Mr. Melton first became involved with the Jewish Federation of New Mexico in 2017 as a B'nai Brith Youth Organization (BBYO) advisor. His work with the federation has evolved throughout the years through various endeavors. Most recently, he was nominated by his congregation to represent the Chav on the federation’s diversity, equity, and inclusion working group. “Through my work with the group and with Rabbi Lennick, I was identified as a good fit for the Board of Directors,” said Mr. Melton. “ I am really enjoying the process and getting to know the other members.”
Joining the Jewish Federation of New Mexico’s board was a compelling opportunity for Mr. Melton. He explained, “Traditionally in New Mexico and in the United States, there is a very Ashkenormative model of Judaism
that has become the cultural lens through which Jews are acknowledged or identified.” This lens assumes that all Jewish people are from Eastern Europe—negating the experience of a significant portion of the Jewish population who did not originate from Eastern Europe. A goal of the Jewish Federation of New Mexico includes reeducating the community to facilitate a model of Jewish identity that truly represents the diversity of the community. Mr. Melton looks forward to helping create bridges between the Jewish community in New Mexico and other underrepresented groups so that they can walk in the footsteps of Dr. King and Rabbi Heschel lifting their voices up in a united effort for change, diversity, equity, and inclusion.
As for the World Congress of GLBT Jews, Mr. Melton described his engagement with them as besheret—Hebrew for fate. He worked with the organization for several years beginning in 1995. Nearly three decades later, Mr. Melton reached out to them to see if there could be a partnership between World Congress and the Jewish Federation of New Mexico with their efforts to be inclusive with the LGBTQIA+ Jewish community in New Mexico, and much to his surprise, they remembered him from his involvement many years ago. After the interview process, he was asked to step into the role of secretary of the board.
The World Congress has a strong presence in South America, Europe, and across the Middle East, and is striving to regenerate membership in North America. The organization has been instrumental in pushing forward LGBTQIA+ rights for Jews within many communities and federations across the world, as well as influencing public policy issues on LGBTQIA+ inclusion in Israel.
“I really look forward to the challenges and opportunities of this appointment,” said Mr. Melton. “It is not an easy job and there is a lot of work to do...but it is a labor of love.”