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 your Siddur. Join the Open Siddur Project today and begin crafting and sharing the siddur you’ve always wanted.

This development status update chronicles progress on the Open Siddur made since our last update 11/11/2009. 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.

Contributions (Aharon, Anonymous, Gabriel, Efraim, Eve, Daniel, John)

Following the contribution of Reb Zalman’s Siddur Tehillat HaShem, R. Daniel Brenner, executive director of Birthright Israel Next, contributed a Kaddish prayer that he composed in English. Check it out here. Feel free to adapt and modify these works for yourself. They are distributed with a Creative Commons 3.0 Share Alike By Attribution license. (All derivative works must show attribution to the original authors and must also be distributed under the CC-BY-SA 3.0 license.)

John B. Hare of the Internet Sacred Text Archive contributed the scans and auto-transcribed text of the 1917 JPS English Translation of the TaNaKh. We are currently helping John release the first ever free licensed digital text of the 1917 JPS TaNaKh translation and have proofread the Book of Neḥemia and nearly 70% of Psalms. Please help us complete this task by proofreading a few pages — it’s a relatively easy way to begin working on the Open Siddur Project.

John Hare also scanned and transcribed a 1915 edition of the Singer Siddur, an English translation based on Seligman Baer’s Seder Avodat Yisrael. Thank you, John!

Transcription of Seder Avodat Yisrael has picked up since our last update. We have transcribed 33 pages of the liturgy from Baer’s critical edition. Every line of text transcribed is digitally liberated with the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license for free use in future siddurim. If you haven’t yet, register on the wiki and start transcribing today. This is a great way to become fluent typing Hebrew with nikkudot (vowels) — a real skill!

Gabriel Wasserman contributed his transcription of many sections of the Seder Avodat Yisrael that he had incorporated into his Maḥzor for Shabbat Ḥanukkah. Thank you, Gabriel!

Efraim Feinstein acquired and scanned a work of the Siddur Torah Ohr (Nusaḥ HaAri/Lubavitch) an important siddur based on the text edited by R. Shneur Zalman of Liadi. A partial digital transcription of the siddur is already available on Wikisource and this scan will help us complete that transcription and provide a source for proofreading it. Thanks Efraim!

An anonymous contributor provided a text of the Spanish-Portuguese Nusaḥ. The text is currently formatted in the proprietary format of DavkaWriter Platinum. Please let us know if you have a copy of this software and if you can help us convert this document to an open standard Unicode format.

If you have digitized any text of the siddur or prepared a siddur that you’d like to share, please consider contributing your work to the Open Siddur Project.

Software Development (Efraim, Ze’ev, Ilan, Raphael)

We have now a functioning demonstration of how we can display text encoded in JLPTEI XML on a webpage. Click here for examples of working Open Siddur technology.

An update to our demo is forthcoming this week. License statements and contributor credits lists are now being generated by the code, and both are mostly functional.  These should be incorporated in demo release 0.3.1 Generating a bibliography correctly is a bit harder, and may have to wait for 0.4. We are in the process of moving our Tanach to get its data directly from the Westminster Leningrad Codex.  The process is almost complete, and the new code will likely be in demo release 0.4.

Since our last update, we’ve passed a few milestones, especially in our work on data transforms. The major improvements we’ve made are the following:

With a lot of help from Ze’ev Clementson, cross platform build procedures and instructions were tested; many build errors and documentation errors were conditional inclusion feature.

Ze’ev has been checking in code to converting the STML formatted text of the Singer Siddur provided by John B. Hare (see above) into a more easily parsed XML representation. He’s now working on encoding this into JLPTEI XML formatted text for integration into the Open Siddur’s database. Ze’ev has also committed code for converting Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary into JLPTEI XML for integration into the Open Siddur. (It’s currently formatted in OSIS.) Ze’ev is currently working on the conversion of David Troidl’s digitization of the Strong’s Biblical Hebrew dictionary from OSIS to JLPTEI for integration into the Open Siddur.

Ilan Cohen committed an outline of the jQuery port of the transcription interface. Thanks Ilan!

Some of the work we’re doing requires expertise in the rules of Hebrew grammar and its effect on vowel markings. Jonah Rank provided Joshua Jacobson’s rules written in Chanting the Hebrew Bible for determining qamats qatan. Raphael Finkel completed the first-pass qamats qatan/sheva na detection code.   That code (currently written in Perl) needs to be integrated into our infrastructure (mostly XQuery/XSLT; might be able to work in Java). The transliteration engine used in Efraim’s early proof-of-concept Haggadah is now incorporated into the code again.  It will need some tweaking again once we integrate a system for indicating a definite sheva na in the encoding, and it does not work properly unless the qamats qatan is properly encoded).

Documentation (Efraim, Aharon, Ze’ev)

We are still looking for volunteers to just look over our documentation and help us know how it reads and where we can make improvements. Anyone can freely register to edit on our wiki.

Much thanks are due to Ze’ev Clementson whose many questions posed on our discussion list helped us clarify our documentation and fix bugs in our build processes.

Aharon and Efraim, besides blogging on opensiddur.net, they are also contributing to the new J-Tech list set up by Dan Sieradski. If you’re a Jewish technologist, we recommend this list as a useful space for sharing knowledge and ideas.

Organizational Structure (Aharon, Efraim)

After some feedback, we’ve made an effort to merge all project resources under the Open Siddur Project banner. If you look closely, you’ll still see the Jewish Liturgy Project. Hint: take a look at our XML encoding documentation :)

Efraim and Aharon are looking into economic models to keep this project both free and sustainable in the long term.  One of these models is a cooperative of contributors.  We are certainly looking for more input here.

We are now capable of receiving tax deductible donations via Razoo through a fiscal sponsorship agreement with the United States 501(c)3 registered non-profit, Center for Jewish Culture & Creativity. Money raised this way can help us pay for our major operational expenses (server costs, domain registration fees).

Communications and Promotion (Aharon)

Aharon gave a presentation at this year’s Limmud NY and pitched the Open Siddur Project. Answering his question, what’s the siddur you’ve always wanted, 11 year old Leora answered: “I’ve grown a lot since I was given my first siddur in second grade, but I’m still using the same blue Shiloh siddur. I’d like to make a siddur that I can draw in, write my own prayers, and share them with my friends.” Help the Open Siddur Project bring Leora’s vision to fruition, there are many ways to contribute.

We now have two discussion email lists and an announcement email list. Much of the volume on our old jewishliturgy-discuss list was focused on software development. To avoid having our non-developer list members tune out of the discussion, we thought it better to divide the list into opensiddur-talk and opensiddur-tech.

The opensiddur-announcement list will be used mainly for sending out regular updates like this one. Announcements will also be shared via twitter (149 followers) and our facebook group (nearly 300 users).

Since last November we have had 3 Open Siddur Open Chats at irc://irc.freenode.net/jewisliturgy . During these chats we’ve talked shop with all sorts of curious folks, software developers, liturgy researchers, and Jewish educators. The format and medium of the communication (Internet Relay Chat) is proving difficult for a number of participants and we’re investigating alternatives. So far we’ve looked at DimDim and came away unimpressed. Any suggestions for cross-platform group chat technology accessible to users at no cost?

Thanks to quick action on the part of Azriel, the Open Siddur Project now owns the opensiddur.org domain. Good work, Azriel! :)

The logs of the chat are available on our wiki, here.

Our next Open Chat is scheduled for February 21st, 1pm EST/10am PST/8pm Israel.

Aharon will be speaking on the Open Siddur at the Academy for Jewish Religion in Riverdale, March 15th.

Press (Aharon, Efraim)

Since our last update in November, two major articles appeared in Jewish media concerning the Open Siddur Project. Hadara Graubart’s “Prayer Unbound“, in Tablet Magazine and Steve Lipman’s “Taking Prayer Into Their Own Hands“, in Jewish Week. Sociologist Dr. Steven M. Cohen may have also been thinking of us when he wrote concerning the use of New media by young Jewish innovators in an article for the JPR Newsletter, “From Jewish people to Jewish purpose: The new age of social innovation in American Jewish life, and its implications for British Jewry“:

“The growth of Jewish culture may partly be attributed to the expansion of the Internet and the decline in production costs.  The Internet has allowed new music, videos and films to be produced and distributed at almost no cost.  Much of the recent Jewish innovation focuses on building websites, which typically empower Jews to create their own Jewish lives on their own terms.  As the Internet has become a two-way communications device, online innovations often allow users to participate in interesting Jewish activities that are free of any controlling authority.  Examples include online facilities that allow people to create their own siddurim (prayer books) or access midrashim  (Biblical commentaries) in ways that enable Jews to discover traditional texts.”

Team Member Updates (Azriel, Aharon)

Azriel writes that this semester has kept him super busy and so hasn’t been able to give as much as he’d like to the Open Siddur this semester. Everyone here misses him.

Most of our developers are either working full time or studying full time. Aharon’s fellowship at Yeshivat Hadar is coming to a close in May and he’s been busy thinking about where he can go next to help improve awareness, increase compassion, and inspire creativity through Jewish spiritual techniques and technologies. If you’re looking for someone multi-talented, capable, and visionary all at once, reach out to him while he’s still available. Your Jewish institution could hardly do better and you’d be supporting the Open Siddur Project at the same time.

Wishing you a happy and warm Adar,
Aharon Varady
Founder & Co-director
The Open Siddur Project
https://opensiddur.net/join-us/

Comments, Corrections, and Queries


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