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Why all the software? by Efraim Feinstein

One question I’ve been asked a number of times about the Open Siddur Project is: why are you developing all that software? It’s a fair question. After all, the siddur is just text. There are other do-it-yourself siddur kits out there. They sell you (or, more accurately, license you) a text. You open the text in a word processor, make a few stylistic changes, and voila, you have your own custom siddur. The “advanced” ones may even hand you one copy of a “nusaḥ Ashkenaz” siddur, one copy of a “nusaḥ Sefard” siddur, and one copy of a “nusaḥ Edot Hamizrah” siddur, giving you some choices. All good, right? So, once again, why does the Open Siddur need so much software? . . .

A Case Study on the Open Siddur Project by Gabrielle Girau Pieck (University of Basel, 2014)

The shift is not just about going electronic. It is about how the electronic form of the siddur is allowing for new theological functions. Like religious authority, where digital media can be used to either reinforce traditional forms or open up new landscapes for alternative visions of leadership, the Internet also offers both possibilities regarding the siddur, one of the most precious ritual objects in Judaism. The Open Siddur Project, as its name implies, is aiming to open up previous conceptions of the siddur by shaping and fine-tuning the possibilities of the Internet to make the siddur accessible and personalized for everyone. . . .

“People of the (Open Source) Book” by Dan Mendelsohn Aviv (Key Publishing, 2012)

All of the individuals mentioned in this chapter—designers, bloggers and innovators—are engaged in a transformative endeavour. The digitization of seminal Jewish texts with the ability to remix, share and annotate them has changed the way in which they are perceived as texts. In the eyes of the Next Jew, these documents are no longer static artifacts to be passively consumed. They are vibrant, dynamic entities that grow with each user’s engagement. This engagement is also continual, ever-evolving and, though personal, also connects the individual to the broader Jewish learning community. In other words, every text is accompanied by a threaded discussion and more Jews are taking part, be it through creating their own religious texts or adding their voice to the emerging “Spoken Torah” of the Jewish blogosphere. Though Jewish community was historically maintained by the work of elites, be they the priests, soferim, or rabbis, the Next Jew no longer relies on scholars sequestered in yeshivas to carry the weight of the tradition. All one needs today is commitment and a stable Wi-Fi connection. . . .

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. . . .

“Taking Prayer Into Their Own Hands” (The Jewish Week 2010)

In January 2010, the Jewish Week published a piece about the Open Siddur Project by Steve Lipman, entitled, “Taking Prayer Into Their Own Hands.” The article is no longer available online at the Jewish Week website or in any online cache. We have archived it here for posterity. . . .

“Prayer Unbound” (Hadara Graubart, Tablet Magazine 2009)

We’re honored to have our project the focus of an article in Tablet. . . .

“Prayer a la Carte” (Haaretz 2009)

From the summer of 2009, the first article ever written about our project, the Open Siddur, in the pages of Ha’aretz. By Raphael Ahren. . . .

“Database Davvenen” by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (circa 1984)

The following work was published by a Havurah publication in the late 1970s or early 1980s by Rab Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. In it, Rab Zalman presciently describes a digital database of liturgy and liturgy-related work that havurah groups across the world could use to bring together custom designed and crafted works for use in communal prayer. We are grateful to Reb Zalman for bringing this work to our attention. . . .

“Color-Coded Prayerbook Devised by Rabbi” (Springfield Republican, 1972)

Religious books like the Bible and scholarly works have traditionally been printed in the manner to which everyone is accustomed. Page after page of type with footnotes or indices taking up a good portion of each sheet has long seemed acceptable. Now, within a year [1972/3], a book is expected to come out which will change not only the basic nature of such books but also indicate sources by color code. Rabbi Jacob Freedman of 68 Calhoun St., Springfield has already produced such a book which he calls “a sample.” A larger book is planned for which “90 per cent of the research is completed,” he said. The book called a “polychrome historical prayerbook” in Hebrew will be titled “Siddur Bays Yosef” in remembrance of Rabbi Freedman’s late father, the Rev. Joseph Freedman. . . .

Testing Our Transliteration Engine with help from James Strong’s Biblical Hebrew Dictionary

The mark of a particularly valuable dictionary is how long it is still being used years after it’s introduced. Marcus Jastrow’s Dictionary of the Targumim, Talmud Babli, Talmud Yerushalmi and Midrashic Literature (1903), Brown-Driver-Brigg’s Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (1906), and James Strong’s Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Hebrew Bible . . .

Architecture of the Open Siddur

Lead developer, Efraim Feinstein, recently contributed this helpful diagram of Open Siddur’s architecture.

Invitation to Young Technologists

The Open Siddur Project is a free and open source software project founded around a community of folk passionate about the siddur. We are developing an online collaborative publishing platform for crafting custom siddurim, for preserving the diversity of Jewish prayer traditions, and for sharing translations, commentary, t’fillot, meditations, and art in the siddur.

The . . .

Technology is a “plus” not “or” proposition: thoughts after NewCAJE 2010 by Efraim Feinstein

In education, technology is a means to an end, not an end in itself. There are some problems technology can solve, and others it can’t. As Joel Grishaver said better than I can, technology is a “plus” not “or” proposition. Learners will have different success rates using technological solutions, such as distance learning, and the use of computers cannot take the place of a real-world social community. On the other hand, technology also has the potential to transform learning and learning environments and to make both learning materials and the teachers to guide their use accessible where they would not have otherwise been. . . .

Development Status (08/15/2010)

Hello friends,

Check out our progress! This development status update chronicles progress on the Open Siddur made since our last update, February 15, 2010.

If you’d like to get news of Open Siddur Project development as it occurs, make sure to follow @opensiddur at Twitter, or join the opensiddur-announce email list. We also recommend following . . .

Development Status (2010-02-15)

Open Siddur Project Development Status as of February 2010/Adar 5770

Friends,

The communal project of Jewish spirituality can only be improved through cooperation and collaboration. The creative work used in our traditional liturgies is the common cultural heritage of the Jewish people. Most of this work resides in the public domain. The Open Siddur is . . .

PresenTense Institute Summer Workshop 2009

W00t! First post!

Over the course of the summer I will be in Jerusalem attending the PresenTense Institute‘s summer workshop. Before I arrived I set in mind an intention, (or kavanah, as it were) to achieve the following goals:

gaining expert understanding of the licensing and technical challenges for developing partnerships between creative projects . . .

Development Status (11/11/2009)

Open Siddur Project Development Status as of 11/11/2009

Our third development status covers progress on the Open Siddur made since our last update 9/22/09. Email aharon@opensiddur.org if you want to include something we haven’t covered. For now we’ll be sending these out once a month but if you’d like to get news of Open Siddur . . .

Development Status (9/22/2009)

Open Siddur Project Development Status as of 9/22/2009

Our second development status covers progress on the Open Siddur made since our last update 8/23/09. Email aharon@opensiddur.org if you want to include something we haven’t covered. For now we’ll be sending these out once a month but if you’d like to get news of Open Siddur . . .

Development Status (8/23/2009)

Open Siddur Project Development Status as of 8/23/2009

This is our first development status post. Normally, this post will try to wrap up what we’ve achieved in the past week. Since this is our first, I’ll be summing up some of the progress we’ve made in the last month or so. It will serve . . .

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. . . .

Digitizing Siddurim (PresenTense 2009)

For those of us interested in working with Jewish texts, the idea others claiming copyright on our foundational sourcetexts, digitized or not, seems like an absurdity. We enliven the works of our ancestors by studying their teachings, and meditating on and singing with their prayers. The inspired author or authors of these works gave their work freely to the Jewish people and to the world. All the tradition demands is correct attribution, as is taught in the Pirkei Avot chapter 6:6, התורה נקנית בערבעים ושמונה דברים. ואלו הן: (….)והאומר דבר בשם אומרו. הא למדת כל-האומר דבר בשם אומרו מביא גאלה לעולם, שנאמר “ותאמר אסתר למלך בשם מרדכי …the Torah is acquired by means of forty-eight qualities, which are: (….) [and lastly] what the student has heard from others she will quote in the name of him of whom she has heard it. For so you have learned: He who quotes something in the name of the person who said it brings deliverance to the world. For it is said: “And Esther said to the King in the name of Mordechai.” . . .

Spiritual Alienation and the Siddur (PresenTense, 2009)

Giving an individual a choice of how verses that are tripping them up are translated, or even how the ineffable name, YHVH, and other divine names in Hebrew are represented in a siddur, can make a difference in their experience of t’fillah (prayer) for someone engaging in individual or communal prayer. Giving someone a place to share their personally authored t’fillot, meditation or commentary, or else collaborate on a translation of a medieval piyut (liturgical poem) can connect Jews to each other in a meaningful way where before they were isolated in their passion and earnest devotion. Providing historical data revealing the siddur as an aggregate of thousands of years of creatively inspired texts can help a Jew understand that their creativity and contribution is also important in this enduring conversation. . . .

First Pitch from the Hotseat (PresenTense 2009)

I began by explaining that in the experience of religion there is a contradiction between the individual’s desire for authentic experience and their need for relevant tools to engage individual growth vis-à-vis the project of Judaism. This contradiction is actually a design challenge for useful tools in Judaism’s toolkit of educational and spiritual resources for its participants. The imperfect present is expressed in many current expressions of the Siddur. Although a siddur’s nusaḥ is an authentic expression of a tradition, its utility as a static tool for engaging the creative improvisation required for sinciere spiritual expression (as well as its ability to serve as the traditional tool for educating Jews in sourcetext) is certainly questionable. Our solution is a siddur that is a Siddur that users can build for themselves. Ingredients from all available siddur texts (i.e., copyright permitting) will be available for building siddurim ranging from unchanged nusaḥ Ashkenaz, to mashups of different nusḥaot with additional prayers and art added by the user, with user edited translations they contribute to, and with commentary they share with other users. In this way, a siddur user becomes a sophisticated master of t’fillah, seriously engaged in the prayer authored and offered by Jewish tradition with the freedom to enrich the tradition from their own experience privately or publicly. . . .


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