About 7 months ago, in time for the current school year, an exciting new website was launched to help students with their Gemara studies in Yeshiva.
In this short amount of time, GemaraAcademy.com already has 268 videos on the first Mishna in Mesechta Shabbos with its Gemara Rashi, and all Tosfos, being over 100 Tosfos. There has been more than 4,600 plays and 58,000 hits.
There has also been feedback from various Yeshivos. A menahel of a Mesivta shared in an email that his bochurim are using the videos for their Chazarah and they love it.
Another menahel of a zal asked to bring the program into his Yeshiva to help the bochurim, and we are currently in the process of implementing it in their Yeshiva. Additionally, a number of Rebbes in our Yeshivos have begun using the program in their classrooms with amazing results.
The website features lessons on tractate Shabbos which is currently being learned in Yeshivos. It keeps getting updates with short video classes on Gemara, Rashi, and Tosfos.
Gemara Academy is designed to be a personal chavrusa that a student can use to learn at his own pace. The classes can be paused, rewound, or played over again. It can be used to prepare for the next day’s class or for chazarah of the previous day’s class.
The teacher is Rabbi Chananya Hoffinger who has been teaching at Hamesivta of Ocean Parkway for 7 years and experienced firsthand the difficulties that come up when learning and teaching Gemara.
“One of the most common difficulties is the vast expansiveness of the Gemara that makes it so hard to stay focused and see the structure of the Gemara,” he says. “Another challenge is the feeling of not knowing what approach and method the Gemara will use in the current Sugya.”
To deal with this, Rabbi Hoffinger created a system of teaching using PowerPoint presentations that use flowcharts that show exactly which tools the Gemara uses in each Sugya and the larger map of the Gemara.
Because Gemara is a study of the Mishna it therefore uses the same tools over and over again; since in the process of analyzing a teaching the same tools are always used. As a result after a very short time the student begins to become more familiar with these tools that the Gemara uses as he sees them used over and over again within the visual context of the flowchart.
One of the important goals of Gemara Academy is that the student come to appreciate the text, and not that the text be replaced with a visual based class. As a result each flowchart is exactly parallel and mirrors the Gemara that it’s teaching. In addition each PowerPoint presentation of the Gemara also has the Gemara text with the Tzuras Hadaf so that the student can become familiar and comfortable with the text.
So Gemara Academy seeks to accomplish a number of things:
1) Show the map of the Gemara so that the student can see the bigger picture and not become lost in the details
2) To become familiar with the style and tools that the Gemara uses
3) To see through the flowchart how the ideas in the Gemara are developed
4) To exactly mirror the text so the student comes to appreciate and become comfortable with the text
All of this will help students become more independent in their learning. As they master the style and tools the Gemara uses, they will feel more empowered and able to approach a new piece of Gemara and learn it on their own.
This system of learning was used this past year in Hamesivta and it had tremendous success. At the end of the year banquet in Hamesivta, student after student got up and spoke about how much they grew in their learning over the year.
Gemara Academy depends on funding from its users. In order to support the building of this project and continue to expand on what has already been done in Mesechta Shabbos and create the same platform on other Mesechtas, Gemara Academy needs users and those who believe in its goal and vision to help out with their donations. This will also help Gemara Academy build a beautiful and user friendly website which is currently in the making and needs funding in order to be completed.