Enter Web Yeshiva, the first real-time Torah center whose second semester begins May 6 with signups at www.webyeshiva.org. Sure, there are thousands of Web sites devoted to Jewish subjects, and plenty of podcasts that offer lectures on Judaism -the "ShasPod" even offers the entire daf yomi of daily Talmud learning loaded on an iPod - but "The Jewish People's First Online Yeshiva," as the Israel-based online program calls itself, offers real classes through web conferencing for people around the world.
"There are many people who would like to study Torah but aren't doing so on a regular basis - either because no relevant classes are given in their communities, work schedules, or whatever," said founder Rabbi Chaim Brovender. "Then there are people who attend shiurim in a passive way without internalizing the message. But Internet learning provides an option that enables more and more people to involve themselves in committed Torah study."
This semester, 46 weekly classes are being offered, including Talmud, Bible, Halacha, Jewish business ethics, and a Hebrew Ulpan for beginners. Access to one class is $75 per semester or $250 for unlimited access to all classes. Students are offered access to archives of all classes, 24-hour a day technical support and access to all WebYeshiva blogs and podcasts as well as a daily video on Halacha.
Like other virtual learning and videoconferencing, Web Yeshiva students see and hear each other and the instructor in the virtual classroom. Students must log on at a set time (as opposed to some virtual learning, where lectures are posted for students to read anytime), and they can see the texts being studied on the left side of the screen, and watch the videos and chats on the right.
The only question for yeshiva students is -- how do you cut class?