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TECHNOLOGY MEETS TALMUD: INNOVATIVE WEBSITE SHOWCASES THE OLD AND THE NEW

February 6, 2008 – The Talmud, from the Hebrew term for “study” or “learning,” is the compilation of oral law and added commentaries. Assembled between the second and fifth centuries, the Talmud is a vital part of Jewish ritual practice and culture, with millions around the world studying this central text of Judaism on a daily basis. Targum Shlishi, a Raquel and Aryeh Rubin Foundation, is proud to be a supporter of the recently launched website Printing the Talmud (www.printingthetalmud.org), which uses contemporary technology to preserve and make widely accessible rare and ancient versions of the Talmud.

In partnership with George S. Blumenthal and his Center for Online Judaic Studies – which has created multiple websites and digital resources that apply technology to Jewish education, and is a leader in this developing field – and the Jesselson Family, Targum Shlishi funded Yeshiva University’s groundbreaking project to make an unparalleled selection of Talmud texts and related materials available in vivid detail on the Internet.

The website Printing the Talmud was produced by Yeshiva University and Yeshiva University Museum based on the 2005 exhibition Printing the Talmud: From Bomberg to Schottenstein and the extensive accompanying catalogue. The website offers the opportunity for anyone with Internet access to inspect such rare manuscripts as a Spanish thirteenth-century copy of Avodah Zarah, a tractate frequently destroyed by Church censors, and examples of early printed volumes, including one of the very few extant complete sets of the famed sixteenth-century Bomberg Talmud, the publication that established the layout of the Talmud page for future generations. The site also includes a copy of the Holocaust Survivors' Talmud, published in 1948 in Heidelberg Germany with the help of the US Army.  

Visitors to the website can zoom in on individual manuscript pages, viewing them in extraordinarily vivid detail alongside thorough examinations of the texts’ history and significance. Viewers can even inspect and read about a floor mosaic from the ancient synagogue at Rehov in Israel’s Bet Shean Valley. Dating back to the sixth century, this unique mosaic is the oldest preserved copy of a Rabbinic text, and the only example to survive from the time the Talmud was compiled and redacted.

The website also examines printing history in the context of larger themes of Jewish history and communal life, highlighting international Jewish cooperation and communication, Christian-Jewish relations, censorship, and intellectual property.

The website includes a video installation capturing the excitement and energy of Talmud study with live footage from five continents, demonstrating the human interactions of argument and counterargument that still characterize Talmudic study in the twenty-first century.

From oral tradition to text, from floor mosaics and codices to printed books and now to the Internet, the Talmud has been preserved over the centuries through periodic migration from one medium to the next.  Printing the Talmud continues this essential and continuing evolution, which is so vital to preserving these works through the ages.

“Printing the Talmud is a wonderful example of applying technology to advance Jewish education and preserve our culture,” notes Aryeh Rubin, director of Targum Shlishi. “We are long-time advocates and supporters of this kind of creative and intelligent use of technology and have been seeking out innovative projects of this nature. We are also deeply invested in supporting new approaches to Jewish education, as evidenced by our recent support of both Gemara Berura, an innovative educational program that teaches Gemara through technology curriculum (www.gemaraberura.com) and the conference Teaching Rabbinic Literature: Bridging Scholarship and Pedagogy at Brandeis University January 27-28 (www.brandeis.edu/centers/mandel/TeachingRabbinics.html). The Printing the Talmud website, with its marriage of a state-of-the-art technology and ancient Jewish wisdom, is a significant application of technology, and we hope it will inspire others.”

About the Center for Online Judaic Studies
Founded in mid-2004 by George S. Blumenthal, COJS is committed to making accessible the riches of the Jewish past through the new technologies of digital photography and the internet. The remarkable riches of the Jewish past are made available to a wide variety of web users through development and sponsorship of resources in a variety of modes including: Treasures of the Jewish Past broadly presents the data of Jewish history; Jewish History 101: Surveys of the Jewish Past, created by outstanding Judaic Studies scholars, organizes the data of the Jewish past in manageable segments; Teaching the Jewish Past, created by Judaic Studies scholars and experienced educators, provides detailed guidance to teachers and students for engaging and analyzing specific sources from the Jewish past and present. For more information on COJS, visit its website at www.cojs.org.

About Targum Shlishi
Targum Shlishi, a Raquel and Aryeh Rubin Foundation, is dedicated to providing a range of creative solutions to problems facing Jewry today. Premised on the conviction that dynamic change and adaptation have historically been crucial to a vibrant and relevant Judaism and to the survival of its people, Targum Shlishi's initiatives are designed to stimulate the development of new ideas and innovative strategies that will enable Jewish life, its culture, and its traditions to continue to flourish. For more information on the foundation, visit its website.

For Media and Other Inquiries
Contact Targum Shlishi at 305.692.9991 or e-mail info@targumshlishi.org.

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