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“Prayer Unbound” (Tablet Magazine 2009)

What a great morning! We’re honored to have our project the focus of an article in Tablet.

The Open Siddur is a volunteer driven project to create a free resource for folks crafting their own siddur (Jewish prayer book). We intend to collaboratively build an archive of material that makes up the siddur — texts, translations, instructional material, commentaries, essays, and other associated media.  Along with the archive, we are building the software that can be used to put together the building blocks to customize and personalize the siddur. Ultimately, siddurim prepared from this content will be printed with either an on-demand printer or else in cooperation with a book artist.

By “open,” we mean that our code and our texts are free to take under permissive copyright licenses. We are creating a community of folks passionate about the siddur and who express their passion by contributing material that can be used by others in the preparation of their own siddurim. This material could be historic or new, familiar or obscure. We seek to design a tool that will provide a resource to help those who take Jewish spirituality seriously engage in their own spiritual practice.

If you’d like to help us, take a look at the following opportunities to contribute (below), fill out our questionnaire, or just straight out contact us. (Donations, if you like, can be made to this project via our fiscal sponsor the Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity. )

If you … then …
can type in Hebrew with vowels try transcribing a line or a page from a historic siddur.
have already written liturgy-related material… contribute it to us.
have access to public domain books and a high speed book scanner… try scanning from our list of wanted books.
code or document XML… proofread, debug, and/or provide examples for the JLPTEI XML specification, improve validators using TEI ODD or Schematron.
code in any language… help us write one-time transformations to convert contributed material into JLPTEI.
code in CSS … help us write rendering instructions for web browsers.
code in Javascript… help us build our web application.
code in Java… help us build the compiler application and/or choose and improve existing rendering engines.
code in XSLT 2.0… help us write transforms.
code in XQuery… help us write the toolkit API.

For more details on our development and to get status updates, fill out our questionnaire and you’ll be added to our mailing list. If you’d like to follow our developments closely and participate, then please join our discussion list, friend us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and check out our development wiki (our current storehouse for documentation and texts).

Update 12/3/09: Broken links in the table have been corrected.

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““Prayer Unbound” (Tablet Magazine 2009)” is shared by The Hierophant with a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license.
The Hierophant

About The Hierophant


A hierophant is a person who invites participants in a sacred exercise into the presence of that which is deemed holy. The title, hierophant, originated in Ancient Greece and combines the words φαίνω (phainein, "to show") and ‏τα ειρα (ta hiera, "the holy"); hierophants served as interpreters of sacred mysteries and arcane principles. For the Open Siddur Project, the Hierophant welcomes new contributors and explains our mission: ensuring creatively inspired work intended for communal use is shared freely for creative reuse and redistribution. Aharon Varady, founding director of the Open Siddur Project, serves as hierophant, and administers opensiddur.org as its webmaster and editor-in-chief.

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3 comments to “Prayer Unbound” (Tablet Magazine 2009)

  • Mike Shapiro

    Thank you. This is almost more than wonderful.

    As someone who has been involved in Jewish communal work, as a volunteer and as a professional for well over 40 years I can only applaud this effort.

    It seems that almost every community with which I have been involved has been both satisfied with and dissatisfied with the available siddurim. To be able to craft a community siddur would have been something which could well contribute to the spirit of that community.

    Of course, the obvious question is: Are there plans for open source High Holiday machzorim and Haggadot?

    • Efraim feinstein, our lead developer, digitally transcribed the text of a historic haggadah in the Public Domain, with its translation in English. This haggadah is ready for remixing and editing offline and is available as source texts at our wiki, http://wiki.jewishliturgy.org

      We are also working with some complementary innovative projects that our focused on personally customized haggadot. More details will be forthcoming as our work with them matures.

  • In case you’re looking for it, the haggadah transcription is in a rather inaccessible form in the proof of concept code which was used to generate the graphic on the front page of the wiki.

    As soon as I get a freely redistributable scanned copy of the original source (I worked off the copy at the Jewish National and University Library website, which is, unfortunately, not redistributable by us), I intend to put the full transcription on the wiki and hopefully proofread it. (I intend to have the scan by the end of this weekend!)

    Once the rest of our infrastructure is in place, its full power – which goes far beyond copying & pasting into a word processor – will be usable on the text (allowing online remixing, etc.).

    As for machzorim, yes there are plans for them. What determines how quickly anything happens is how many people are working on the project at any given time. More volunteers means faster progress.

Leave a Reply. (All comments are shared with a CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported license unless another free-culture license is indicated.)

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