Yavnet: Connecting Content and Technology

It was an unusual combination of resources. JT Waldman, the creative director of YAVNET, the new interactive branch of the 120 year old Jewish Publication Society, was here in Jerusalem to attend the ROI120 Summit and then participate as a fellow at the PresenTense Insititue. 21st century innovation meets a publishing industry in turmoil.

Behind JT’s participation: JPS has embarked on its most ambitious project since 1985, when after thirty years of scholarly endeavors their English translation of the Tanakh was completed.

YAVNET is a different kind of translation project; designed to lead to the creation of the DIGITAL TORAH, it is a community collaboration involving scholars and lay people, the rich legacy of the written and oral Torahs, the vast textual resources of Jewish tradition from the Bible to the present day, and the pooled wisdom of the community.

All this is now possible, as the technologies of the Internet and Web 2.0 transform the way we learn and communicate.

YAVNET, Jewish wisdom at your fingertips, is a tool and process that enables people to connect with Jewish tradition and community. The goal is to make Jewish knowledge accessible, relevant, and sustainable in order to create positive experiences with Judaism. YAVNET is a laboratory for new ideas integrating technology, education and social design.

Central to YAVNET is the development of “The Tagged Tanakh,” a digital Torah, which brings into the 21st century the Jewish tradition of personally engaging with core Jewish texts and values that have been at the root of Jewish identity and community for generations.

JT, in his own words on the Tagged Tanakh project:

“At the foundation of the Tagged Tanakh are digital versions of the Hebrew masoretic text and the JPS English translation. Guided by JPS’s editorial expertise, leading scholars and educators will link a variety of relevant texts, commentaries, graphics, videos, tags, and additional resources to specific words and passages to provide multiple access points to the Tanakh.

In addition, users will be invited to contribute their own tags and annotations. Each user will also benefit from encountering those provided by previous users. These tags will enable users to discover a broad range of relevant third-party content, thus bringing the ideas and values of the Tanakh into dialogue with other sources of information found on the internet. Conversations and online interactions around specific topics will engage interest groups, networks of friends, and specialists. These online conversations will be archived and made available to later users. In this way, the wisdom of sages will join with the wisdom of the people to carry on the 3000 year conversation of Jewish tradition.”

Stay tuned; In January 2009 JPS/YAVNET plans on unveiling this showcase project.

And, if you are heading to CAJE 33 (or already there), look up JT; he will be leading three sessions: speaking first on YAVNET, then User Experience: Is It Good for the Jews and The Art of Tagging.