Why Funding the Jewish Project You’ve Never Heard of (Sefaria) is a Big Deal

April 8, 2014

Source: eJewish Philanthropy


As a Jewish innovation enthusiast, and as a software engineer, it was with great excitement and surprise that I learned of the Jim Joseph Foundation awarding a $250,000 grant in support of the Sefaria project. Sefaria describes itself as “a living library of Jewish Texts and their interconnections, in Hebrew and in translation.” It offers a beautiful interface to open source Jewish texts, accompanied by parallel crowdsourced translations, and includes some works translated into English for the very first time.


True, there are other repositories for Jewish texts on the web, but here is why this grant in support of Sefaria is such a big deal:

  • While Sefaria can be used as an excellent standalone application, it has additional potential when viewed as an infrastructure that others can build upon. Investment in infrastructure is unglamorous but important. We don’t yet know what great apps or products will use Sefaria, and that exciting unknown should be a source of encouragement not discomfort.

  • Sefaria is open source. It means that both the content, and the platform that handles that content, can be used by anyone. No need to ask for permission, pay fees or write follow-up reports. Anyone is free to download the entire codebase. Sefaria belongs to the entire community. Nobody ever has to build it from scratch in a duplicative and inefficient manner. Rather, everyone can continue building from where the last person left off. The open source nature of the project provides greater opportunity for rapid iteration and innovation. It’s a model we should aspire to emulate in the Jewish community, and Sefaria is a great step forward.

  • The size of the grant. The generous grant by the Jim Joseph Foundation provides Sefaria the opportunity, at least for the immediate future, of focusing solely on their product and their users, not on their donors. That is a rare and enviable position for any communal venture to experience.

I don’t want to overshadow the fact that Sefaria is already a great resource in and of itself, and requires no technical expertise to use. We must, however, also appreciate the meta aspects of this bold investment in an open and collaborative Jewish communal infrastructure.

Read more at eJewish Philanthropy.

Updated: May. 07, 2014


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