The Open Siddur: A Next Generation Communal Jewish Educational Resource

Fall, 2010

Source: Jewish Educational Leadership. Fall 2010 (9:1) pages 47-50 


This article will introduce the Open Siddur Project, which aims to be the first of a new breed of Jewish communal resources that use social web technologies to allow the sharing and collaborative development of online Jewish liturgical resources. All content will be fully reusable and redistributable under liberal terms compatible with a “free culture” philosophy. The article first defines “free culture” resources, and explains why such a philosophy works to the advantage of their users. It then discusses the envisioned product, followed by a brief discussion of its current state of development. Finally, it contrasts the project with existing resources.


The author's explain the Open Siddur Project thus:

"Although the siddur is a resource shared by a people, the individual editions are bound by copyright law and thus inaccessible for legal reuse. The Open Siddur’s goal is to provide liturgical material that is free from copyright restrictions that disable its positive reuse. The Open Siddur, a multipurpose educational resource, will allow students of all ages to be exposed to extant and historical Jewish liturgies in one accessible location. As a collaborative environment, it will enable learners to develop and share their own expressions and experiments in liturgy and to comment on each others' work.


The core of the toolkit will be a database of liturgical resources, including digitized copies of historically important siddurim and base texts for common traditional rites. These will be linked to scans of their sources, allowing verification of their accuracy and error correction. The database will also include user-contributed materials, which may include new ritual texts, new translations, commentary and halakhic or instructional information. All of the materials will be shared under free culture terms, presenting no legal or moral impediment to their sharing and modification.


A web-based interface will be built over the database backend. This interface will allow users to browse existing liturgical material, enabling, for example, online study of the liturgy's history. Beyond browsing, it will allow users to mix together material that is already in the database to create a new siddur, add new material to the database, add new variant texts and comments, and share what they have created with other users of the project. In addition to primary material, the toolkit will support a library of user-contributed secondary material that could then be built upon by other users.


Aside from acting as an electronic library, the Open Siddur has other potential uses in an educational environment. For example, in an introductory class on the liturgy, each student may develop his/her own siddur that combines standardized texts with personal comments or insights collected from the database that resonate with him/her and personalized design. The web toolkit will include a collaborative workspace that will allow students to view each others' work and provide real-time constructive critique, or to work with students located in other classrooms or schools. The Open Siddur could also be used as a resource for educators to share curricular material that is related to teaching or understanding the liturgy."

Updated: Feb. 09, 2011