Torah 2.0: Old-Line Publisher Brings Biblical Commentary Into Online World

February 25, 2009

Source: Forward


The Jewish Publication Society has begun work on a project to publish the Jewish Bible, or Tanakh, as an electronic, online text, integrating the original Hebrew with JPS’ English translation and selected commentaries. The project is attempting to present the text of the Tanakh as an open platform for users to collectively build their own structure of commentary, debate and interpretation, all linked to the text itself.


The JPS project, called the “Tagged Tanakh", is aiming to enable users to provide the entire text with “tags,” or electronic links to words or phrases in the text, that allow users to append comments, additional materials and links to other relevant documents, and to classify passages by topic for future users. Readers will be able to access the thoughts of ancient and modern commentators and to offer their own thoughts in turn. The initiative is creating a template for rich interactive online learning which will serve rabbis and scholars, students, adult learners, and religious seekers.


The project, in its current form, was conceived in November of 2007. By the beginning of June 2009, JPS expects to make the first 20 chapters of the book of Exodus, tagged and with links to established commentaries, available for a limited group of testers. By early 2010, a preliminary version should be available to the public. It is planned to get the five books of the Torah tagged and online within three to five years and the rest of the Hebrew Bible online within another five years.


A Face to Face Workshop at LimmudPhilly

At the end of February, 2009, at the LimmudPhilly conference, JPS offered a workshop which demonstrated the type of interactivity that will be offered by the Tagged Tanakh. The 30 participants read aloud verses from Genesis 38 along with three more related sources. Then, armed with pencils and stick-its, they "tagged" the sections of the text which had been hung around the room, adding their comments, questions and remarks. The participants felt inspired by the interactive learning experience and enriched by the group's collective input.


The development team plans to continue to test the Tagged Tanakh on paper with workshops like this to refine the scope of the project and assess its value.

Updated: Mar. 18, 2009