בסיעתא דשמיא

Primary sources in open-source Judaism: Rabbi Yitzchok Hutner’s Paḥad Yitzḥok, Rosh Hashana Ma’amar Bet

In our continuing effort to expose the foundations of Open Source Judaism in Jewish source texts, we have made a transcription of Rabbi Ally Ehrman’s shiur (lesson) explaining Rabbi Yitzḥok Hutner’s ראש השנה מאמר ב “Rosh Hashana Ma’amar 2” (circa 1950s) published in Paḥad Yitzḥok, (a compendium of Rabbi Hutner’s teachings from the 1950s until his death in 1983). The ma’amar is an explication of the verse in Proverbs and familiar to anyone that sings Eyshet Ḥayil before the Sabbath evening meal, “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and a loving-kind Torah is on her tongue,” (Proverbs 31:26). The ma’amar weaves ideas by the Maharal from Gevurot Hashem (6:4) commenting on the gemarah in Talmud Bavli Sukkah 49b that the meaning of Torat Ḥesed (loving-kind torah) is a torah learned with the intention of being retransmitted. Via the MaHaRaL, Rabbi Hutner teaches that this effort in giving is an act of loving-kindness whereby a new work is made freely and shared completely without any diminution of the source, the giver, or the recipient. . . .

‘Make yourself into a maqom hefker’: Primary sources on open-source in Judaism (sourcesheet)

How does rabbinic Judaism value openness? What does openness mean? This sourcesheet accompanied the shiur “‘Make yourself into a Maqom Hefker’: Rabbinic Teachings on Open Source in Judaism,” a class I taught on Taz biShvat 5774 (January 16th, 2013) in partnership with the Sefaria Project for Parshat Yitro. The shiur discussed the concept of דִּימוּס פַּרְהֶסְיַא Dimus Parrhesia (δῆμος παρρησία) as a valued ideal in Rabbinic discourse: its cameo appearance in midrashic teachings on Parshat Yitro and its relationship to other relevant ideas and attitudes in the study of Torah and the Jewish stewardship of the Commons. . . .

SHARE WHAT YOU LOVE ♡ A Decision Tree for Choosing Free-Culture Compatible Open Content Licenses for Cultural & Technological Work

Since we all live under the current terms of each of our respective nation’s copyright laws, simply making something available or accessible over the Internet doesn’t make it free under copyright for others to use and improve upon. That’s why open content licenses exist: to abrogate the restrictions imposed by copyright law. We rely upon these open content licenses here at the Open Siddur Project. . . .

Selecting the Right Open Content License for You

To help creators of new works navigate the panoply of free/libre, open source, and copyleft licenses, I made a decision tree flowchart as an image map with clickable links to respective licenses and relevant articles. . . .

Copyright and Commercial Use: the Problem with Creative Commons’ Non-Commercial Use Licenses

This post continues the series of advocacy posts directed at Jewish content creators and aggregators. Other parts of the series discussed the global communal benefit of free primary data resources and issues of copyright license compatibility and the connection between copyright licensing and remixability. While my previous post briefly mentioned the non-free Creative Commons licenses, this post details why you should choose a free culture license. In particular, it urges you to avoid the licenses with the non-commercial-use only (NC) terms. . . .

Public policy, technology, and copyright in Halakha: a sourcesheet

Last Sukkot 5771 (2011), Efraim Feinstein shared the sourcesheet for his late night shiur (lesson) on copyright in Rabbinic Halakhah (Jewish law). Efraim’s research adds a great deal of important perspective to our work here on the Open Siddur Project. It provides relevant historical context for our work advocating the adoption of free culture principles and free-culture licenses to facilitate sharing (tachlis) within the Jewish world. . . .

Pew Study of American Jewry: A Few Grains of Salt by Dr. Samuel Klausner

We are honored to share a paper of the eminent sociologist of American Jewry, Dr. Samuel Klausner. In this paper, Dr. Klausner presents his observations of the Pew Study of American Jewry (2013). Dr. Klausner writes: “Why have so many of my sociologist friends and leaders of the American Jewish community accepted the Pew report findings at face value? A Portrait of Jewish Americans has received wide attention. An article appeared in the Forward and Arnold Eisen discussed it in his blog. My list serv from the Association for the Social Scientific Study of Jewry (ASSJ) has had a running discussion of both findings and methods. Recently, I received a Board Briefing from the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture which describes the report as “important and impartial.” The subtext of “impartial” may account for some of the uncritical impact of the findings. Pew has published ‘raw’ numbers, unexplained summaries of interview responses. The results evoked skepticism in this reader. An examination of how these results were obtained, a methodological critique, confirmed my skepticism.” . . .

Jewish Content, Free Culture and “Content Compatibility” by Efraim Feinstein

The free culture community has developed mechanisms to make sharing and collaborative development easier. The principles that define works of free culture are:

  1. the freedom to use the work and enjoy the benefits of using it
  2. the freedom to study the work and to apply knowledge acquired from it
  3. the freedom to make and redistribute copies, in whole or in part, of the information or expression
  4. the freedom to make changes and improvements, and to distribute derivative works

Note that these freedoms do not discriminate on the basis of endeavor, and all free culture works allow creation of derivative works and commercial use. . . .

Access, Sharing, and Innovation through Digitization and the Public Domain

Cultures, including our own, breathe creativity and exhale innovation. We rely on the creative works bequeathed to us by earlier generations to remain rooted in our cultural identity. Synagogue members and kids in day schools, summer camps, youth orgs, and creative Jews working on their own can all benefit from our educational, cultural, and spiritual institutions cooperating with one another in sharing the bounty of our cultural heritage. As Jews, are we not all collaborating on a grand project of Torah learning, spiritual improvement, and tikkun olam? It’s time our cultural licensing choices reflect these profound intentions. . . .

An Economic Argument for Open Data by Efraim Feinstein

Free, open data prevents the necessity of duplication of effort, which, in turn, prevents the community as a whole from unnecessarily wasteful spending. Particularly for organizations with a social mission, its use is a win for everyone. . . .

Preserving Public Domain resources from End User License Agreements in Proprietary Torah Databases

Often we are asked here at the Open Siddur Project why we cannot simply use the digitized texts of the siddur that are available from Davka Corporation. Our instinct was that Davka only granted permission for individuals to use their digitized Hebrew texts under fair use doctrine. To be certain, we sought to find the the text of Davka Corporation’s End User License Agreement (EULA) and failing to locate this information online, friends of the project provided us with the EULA included with the packaging and software installer for a Davka software product: DavkaWriter Dimensions II. From the language of these license agreements, it is clear that the text Davka is providing is not free for end-users to distribute or to create derivative works. Section 4(a) of the EULA reads: “You may not use the texts in the software to publish materials for sale without express written permission from Davka Corporation. Preparation of these texts has entailed considerable effort and expense. They are not shareware, and should be used by no one other than the purchaser.” . . .

תנ״ך | A Tale of Two Codexes: The Aleppo and Leningrad Codex

Given that more than 50% of the Siddur is comprised of text from the תנ׳׳ך (TaNaKh) any project that seeks to rigorously attribute its sources depends on a critical, digital edition of the Masoretic text of the Hebrew bible. And such is the case for our Open Siddur Project. The entire history of the transmission of such a profoundly important sourcetext illustrates the degree to which we rely on each others most positive intentions to advance our love of the Torah through sharing — regardless of sect, creed, scholarly or theological inspiration. Moving ahead we are supported by each others gifts and by the preserved legacy of our cultural inheritance. . . .

Our hearts are stirred to create and to share

For a relationship as intimate as that with one’s own spirit, we might assume that the only spiritual tools provided to individuals have this degree of personalization, but this of course, is not so. Printed siddurim were designed with other goals in mind. As a technology the siddur only became widely adopted by the Jewish public in the mid-19th century. Printers of siddurim have designed their siddurim to appeal to mass markets, each edition of the siddur representing a specific communal custom, and when translated, the specific language of a community. It’s no surprise then that for many Jews their spiritual identity is closely mapped to the liturgical variations represented by their Siddurim. . . .

The afikoman hiding in plain sight: On Freedom and Roleplaying in Re-enacting Judaism’s Archetypal Hero’s Journey

How good are you playing this amazing, venerable role-playing game called Judaism? Playing your whole life? Grand. So is it fun? Is it worthwhile? Would you recommend it to your friends? No. All right… so why not? Oh. Yeah. Oh… true. Ok, yeah, those are all good reasons. But what if I told you there was a way to play it better. Not everyone will catch on at first, but it should satisfy the most conservative players AND the most innovative. The geeks will love it and it will lower the bar for entry to even the most simple of players. Ok, it does sound too good to be true. But hey, what’s the point of playing the game if you’re not willing to suspend the physics of the familiar and try on a new set of rules. Embrace the illusion. Try on a new reality. Help create a new one, together. I just want players to use their imagination, feel appreciated instead of alienated, and just improve the game for everyone. So what is it? I’ll tell you. . . .

חנוכה | Is Sara Levi-Tanai’s Banu Ḥoshekh l’Garesh in the Public Domain?

Some might seem surprised that this work isn’t in the Public Domain simply by virtue of the song’s popularity. Translations of Banu Ḥoshekh L’garesh are not uncommon despite the apparent lack of translation rights provided to translators. This all underlines how copyright is regularly ignored in the living practice of creative cultures. And yet, copyright law and the protections it affords are ignored at the peril of a copyrighted work’s remixers, publishers, translators, and other creatives. Both the song and an anonymous English translation are here being provided as an example for this article on copyright under Fair Use. Each individual contribution to our collective intellectual commons may be small, but together, our contributions will make a tremendous resource for a renewed vibrant living and creative culture. . . .

Publicly funded work of Jewish non-profits should be shared with Open Content licensing (Future of Jewish Non Profit Summit, 2010)

I invite you to think of the Torah as a free and open platform rather than a closed one, and to see your work similarly. The takeaway I have for you today is to adopt an open source strategy for your non-profit work in the manner that Maimonides, Hillel the Elder, or the Sfas Emes would. Express faith in your organizational mission by opening up the development of that which you are innovating to the broader community, maintain a low bar for entry and to cultivate a market for wide adoption, and eschew closed source development and proprietary licensing. When your actions are guided by your business model rather than your mission statement, it’s time to revisit your mission statement and rethink your business model. . . .

An interview with Aharon Varady on Open Source Judaism (Radio613, 2010)

My struggle to realize this project is personal, but I never ever wanted my own dissatisfaction to overshadow what anyone else could bring to this project. We each have a unique creative light, and wow, does it ever grow bright when our light shines together. I knew this project was important because it came as an epiphany — an intersection of multiple passions each calling with their own creative, intellectual, and political genius. I just had to finally listen and take note. In the shadow of the Holocaust, a revitalized Jewish culture must be sought that does not rely entirely on ethnic nationalist movements to advance and preserve Jewish identity. Renaissance in all cultures, including Jewish culture, depends on the freedom of its participants, its cultural constituents, to be creative and expressive individuals, engaging with the meaning that culture broadcasts through its traditions. I said it in the interview but it bears repeating, the lingering dialectic that defines religion as somehow separate from culture relies on a notion that religion is no longer creative — a mere replication of viral memes, in Dawkin’s language. We liberate religion when we return it to culture, as a creative and relevant force for helping to shape our individual and collective consciousness. Religion in this way provides exercises, practices and other social technologies to help us evolve. If its creativity isn’t maintained, its relevance is ceded to other systems to function in its place — or it is ceded to social elements and authorities who might use it to sustain self-serving agendas. . . .

“Ten Commandments of Jewish Social Networking” (Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles 2010)

“The golden rule here is that when people share Torah,” said Aharon N. Varady, founder and director of the Open Siddur Project, “Torah is increased in the world.”

In my interview with Jonah, I explained to him the teaching of the Sfas Emes, the Gerrer Rebbe Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter, who taught in his drash on parshat Terumah, the following.[ref]Translation is Rabbi Arthur Green’s from The Language of Truth: The Torah Commentary of Sefat Emet (JPS 1998, p.121, copyright all rights reserved, and here quoted through Fair Use.[/ref]

The Midrash Tanhuma quotes: “I have given you good lekaḥ (teaching)” (Proverbs 4:2). [Lekaḥ can also refer to something acquired by purchase.] It then offers a parable of two merchants, one who has silk and the other peppers. Once they exchange their goods, each is again deprived of that which the other has. But if there are two scholars, one who has mastered the Order of Seeds and the other who knows the Order of Festivals, once they teach each other, each has both orders. . . .

On the Open Siddur Project: A Brochure Presented at the Academy for Jewish Religion’s Spring Intensive 2010

This journey really started with my time spent with the myriad of other folk who prepared for and showed up at Jews in the Woods gatherings. It was at one such retreat at the old Eilat Chayyim in upstate New York that I met Dan Sieradski who had worked on his own Open Source Siddur project and who afterward invited me to the advisory board of what was then called Matzat and which might now be called Jew-It-Yourself. I promised him that the siddur we would develop would be an important feature of the larger constellation of resources we were imagining, resources all complementary due to our use of free and open source licensing. . . .

Thankful for the Internet Sacred Text Archive’s John Bruno Hare (1955-2010)

We just learned that yesterday (April 27, 2010) that John Bruno Hare, founder of the Internet Sacred Texts Archive, passed away. John’s last decade of life was deeply invested in breathing life into public domain texts that had never been digitized. All this material was released back into the world as freely licensed content. Just . . .

Efraim Feinstein presents the Open Siddur Project at NewCAJE, 2010

At the beginning of the talk, the audience expressed some discomfort with the idea of copying from one website to another, even if the original author is attributed. The main concern seemed to be that the author potentially loses control of his/her message if he/she has no idea of the remainder of the content of the website. On the other hand, one audience member who posts reviews on book review sites had an innate sense of the concept of mutual benefit: she posts reviews of the books she reads in part because she reads reviews posted by others. . . .

Culmus Project’s Ancient Semitic Scripts Fonts Now Licensed GPL with “font exception”

Think of a favorite book, or siddur, and think of the style of the letters in it. Fonts are used to forms the words and portray the liturgy, poetry, and other texts. More often than not, these fonts are not free. They are licensed from typographic designers for a fee or used with permission. Sometimes . . .

Openness, remixability, and free culture (Efraim Feinstein, 2010)

Advocacy for creative works’ freedom represents a paradigm shift in thought among content creators: In a free culture, a premium is not placed on the material as-such or even the particular rights associated with the material. Instead, it is on the users’ freedom, and it is that freedom that is the prerequisite to large-scale creative engagement with educational material. . . .

Why, davka, an Open Siddur Project by Aharon Varady (PresenTense 2009)

The Open Siddur is an online tool for individuals and groups to craft the siddur they’ve always wanted. The Open Siddur will provide content (translations, transliterations, art, tfillot, piyutim, and other source texts) from an archive of current and historic nusḥaot (both well-known and obscure) and enable users to adapt, contribute new content, and share the siddurim they’ve generated. Partnerships with on-demand printers enable users to print beautiful copies of their personally customized siddurim and machzorim. The Open Siddur benefits independent minyanim and trans-denominational communities, pluralistic institutions, teachers of Jewish liturgy, and Jews of all ages evolving their personal use of t’fillah in their own daily practice, both alone and within groups. . . .

Pirate Siddurim vs. Open Siddurim (PresenTense 2009)

Culture hacking either respects copyright or ignores it. One of the pillars of the Open Siddur is its respect of copyright and its attempt to make available a digitized repository of Siddur content that is available for editing, mashups, and remixing, i.e., “derivative works” that may be redistributed without restriction. For example, we want you to have the freedom to take the nusaḥ Ashkenaz, borrow kavanot from the nusaḥ sfard, and piyyutim (liturgical poetry) from the nusaḥ Romaniote; add and edit existing translations of familiar psalms and contribute and share your own translation of obscure piyyutim; share the pdf you build at Open Siddur and give it to an artist to apply an even more beautiful layout than the one we provide; and even redistribute the siddur commercially. . . .


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