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Sefaria launches first-ever ‘Global Community Torah’ digital writing project

Users first learn about different Hebrew typefaces and select their font before “making their mark” by entering their first name and location.

Letters in the Torah. Credit: Cottonbro studio/Pexels.
Letters in the Torah. Credit: Cottonbro studio/Pexels.

Sefaria unveiled a groundbreaking digital collaboration called the “Global Community Torah,” which represents an opportunity for anyone to have a small part in “writing” a Torah—all 304,805 letters.

The project began on Aug. 20 at a virtual 10th-anniversary celebration for Sefaria, the nonprofit organization that digitizes and freely shares Jewish texts in Hebrew and in translation.

Sarah Hurwitz, head speechwriter for former first lady Michelle Obama and author of Here All Along: Finding Meaning, Spirituality and a Deeper Connection to Life—in Judaism, spoke at the event along with Sefaria’s founders. Since its founding, millions of users from all over the world—reflecting the full spectrum of Jewish practice—have engaged with texts on Sefaria’s digital platform.

“We designed this global project for Sefaria’s 10th anniversary because Torah belongs to each of us, regardless of geographic boundaries or level of knowledge,” says Samuel Moed, board chair of Sefaria, which has more than 650,000 monthly users. “Whether someone studies regularly or has never studied Torah, this is a chance to help ‘write’ one and be a part of something special.  We hope this inspires, connects, and energizes everyone, just like Sefaria has for millions of people for more than a decade.”

Users first learn about different Hebrew typefaces and select their font before “making their mark” by entering their first name and location. They then receive emails with a graphic of the Torah verse containing their letter and information about the “parashah,” or weekly reading, of the Torah in which the verse appears. Users can spin the digital globe to see the locations of other Global Community Torah contributors, showing the geographical diversity of the participants. They can also read the entire digital scroll when completed, hovering above each letter to learn about their fellow digital “scribes.”

“In addition to celebrating our community, this project is a pathway for someone who wants to dip their toe into Torah learning,” adds Daniel Septimus, CEO of Sefaria. “First learn about your letter, then a verse and then a portion, all while engaging and wrestling with the text. When people study Torah, each person brings their own perspective and experience. And our users cover the full spectrum from secular to observant, daily users to occasional perusers. This digital Torah is a world-spanning collaboration that reflects our collective heritage.”

The various historical fonts available to Digital Scribes symbolize the vast history of the global Jewish community. In Jewish law, if one letter of the Torah is missing or written incorrectly, the entire scroll is unusable. So, the “Global Community Torah” project will not be completed until each letter is “written.”

“We invite everyone to immerse themselves in this digital learning experience,” adds Chava Tzemach, director of marketing and communications. “Picking your letter is just the start of a journey that is bigger than any one individual. This is an interactive celebration of Torah learning.”

To participate, visit: torah.sefaria.org.

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Sefaria is a nonprofit organization dedicated to building the future of Jewish learning in an open and participatory way. We are assembling a free living library of Jewish texts and their interconnections, in Hebrew and in translation. With these digital texts, we can create new, interactive interfaces for Web, tablet and mobile, allowing more people to engage with the textual treasures of our tradition.
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