Sunday, July 06, 2008

The 21st-century Jewish Catalog (alpha version)

The question is often asked, "I want to start an independent Jewish community in my city. How do I do it?". And in this age of social networking, there are certainly networks of people who can be of assistance with this. But there is no written repository of information I am aware of that meets the needs of today's independent Jewish communities, just a lot of oral Torah drawn from what we've learned through our experiences. Oral Torah is a wonderful thing, but there's a reason that the Talmud eventually had to be written down, and a reason that the printing press was so influential.

Another question often asked is "What will be our generation's Jewish Catalog?"

Perhaps the answer to both of these questions isn't necessarily a book, and isn't necessarily a single static document. Maybe the Jewish Catalog of the 21st century already exists in some sense, but is more like the British constitution (comprising multiple documents written at different times) than like the United States Constitution (a single document). To put these into a usable form, I'm collecting links to blog posts and other documents that could be considered to constitute the 21st-century Jewish Catalog. Perhaps the online format is preferable to the paper format, because it allows for rapid publication, frequent editing, and a dynamic conversation (for a number of the blog posts linked below, the discussion in the comments is at least as important as the post itself).

This is just a first stab at collecting this information into one place. This list focuses on topics that are relevant to running a grassroots Jewish community. The original Jewish Catalog and its sequels also contained lots of other content about Judaism and Jewish life in general, but that sort of information is generally available already in various places, so there's less of an acute need for it.

Please post in the comments if you have suggestions of other posts/pages that should be linked, and I'll add them to the list if I agree. Please also post suggestions of other documents that don't yet exist but should be written, and then our grassroots out there will take responsibility for writing these posts. The preponderance of Mah Rabu posts on the initial list isn't because I think Mah Rabu is more important, but simply because it's what I'm most familiar with off the top of my head; together, we can index the whole Internet.

Remember that the authors of each of the linked posts retain all rights to their work. All are welcome to read these posts, implement the ideas within them, and quote them within fair use, but not to republish them without the authors' permission.

  • BZ, Taxonomy of Jewish pluralism
  • BZ, Hilchot Pluralism series: I (the two-table system), II (more philosophical underpinnings), III (prayer, including the trichitza), IV (liturgy), V (counting a minyan), VI (the limits of pluralism), VII (musical instruments)
Prayer engineering:
Prayer melodies and texts:
  • from Kol Zimrah, a collection of melodies for Friday night services
  • from Mechon Hadar, a collection of resources for minyanim, including printed documents and recordings of nusach
Starting a community:

That's just a very basic start. What else goes on the list?


  1. Fantastic idea!

    I'm in the process of writing a lay-leader's guide to the Parshah--themed songs, quotable quotes, themed foods/kiddush sponsorship ideas, seasonal tie-ins, suggestions for tzedakah contributions. This may be more along the lines of the "how to make challah" section in the old JC, but I think it's not something that exists in print yet, and something that's ideally electronic. (It may be concordant with the JPS/Yavnet "Tagged Tanakh" project.)

  2. Sweet! Please give us the link when it's ready.

  3. sm in jlem is others -
    If interested in the "Tagged Tanakh" project, there will be a workshop on it at the Summer Institute.

  4. I have a very nascent jewish wiki where such things can be collected (I haven't worked on it much, but let me know if there's a need)

  5. thanks for the shoutout brother BZ.
    it seems a very useful part of this project would be a nusach/niggun website categorized by the friday night service, perhaps the shabbat morning service, and zmirot, with the potential for multiple tagging. Desh and Sieradski have both done some work on this but to the best of my knowledge there isn't anything that is being actively updated. This mechon hadar source seems quite rich.

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  7. There are a number of partial efforts and what BZ has already linked. I'm also interested in developing such Web 2.0 type things and am looking for good Web software for uploading and managing and tagging songs. In my free time....

    BTW, I created a page on my Jewdapedia site

  8. here is another:

    A conservative shul outside Philly had their hazzan post some tracks.

  9. Thanks ZT - I was getting bored with the traditional melody for There's A Dinosaur, so it's good to have some variation.

  10. dont forget

    most of the site is still in hebrew, so is inaccessible to many, but even just clicking around yields a plethora of beautiful tunes (piyut is the hebrew word for a liturgical poem). Of course its a grab bag, but its a fantastic independent liturgical resource.

  11. - Syrian Hazzanut

    Then there's that Open Source Haggadah, and of course, Mobius's Shul Shopper, whenever he feels like fixing it.

  12. Also to be added to the Web 2.0 version of the Jewish Catalog, Kung Fu Jew's somewhat idiosyncratic lexicon of contemporary Jewish terminology.

  13. At the risk of acting in an overly self-serving way. Perhaps my quick guide to hosting sheva brachot would be useful: