As online learning takes on new life under the pandemic, Sarah Rudolph is riding the wave following her start as director of TorahTutors.org in April.
The offshoot of Jerusalem-based WebYeshiva.org was founded in 2010 as an online venue to provide personalized instruction to students of all ages, anywhere on Earth, to learn all aspects of Torah in a one-on-one online setting.
“Sometimes, it’s homeschoolers who want some support with the Jewish side of their curriculum,” Rudolph told the Cleveland Jewish News. “Sometimes, it’s kids who are in a traditional school. … It could be adults who haven’t had the chance to learn text skills.”
In fact, adults in Asia and Europe have recently reached out to her.
Since Rudolph’s start as director at the height of the shutdown triggered by COVID-19, she has been recruiting tutors under a heightened demand for services – for help with everything from basic Hebrew to advanced Talmudic and Jewish text study.
Rudolph said WebYeshiva approached her about leading TorahTutors.org in January. As the virus spread, she said she wasn’t sure whether it would make sense to ramp up an initiative.
“I at first started to think that maybe it wasn’t the time to push new initiatives … or maybe people wouldn’t have the funds to pay for online tutoring,” she said. “And then, I realized that really it was the perfect time.”
When Rudolph started, there were eight active students. Today, there are 15 to 20 students on deck or actively learning, and the number of tutors is also growing.
TorahTutors.org tailors its approach to each student or small group, Rudolph said, and tutors can see students once a week or multiple times a week depending on their schedules and desires. The basic rate is $50 per session with discounts given to those who meet more frequently.
The online platform may have been novel in 2007 when Rabbi Chaim Brovender founded WebYeshiva.org as the first fully interactive online Torah study option.
She said in this time, as people have become more familiar with the concept of online learning options, “We’ve been able to start to serve a need – different kinds of needs in different ways.”
Rudolph has been tutoring with TorahTutors.org for eight years, working with three students long term for much of that time – two high school students in California and an adult in the Washington, D.C., area.
Rudolph began teaching for WebYeshiva.org more recently. She just finished a class on Israel’s first two kings, Saul and David, with a focus on what their reigns teach about the concept of repentance.
Rudolph said she has been getting the word out on Facebook, to Jewish and general homeschooling groups and writing rabbis in North American congregations to seek referrals for students.
In a time when home schooling is becoming more popular and an alternative to Jewish day schools, Rudolph said parents have approached her for support.
“It’s definitely been busy,” she said.
A St. Louis native, Rudolph attended Epstein Hebrew Academy and Block Yeshiva High School, spent two years in Jerusalem’s Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim, received her bachelor’s degree from Yeshiva University-Stern College for Women in New York City, and then spent two years at its graduate program for women in advanced Talmudic studies. She holds a master’s degree in Jewish secondary education from Azrieli Graduate School, also part of Yeshiva University.
Rudolph lived and worked in Boston, where she completed a yearlong teacher training fellowship at the Rabbi Soloveitchik Institute and Maimonides School.
She and her husband, Dr. Yosef Rudolph, a neurologist, relocated to Cleveland from Fleetwood, N.Y., 10 years ago. The University Heights couple has four children: Avigayil, 14, who attends Chaviva High School in Cleveland Heights; Netanel, 12; Binyamin, 9; and Rivka, 5; all of whom attend Fuchs Mizrachi School in Beachwood, where Rudolph taught high school in her first years in Cleveland.
The family are congregants of Green Road Synagogue and Young Israel of Greater Cleveland, both of Beachwood.
Rudolph said she enjoys being able to tell parents that she can help them.
“It’s really amazing to be able to fill those needs,” she said.