive classes.

Inventor and activist Florence Zacks Melton z”l (1911-2007) envisioned and endowed The Florence Melton Institute in 1986 as a project of the Melton Centre at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She sought to bring to life a comprehensive and sophisticated program of Jewish learning for adults. To this day, Melton attributes its values of accessibility, open-mindedness, integrity, community, and innovation to her enduring vision.


Upcoming Courses


The Holocaust as Reflected in Diaries and Memoirs


10 Week Online Course: October 12 - December 14


Wednesdays, 6:45-8:15 PM


Take a literary journey into the Jewish communities of Europe during the Holocaust — sobering, profound accounts of extraordinary courage in the face of an unprecedented struggle for survival.


For 10 sessions, learners will have the chance to examine first-person narratives found in diaries and memoirs, gaining remarkable insight into this devastating period of modern Jewish history. Both young and old writers — authors, poets and journalists, some who survived and many who did not — describe the growing Nazi threat, coping in the ghettos, and imprisonment in death camps. Their unforgettable stories help us understand the real events of the Shoah and its legacy for us today.


More Information & Registration


Course Cost


Early Registration: $235, before September 30

Standard Registration: $295


Additional scholarships available. Inquire with Sierra Lautman at


More Information & Registration


About the Instructor


Wendy Juren Auerbach

Before becoming an active community advocate, Wendy Juren Auerbach’s career spanned 23 years at WVEC-TV, the later half as the Director of Public Affairs and Community Marketing. At WVEC, she worked closely with dozens of non-profit organizations, most notably the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, the Salvation Army and the Urban League of Hampton Roads.


Wendy oversaw many large public service campaigns and produced numerous public affairs programs as well as writing and producing both short and long format documentaries. These included School Spirit, a comprehensive education campaign that earned both regional and national recognition from the Virginia and National Education Associations. In addition to having served on the boards of The Williams School, Habitat for Humanity South Hampton Roads, For Arts Sake (Chrysler Museum), and the Woman’s Club of Norfolk, she has also been an active member of the Holocaust Commission of the United Jewish Federation for nearly 30 years, chairing the commission twice.


She is in the midst of overseeing the To Life Project, which includes editing a book of over 80 eyewitness accounts that cover the full arc of Holocaust history, and the production of 18 podcasts, which will draw from the stories in the collection.


 Currently, Wendy also serves on Foundation Board for the Virginia Governor’s School for the Arts and the Library of Virginia Foundation A native of Norfolk, Wendy still lives in her hometown and is married with two daughters.






Jews in America, Insiders and Outsiders


10 Week Course, January 18-March 29


Wednesdays, 6:45-8:30 PM


Melton's version of a Jewish-American “Stuff You Missed in History Class”! In 10 engaging sessions, learners will discuss seminal developments in American life, such as the Jewish contributions to American culture, American literature, and the Civil Rights Movement, through the lens of Jews straddling their status as both insiders and outsiders.


The course will also examine antisemitism and the Holocaust, and the changing place of Zionism in the shaping of Jewish American identity. Sharing tales from immigrants, their children, and grandchildren, learners will debate the meaning of this ongoing saga.


More Information & Registration


About the Instructor


Dr. Amy K. Milligan

Dr. Amy K. Milligan is the Batten Endowed Associate Professor of Jewish Studies and Women’s Studies at Old Dominion University, where she is also the director of the Institute for Jewish Studies and Interfaith Understanding. She specializes in the study of small American Jewish communities, especially in the South.


Experience a FREE TASTE of this course!


December 1 at 6:45 pm. Register here.





Exploring a Forgotten World: A Social History of Medieval Jewry


10 Week Course: January 19-March 30


Thursdays, 12:00-1:30 PM


Enjoy a front-row seat to the drama, gossip, legal transactions, and other daily intrigues of Jewish life—in the Middle Ages. This 10-session course brings to life an exotic era in Jewish history, revealing the inner thoughts of real-life characters through the Cairo Genizah, a collection of 400,000 worn-out scraps, text fragments, and documents buried for centuries.


Interpreting textual evidence yields new insights into the daily interactions and behaviors of Jewish men, women and families living along the Mediterranean more than 1,000 years ago – and at root, how similar they are to our own family dynamics, business ventures and communal concerns today. Join us for a historical journey of intrigue and adventure!


More Information & Registration






Previous Courses

  • Jewish Mysticism: Tracing the History of Kabbalah • January 2022

  • Biblical Women: Emerging from the Margins through Midrash • January 2022




Contact Sierra Lautman, Director of Jewish Innovation,at or (757) 965-6107.