כ״ג בתמוז ה׳תשע״ג (July 1, 2013)
Imagine being able to access every major Judaic text, in the original and in English translation, free of charge and from one website.
Whenever you come across a reference to a related book or text within the canon, a click of the mouse (or a touch of the screen) immediately transports you there. You can view just the Hebrew or Aramaic, or just the English, with commentaries or without. Everything is downloadable, printable, and available to be incorporated into any app, game or other software you might develop. Keyword searches span not just one book or source, but the entire Judaic canon.
This is the vision of Sefaria, an ambitious new project seeking to make all of Judaism’s sacred texts accessible and open-source.
Spearheaded by 30-year-olds Brett Lockspeiser and Joshua Foer, Sefaria (the name is a play on the Hebrew word for library) is an idea that could, observers say, revolutionize and democratize Jewish learning, make possible an outpouring of new Jewish educational software and transform the Judaica publishing industry.
Given the enormous volume of Jewish sacred texts — Lockspeiser and Foer have identified about 1,000 texts as “core” — and the fact that many translations are protected by copyright, it’s also a massive undertaking.
But the friends, who met on the Bronfman Youth Fellows program, are not daunted. Instead, they see Sefaria as a project that is long overdue.
“We came to this process out of deep frustration that it hasn’t happened yet,” said Foer, a best-selling author/journalist and one of the masterminds behind Sukkah City, the 2010 Union Square installation of cutting-edge sukkahs. “This should have happened 10 years ago.”
Lockspeiser, whose professional background includes two years as a product manager at Google and experience with various tech startups, emphasizes that Sefaria differs from other digital Jewish texts currently available in that it will be “interactive” and “dynamic.”
While Sefaria would not allow users to alter the content of Judaic texts, “We want you to feel like you can see it all, be on top of it, navigate it, get more insight, think for yourself a little bit,” Lockspeiser said in an exclusive interview, together with Foer, at The Jewish Week office.
Initially modeled on Wikipedia, in which volunteer contributors edit and correct the work of others, the plan now is to set up a vetting process in which scholars can ensure the accuracy and integrity of the contributed texts and their translations. (read full article in The Jewish Week)
Will Sefaria Hurt Jewish Publishing?
COMMENTS ON THIS POST