Sefaria and Urim Publications Strike Agreement

March 3, 2015

Urim Publications has agreed to release one of their books from copyright restrictions via the Creative Commons CC0 license (making it free for use and reuse in any way). Urim has released Mikraot Gedolot Hachut Hameshulash by Eliyahu Munk under the CC0 license, and the content is already being added to the Sefaria website. The book contains English translations of major Torah commentaries written by four medieval rabbis: SefornoRashbam, Radak, and Rabeinu Chananel, all expertly rendered by Eliyahu Munk.

The Sefaria team has been in touch with several intellectual property experts and as far as any of them know, this is the first time a copyright owner has released a book from restrictive use in exchange for payment from a third party.

Sefaria is building a free, living library of Jewish texts and their interconnections. Their scope is Torah in the broadest sense, from Tanakh to Talmud to Zohar to modern texts and all the volumes of commentary in between. They are inspired by the biblical affirmation (Deuteronomy 33:4) that the Torah is the rightful inheritance of the entire Jewish people.

As part of this commitment they provide texts in both Hebrew and translation (English, for now). They have imported public domain translations, and allowed users to create crowd-sourced translations, but that’s not the only avenue they have been pursuing. They are also actively working with authors and publishers to release texts from copyright restrictions, making them free for use and reuse via Sefaria.

Sefaria’s goal is to digitize texts in a machine-readable way, to create open source, flexible, technology, and ensure that everything produced through the generosity of their donors belongs to the public and can be freely used and re-used.

More information can be found on The Sefaria Blog.


Working Charedim

March 1, 2015

The denial came very quickly. Former Eida HaCharedis (unofficial) spokesman Shmuel Chaim Pappenheim is featured in a Yesh Atid aTo Unify a Nationd promoting the idea of Charedim learning secular subjects (English and math) and getting jobs. He laments the fact that a typical 45 year old Charedi doesn’t even know the English alphabet!

Mr. (Rabbi?) Pappenheim denied that he has anything to do with the Yesh Atid ad and claims this was an unauthorized use of a video he was involved in for an entirely different project. I don’t really blame him for his quick disavowal of anything to do with them. I’m sure that he doesn’t want his head handed to him. Rafi Goldmeier made note of this ad on his blog, Life in Israel and adds that if what Mr. Pappenhiem said is true, he should sue. Perhaps.

But one cannot get away from the fact that the message he sent in the video was exactly the message that Yesh Atid sends. And yet when Yesh Atid sends that message they are called Amalek. Now it’s also true that Yesh Atid was able to legislate their views into law. In effect that forces a core secular studies curriculum upon them if they want continued government funding. But the idea behind the law is identical to what Mr. Pappenheim advocates: educating Charedim out of ignorance about anything besides Torah – so that they can get better jobs.

How ironic it is that the hated (by Charedim) Yesh Atid is on the same page about working Charedim with someone like Shmuel Papenheim, a man of Meah Shearim who was weaned on the Hashkafos of the Eida HaCharedis for whom he once was spokesman. There is no greater animosity between  2 Jewish groups than there is between the Eida and Yesh Atid. Read the rest of this entry »


Kol Dodi Dofek: Confronting today’s reality

February 26, 2015

By Alan Jay GerberMajesty and Humility

This week, I shall focus on the legacy of a speech by the Rav, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik originally delivered in Yiddish before a gathering of the Religious Zionists of American in May 1956 on the occasion of the eighth anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel. It was subsequently expanded upon, translated into Hebrew, and ultimately into English where it gained traction among many elements within the intellectual community of American Jewry.

The emotional heft inherent in its teachings, especially in the Rav’s perspective of the horrors of the Holocaust and the historic legacy of Jew hatred through the ages, has given this address (published as a book, “Kol Dodi Dofek: Listen, My Beloved Knocks,” KTAV Publishing House 2006) the richly deserved status of a Jewish theological class. This theological spin of the Rav’s work on this delicate subject was viewed by many serious scholars as a pivotal moment in the reality that Jews have come to face concerning the hostile world around them.

In his classic work, “Majesty and Humility” (Urim/OU Press, 2012), detailing the thoughts of the Rav, Rabbi Reuven Ziegler goes into great detail concerning the deeper meanings of “Kol Dodi Dofek.” In his review of this work by Rabbi Ziegler, the late Prof. Charles M. Raffel of Stern College wrote the following concerning Rabbi Ziegler’s treatment of the Rav’s teachings on this subject: Read the rest of this entry »


After the Holocaust the Bells Still Ring

February 24, 2015

Hays Media and Urim Publications are honored to announce the North America publication of of an important new memoir of the Holocaust from one of Bergen-Belsen’s last and youngest survivors,who would become a prominent American rabbi. 

Here is a compeAftertheHolocustWeb1lling book in which Joseph Polak confronts the events he and his family faced from 1943-53: the Holocaust and its sequel of shame and hiding.

Rabbi Polak attempts to portray the madness of an incomprehensible period and the irresponsible reaction of society that followed it. Neither God nor man emerges unscathed from this searing volume. Early critics suggest that this book constitutes the missing chapters of Anne Frank’s diary, had she but survived Bergen-Belsen to conclude her narrative. Read the rest of this entry »


Book Launch of Tanakh, an Owner’s Manual

February 22, 2015

TanakhAnOwnersManualWeb1

Book Launch and Annual Yahrtzeit Shiur in memory of Hannah and Joseph Sokolow

The Place of Megillat Esther in TANAKH

Monday March 2, 2015

7:30 pm

Lincoln Square Synagogue
180 Amsterdam Avenue
(at 68th Street)
2nd floor Beit Midrash

For more details, click here.


Review of Pioneers of Religious Zionism

February 16, 2015

By Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins

Pioneers of Religious Zionism describes the lives and philosophies of the most important rabbinical Zionists of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: Yehuda ben Shlomo Alkalai (1798–1878), Zvi Hirsch Kalischer (1795–1874), Samuel Mohliver (1824–1891), Jacob Reines (1839–1915), Abraham Isaac Kook (1865–1935) and Judah Leib (Fishman) Maimon (1875–1962). They joined secular Zionists in the struggle for the re-establishment of a Jewish national home – an unusual act for their time – and had to contend with fierce opposition and condemnations from many rabbis in Eastern Europe, who believed that the return of the Jewish people to its ancestral homeland of Israel depended upon the arrival of the Messiah. In their lives and writings, Rabbis Alkali, Kalischer, Mohliver, Reines, Kook and Maimon provided the foundation on which modern religious Zionism was built. Read the rest of this entry »


On the Death (and Life) of Martin Gilbert

February 15, 2015

By Seth Mandel

Early in my career in Jewish journalism, I was working on a column about the ideological considerations of interwar Zionists’ appeals to Western leaders. Winston Churchill obviously figured in this story, and so I knew immediately the best person to reach out to for input: Martin Gilbert. His response to that inquiry always stuck with me, and it’s only added to the sadness of the news today that Gilbert has passed away.

I emailed Gilbert my question. He responded with a warm note and emailed me a digital copy of a page of his manuscript for his book Churchill and the Jews. The book was already published (indeed it was already in paperback), so he could have referred me to the book. Had he wanted to be even more helpful, he could have given me a page number. But he sent me the page from the manuscript that he thought might be of the most help to my column in part because the page had his own notes on it. He was giving me not just the finished copy, but the thought process that led to it.

A few things struck me about the exchange. The first was that Sir Martin Gilbert, Churchill’s official biographer, had essentially volunteered to do my research for me. The second was that I had never met nor spoken to Gilbert before that, so it wasn’t as though he was taking this effort for a friend. Then I realized just how generous he must be with actual friends and colleagues.

But far more important for Gilbert’s legacy was what it said about his approach to historiography. Martin Gilbert had a rare combination of intellectual ambition and personal humility. On an issue related to Winston Churchill and also to the events leading up the founding of the State of Israel–two monumental subjects of the 20th century–there was absolutely no question that Gilbert was the man to ask. That is an accomplishment in itself. Read the rest of this entry »


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