Accessibility at SVARA

Throughout history, the Talmud has been accessible to just 1% of Jews. We believe in expanding the Talmud’s teaching to the other 99%, and we commit to ensuring accessibility in the bet midrash for all people who are seeking to learn.

We invite you to share specific access needs with us in all of our registration processes, and we’ll do our best to incorporate your requests as much as possible to ensure that the bet midrash is an environment that supports your learning.

Below, you will find the latest accessibility systems we are using to support our online learning. We know that systems don’t always work, or fail to live up to their greatest, dreamiest potential. If something isn’t going right for you in a learning space, please be in touch with your fairies, your facilitator, Elaina, or Olivia, SVARA’s point people for supporting access needs.

Access Information for Online Shiurim

In Shiur

Timing and Breaks

We learn for 1.5-2 hours at a time on Zoom. There is a break scheduled for all learners during 2-hour shiurim. At all times, you are welcome to sit, stand, lay down, stretch, get a snack, drink some water, and take breaks according to your own needs. Please do what you need to do to take care of your body and yourself!

Video

Feel free to turn your video on/off as needed throughout the session. While you are encouraged to have your video on during shiur, we honor that at times learners may need to have their cameras off. You always have the option of declining to read when you’re called on, and teachers will not call on you if you have your video off unless you have previously notified the teacher otherwise.

Captioning

All full-group learning will be live-captioned by our captioning team, and all Zoom rooms support automatic integrated live-captioning. At various moments throughout our sessions, we may make use of breakout groups for chevruta (one-on-one learning) and smaller group discussion spaces of 3-6 people. Upon registration, you will be asked if you would like your chevruta and breakout groups to be captioned by one of the members of our captioning team.

Zoom Tips

All shiurim provide instructions for using Zoom, as well as options for increasing contrast and font size on your screen. 

Materials / Supplies

Large-Print Materials

We have large-print copies of materials available to send along with printed materials. If you would like enlarged printed materials, please indicate this on your registration form and we will send them to you. Many students also choose to use a magnifying glass to read small print texts—we recommend the Magnabrite Magnifier.

Digital Materials

Each shiur session will have an online learning portal with all bet midrash materials available digitally. Materials will be available in 13-point font, 20-point font, and in Google Doc formats compatible with screen reader technology and other formatting options.

After each session, we will upload recordings of the session, along with the Hebrew/Aramaic pronunciation of the text covered and inside/outside translations of the text onto the Class Portal.

Dictionaries

There are two dictionaries that you will use when learning Talmud in the original at SVARA (or anywhere else!): a “Jastrow,” and a “Frank.” Below you will find descriptions for how to access these dictionaries. 

A “Jastrow”—Dictionary of the Targumim, Talmud Bavli, Talmud Yerushalmi and Midrashic Literature, by Marcus Jastrow

You can access this dictionary in a printed bound book, or online. Only you know what you need in order to learn best! We encourage when possible to use printed and paper materials and recommend, if accessible to you, a paper copy of the Jastrow dictionary. 

 About the printed Jastrow Dictionary:

  • The typeface in printed editions of the Jastrow Dictionary is quite small. Many of our learners and teachers use a Magnabrite magnifying glass to help increase the size and clarity of the printing. You can find these magnifiers here!
  • Some folks find the online versions of the dictionary more accessible for various reasons. Below is information about the various online editions:

About the online Jastrow Dictionary:

The Jastrow dictionary is available online in several forms. We recommend the following two options: 

  • Option #1 is the Tyndale Archive Jastrow Dictionary. This is a complete scan of the printed dictionary. You can find your dictionary entry by the first letter of the word you are looking up and then selecting the first word on the page that will contain your entry. You can enlarge the scanned pages of this dictionary by using the interface’s built-in enlargement tools which are available in the page header. Some benefits of using this option include that it feels more like the book – if your chevruta is using a printed dictionary, you will be looking at the exact same thing and can share page numbers, and you will reinforce learning the order of the alef bet. 
  • Option #2 is the Jastrow Dictionary on Sefaria. With this option you can type the root or word you are looking for into a search box (via the onscreen Hebrew keyboard) and jump directly to an entry. You may need to scroll backward and forward from there because there can be multiple entries for the same term. Sefaria includes a built-in function to adjust the font size which you can access by selecting the “Aא” button on the upper right side of the page. Some benefits of using this option are that the digitized text is clearer than the Tyndale Archive’s scans and Sefaria is compatible with screen reader technology. Some challenges are that it is harder to get on the “same page” as your chevruta (there are no page numbers), and sometimes the search function takes you to unexpected places. 

A “Frank”—Practical Talmud Dictionary, by Yitzhak Frank

A note about the “Frank”: It has come to our attention that this dictionary is currently not in print and finding a copy of a Frank might be difficult. We will ensure that any entries that are relevant to your learning will be scanned and placed on the portal for you to use during this class.

If purchasing dictionaries or a magnifying glass is beyond your means, please be in touch with Olivia.

Financial Access

Tuition

Some learning spaces at SVARA are offered at no cost, and some invite tuition contributions. When tuition is listed for one of our programs, it is listed on a suggested sliding scale. All of our classes are “pay what you can,” and no one will be turned away for lack of funds. When registering, you can indicate the amount you would like to contribute for tuition, which can be below, on, or above the suggested scale. 

Payment options include the opportunity to pay all at once or in a 2- or 3-installment pay plan.

 

If you have any other needs for making your learning experience with SVARA accessible, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’re learning more each day about how to make online learning more accessible, and we’re grateful to everyone who shares feedback and ideas!