The Open Siddur is a volunteer driven project creating a free resource for folks crafting their own siddur (Jewish prayer book). We are collaboratively building a digital library of material comprising the siddur — liturgy, translations, instructional material, commentaries, essays, art, and other associated media. Along with this library, we are developing the software that can be used to design and fully customize a siddur online prior to publishing in print. Ultimately, siddurim prepared with this application may be printed with an on-demand printer or master book binder/book artist, at the discretion of the siddur maker. Others may opt to use the application as a tool for learning about or teach Jewish liturgy, or simply to share original works, or collaborate on translating or transcribing existing works in the database. By “open,” we mean that our code and our texts are free for anyone to use and redistribute so long as they abide by the under standard free and open source licenses. We are a community passionate about the siddur and we express our passion by sharing our work. This material could be historic or new, familiar or obscure. We seek to design a tool that will provide a resource to help those who take Jewish spirituality seriously engage in their own spiritual practice. If you’d like to help us, take a look at the following opportunities to contribute (below), fill out this questionnaire, or just straight out contact us. You can help this project in the following ways:

By sharing your translations, commentaries, transcriptions, artwork, typography, and recordings.

There is so much great material that will never be available to include in future siddurim. Works published after 1923 that are not simply obscure due to their having limited distribution, are made inaccessible through copyright law  which restricts their creative use for the lifetime of the author pus 70 years (even longer if the copyright is owned by a corporation). Even when one seeks permission to use a resource, the time and effort it can take to track down the owner of what often becomes an “orphaned” work makes this process extremely costly. It would be much better if cultural creators simply granted their explicit permission for others to modify and adapt their work so long as they abide by certain restrictions: always correctly attributing the original author, and redistributing the derivative work under the same license that mandates attribution — namely, the Creative Commons By Attribution ShareAlike license (also known by its acronym, CC BY-SA).

By providing research and scholarly input.

The scope of our project is large and our community is passionate. If you are a scholar or are training to become one, this is a project that desires your input — by collaborating on our discussion list, correcting mistakes, and by writing and contributing research directly through the project. Ultimately, we want the Open Siddur Project to provide a useful means for scholarly projects to be launched without the restrictive terms of other digital humanities projects like the Friedberg Genizah Project. We are seeking texts and manuscripts that witness the history of Jewish liturgical development, as work (historic or contemporary) that witnesses innovations in the practice of Jewish spirituality.

By scanning books and facsimile editions.

Can you build a book scanner? Or perhaps you know a library that does… we need to scan books and manuscripts. We are obviously interested in texts that witness diverse traditions and regional prayer customs, but we are also interested in the aesthetic and craft of old siddurim, incunabula, and manuscripts with prayers.

By transcribing and proofreading text.

Can you help Kobi Zamir complete his Hebrew OCR (hOCR) software? If not, then help us transcribe machine readable text! All you’ll need to do is register on our wiki, read our transcription tutorial, and start typing. If you need help setting up your keyboard to type in Hebrew, we can help you with that.

By providing legal, grant writing, or other professional services.

We are always in need of specialists who we can consult so that our project remains healthy. Thankfully, our project has received excellent legal advice in its early years. If you believe in our project and believe you can help ensure its sustainability, please contact us.

By hacking open source code.

Whether you are a CSS/Javascript hacker or an XML/XSL/Xquery guru, we’d like your help. Even if all you know is Python and PERL, we could still use you. Take a look at how we’re working with the following languages:

XML Looking for an awesome digital humanities project to begin cutting your teeth on XML hacking? We need XML hackers to proofread, debug, and/or provide examples for the JLPTEI XML specification, and improve validators using TEI ODD or Schematron.
XSLT 2.0 XSL converts our XML formatted text to XHMTL for display on websites. We still need XSL hackers to help us write XML transforms. (Note: this part of the project is at a relatively advanced stage.)
XQuery We want to enable other projects to freely access our open database using a well documented API. XQuery hackers can help us design and write our API for querying our eXist database of XML texts.
Javascript /AJAX or XForms-REST-XQuery(XRX) We’re still at an early stage of designing the front end of our web application user interface. We can: build it from scratch or hack a plugin for another open source project like WordPress/Buddypress or Omeka. The sky’s the limit. We do need your help!
CSS CSS hackers are needed to help us improve how text is displayed in our demonstration applet, as well as in all of our online resources including the user interface for our web application. We are especially interested in web designers who can code an understand web standards.
PERL, Python, etc. Every now and again, we receive text being shared from some funky format. We need hackers who can script one-time transformations converting contributed material into our XML schema, JLPTEI.

By making a tax-free financial donation

Donations, if you like, can be made via our fiscal sponsor the Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity, a registered non-profit that shares our passion for creative engagement with Jewish spirituality. To donate, please click on the button below and provide however much you wish. Currently, our project is simply trying to cover the operational cost of keeping our servers and websites online. The speed by which the project moves forward ultimately depends on to what degree we can convince others to provide either in-kind donations of content or labor, or else funds for contract jobs. If you believe in our mission, want to see this project succeed, but cannot volunteer any labor or siddur-related content, then please donate some funds. Thank you!

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