The beginning of the Jewish year 5784 marked the 100th anniversary of daf yomi, literally “daily folio,” a coordinated program of studying the entire Talmud in seven years. Tevi Troy and Noam Wasserman write:
Daf yomi was founded by Rabbi Mayer Shapiro, a learned scholar who was also involved in Polish politics in the 1920s. Rabbi Shapiro observed that he was living in a time of great social division and wanted a way to bring akhdus (Hebrew for “unity”) to the Jewish people. He created a program of universal daily assignments of talmudic study. At the pace of one page per day, those who followed the program would read the 2,711 pages of the Talmud in a seven-and-a-half-year cycle. He hoped this system would become “universal”—with Jews throughout the world studying the same portion each day.
In creating this program, Shapiro faced major challenges. World War I had overturned the pre-war monarchic order. Rising anti-Semitism, and new economic opportunities, led many Jews to migrate away from the ancient ways of talmudic learning. Rabbi Shapiro’s innovation leveraged technological innovations to deal with these obstacles. Modern printing made it easier to produce the volumes of the Talmud. Tape recordings, telephones, and broadcasts soon provided more ways to disseminate daf yomi lessons. . . . A quick search reveals 72 different daf yomi podcasts, and that is only scratching the surface.
In the aftermath of the Holocaust, . . . American sociologists wrongly predicted that Orthodox Judaism would soon disappear in the U.S. Today, 10 percent of America’s Jewish population is Orthodox. That number is rising as Orthodox Jews marry earlier, intermarry less, and have more children. These demographic trends foretell a future of more daf yomi participants. Yet daf yomi is not only the domain of Orthodox men. There are non-religious daf yomi classes, female daf yomi classes, and a host of other varieties.
When the last daf yomi cycle ended, in 2020, the New York Times estimated that 350,000 Jews worldwide were participating in the program, a considerable percentage of Jews worldwide.