… and the on­line yeshivah

The Jewish Chronicle - - Judaism - BY MAR­CUS FREED

THE TO­RAH is go­ing from out of Zion fur­ther and faster than ever via the world’s first fully interactive on­line yeshivah. Hav­ing just en­tered its sec­ond se­mes­ter, the Web Yeshiva en­ables stu­dents to join a live on­line shiur (To­rah les­son), in­ter­act­ing with the teacher and fel­low pupils through we­b­cams. Ad­vanced con­fer­enc­ing tech­nol­ogy al­lows them to see the study texts on one part of the screen.

“We’re able to reach stu­dents all over the world from Alaska to New Zealand,” says Rabbi Chaim Broven­der, the Is­rael-based prin­ci­pal and in­sti­ga­tor of the project. “We also have reg­u­lars in Santa Fe, New Mex­ico. We’re get­ting to peo­ple who might oth­er­wise not have ac­cess to learn­ing.”

Rabbi Broven­der’s name is well-known on the yeshivah scene. As the founder of Yeshi­vat Hamiv­tar in Efrat and its sis­ter in­sti­tu­tion for girls, Midreshet Lin­den­baum, he was re­spon­si­ble for train­ing many An­glo-Jewish lead­ers over the last 30 years, in­clud­ing sev­eral rab­bis. He was one of the first Ortho­dox rab­bis pub­licly to teach Talmud to women.

The in­clu­sive approach of the yeshivah is de­signed to wel­come both ex­pe­ri­enced learn­ers and those new to for­mal To­rah stud­ies. Most of the classes are taught in English.

“There’s no hi­er­ar­chy at the Web Yeshiva,” says Michael Lait­ner, as­sis­tant rabbi at South Hamp­stead Syn­a­gogue. “Ac­cess­ing a shiur from a com­puter is a big draw, and the tech­nol­ogy is great. I fi­nally be­gan to get just how real a vir­tual ex­pe­ri­ence could be. It’s also very con­ve­nient.”

Classes are avail­able from four in the morn­ing till 12 at night, en­abling ac­cess across ev­ery time zone. Stu­dents are en­cour­aged to com­ple­ment the shi­urim with chevruta study, learn­ing with a part­ner, and are able to tran­scend ge­o­graph­i­cal lim­i­ta­tions. “De­spite the vir­tual na­ture of the study,” says Rabbi Lait­ner, “I feel a good sense of ca­ma­raderie with the other stu­dents.”

Rabbi Broven­der re­flects: “Many peo­ple can’t go to yeshivah or sem­i­nary. They can’t be in­volved in on­go­ing To­rah learn­ing be­cause it’s not avail­able to them with their sched­ules. This breaks the mould.”

Jonathan Hasle­ton is a for­mer stu­dent of Rabbi Broven­der and a car­di­ol­ogy regis­trar at Wythen­shaw Hospi­tal in Manch­ester. “I think it’s fan­tas­tic,” he says, “and I en­joy go­ing into the archives. Keep­ing up a reg­u­lar learn­ing sched­ule is dif­fi­cult once you’ve left yeshivah, but this makes it so much eas­ier.”

A class for a term costs $75 (£38) to join and there is the of­fer of a free 14-day trial. There are 100 reg­u­lar stu­dents and plans for a sec­ondary-school pro­gramme for teenagers at non-Jewish schools. “They’ll re­ceive a top-notch Jewish ed­u­ca­tion of out­stand­ing qual­ity,” says Rabbi Broven­der. “This is just the be­gin­ning.” Rabbi Broven­der is due to visit the UK next month, speak­ing in Edg­ware over Shavuot and giv­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion of the yeshivah on June 12. More de­tails from: www.we­byeshiva.org

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