What do an 85-year-old Israeli, a 10-year-old homeschooler, and a 33-year-old Polish Jew have in common? They all study at WebYeshiva.org, the world’s first fully interactive online Torah study program. The site, founded in 2007, brings Jews from across the world together to study Torah in real-time using video-conferencing technology.Students enrolled at the site can participate in interactive classroom sessions via webcam and direct questions to rabbis in every time zone.
“Every time I log on, I’m amazed that I get to participate in such a high level of Jewish learning from Hawaii, literally the farthest edge of the galut,” says participant Sheri Levin.
WebYeshiva.org was founded three years ago by its Rosh Yeshiva, Brooklyn native Rabbi Chaim Brovender, together with Rabbi Yedidya Rausman. “One day, we were discussing how we could bring Torah to today’s Jews,” Rausman explains. “There were so many vile things on the internet- we thought it would be great to use it for a Holy purpose.”
For Rausman and Brovender, there is tremendous potential for online Jewish education in the years to come. “The brick and mortar yeshiva will always exist, but most people outside of Israel can’t attend it,” says Rausman. According to their website, WebYeshiva.org offers more than just classes – it provides a “virtual yeshiva community” where participants can interact and learn at their own time and pace.
“We’re learning about Judaism for the sake of learning about Judaism, and studying Torah for the sake of Torah. The internet allows for so much creativity with this, because we can bring in experts from across the world.”
Since its inception, WebYeshiva.org has been home to approximately 6,000 Jews from a wide variety of backgrounds and locations. “We have rabbis, we have children, and we have people in the process of conversion. We’re all one people, united by Torah,” says Rausman. “We have Jews of every color, shape and size.”
Participants log on from their homes or offices in dozens of countries including Israel, the United States, Poland, New Zealand and South Africa. “I think we break down a lot of barriers between people. Online, everyone is the same,” says Rausman. “We have such a diverse group of people developing and discussing ideas.”