Monday, October 19, 2009

What makes a good עלון (weekly dvar torah newsletter)?

This past Shabbos we published our first עלון (weekly dvar torah newsletter).

We wanted to include serious content, but we also wanted to make sure people would not be intimidated and would read it, and we also wanted to include many departments in order to reach different audiences.

As a result, our עלון currently includes:
• Parshah (naturally);
• An article relevant to the season (ie Rosh Chodesh, Chagim, etc);
• A piece on a place in Israel and its Torah-related significance (did not appear in the first issue, because we needed to use the space for an advertisement);
• A brief biography of a Torah leader, along with a dvar torah from that leader;
• Serious questions for thought, with bibliographic references for research;
• Questions for children (did not appear in the first issue, because we needed to use the space for an advertisement);
• A schedule of the coming week’s events (did not appear in the first issue, because we needed to use the space for an advertisement).

And, of course, all of this must fit into an 11 * 17 page, folded double. And its preparation must not take up seder time. Quite a challenge.

You can see our first week’s results here.

Please let me know: What could we add that would make this עלון stand out from other dvar torah publications? What would make it particularly worthwhile – and still fit our space and time constraints?

On a separate note: David Ostriker, from Koshertube, came to a shiur of mine last night (“Informed Consent and Patient Autonomy”) and recorded it; you can find it on-line here. It wasn’t my best ever, but it may be worth watching.


  1. Woo! You mean you're a real person with a face and a voice?

  2. One comment - when you write about gedolim, I would include secular years, so people not accustomed to thinking in terms of the hebrew calendar can understand what era is being discussed....

  3. Michael-
    Nope; it's a body double. I'm much uglier.

    Good point, thanks for commenting.

  4. Wow. I have never seen anything like this before - it's great!

    The only perplexing thing is the questions for children - are you aiming them at a certain age-group? Is there enough in there so that all the children old enough to learn Torah (3-13) will be able to say something, and be able to "come before the Torah with dignity"?

  5. Phyllis-

    We'll have to see, when we get to the point of actually including questions for children. We're planning to have one such question this week, and building from there, but it will be more of a guide for their independent study than a lesson for them.

  6. Very nice looking alon. Kol hakavod.

    Something I like to see, and very rarely do, is historical dates for the (month, week, whatever).

    Yahrzeits are only one example. Heshvan has yahrzeits for Rav Tzvi Hirsh Kalisher, Rav Rafael Aharon ben Shimon, the Rosh, Rahel Imainu, the Hazon Ish, Hanah Senesh, etc., as well as contemporary figures like Rav Meir Kahane and Rav Shlomo Carlebach.

    Events also. The yeshiva in Kfar HaRoeh, the beginning of Yeshivot Bnei Akiva, was founded in Heshvan. Mivtza Kadesh began in Heshvan.

    Historical people and events, not only strictly religious ones, are a really good educational tool and help promote identity and pride.

    Will the alon be viewable each week on the web?

  7. Hello R' Mordechai,

    Yes, we hope to tie into dates in the העם והארץ section; I agree that this is important.

    We are developing our Toronto Torah website; you can see a draft of the new version at That site will carry the alon each week, Gd-willing.