The Surprising 21st-Century Triumph of Talmud Study

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.

Read more at First Things

More about: Daf Yomi, Orthodoxy, Talmud

Universities Are in Thrall to a Constituency That Sees Israel as an Affront to Its Identity

Commenting on the hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on college campuses, and the dismaying testimony of three university presidents, Jonah Goldberg writes:

If some retrograde poltroon called for lynching black people or, heck, if they simply used the wrong adjective to describe black people, the all-seeing panopticon would spot it and deploy whatever resources were required to deal with the problem. If the spark of intolerance flickered even for a moment and offended the transgendered, the Muslim, the neurodivergent, or whomever, the fire-suppression systems would rain down the retardant foams of justice and enlightenment. But calls for liquidating the Jews? Those reside outside the sensory spectrum of the system.

It’s ironic that the term colorblind is “problematic” for these institutions such that the monitoring systems will spot any hint of it, in or out of the classroom (or admissions!). But actual intolerance for Jews is lathered with a kind of stealth paint that renders the same systems Jew-blind.

I can understand the predicament. The receptors on the Islamophobia sensors have been set to 11 for so long, a constituency has built up around it. This constituency—which is multi-ethnic, non-denominational, and well entrenched among students, administrators, and faculty alike—sees Israel and the non-Israeli Jews who tolerate its existence as an affront to their worldview and Muslim “identity.” . . . Blaming the Jews for all manner of evils, including the shortcomings of the people who scapegoat Jews, is protected because, at minimum, it’s a “personal truth,” and for some just the plain truth. But taking offense at such things is evidence of a mulish inability to understand the “context.”

Shocking as all that is, Goldberg goes on to argue, the anti-Semitism is merely a “symptom” of the insidious ideology that has taken over much of the universities as well as an important segment of the hard left. And Jews make the easiest targets.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, University