The Jewish Free-Culture Society is dedicated to promoting the open-source sharing of cultural resources within the Jewish community and supporting new and existing open-source initiatives invested in Jewish culture and religious practice.

Many open-source initiatives in Judaism support these goals implicitly while focused on realizing their own dedicated mission. We endeavor to support these goals explicitly.

The mission of our society is to,

  • advocate for the adoption of open-source licensing within the wider Jewish community,
  • support new and existing initiatives sharing Jewish cultural resources under open terms, and
  • represent open-source Judaism within the free-culture movement at-large.

In serving this mission, the scope of our activities is described below. (Our use of the term “open-source” relies upon the standard definition of Open-source as maintained by the Open Source Initiative, the definition of Open as maintained by the Open Knowledge Foundation, and the definition of Free Cultural Works as maintained by the Free-Culture Foundation.)


Advocacy for Open-source Judaism

We promote the preservation and vitality of Jewish culture and creativity by advocating for open-source licensing strategies in the sharing of creative Jewish content under copyright law. We advocate for sharing Public Domain works in digital form without restrictive End User License Agreements, and to share publicly funded and community used work under copyright with Open Content licenses.

Communicate open-source definitions

Terms like “open-source” and “open” are always at risk of becoming buzzwords whose meaning and significance is confused or watered-down through misuse. Through interviews, essays, and papers we explain the meaning and definitions of open-source terms and the history of free-culture in Judaism to those in the wider Jewish community unfamiliar with them. We explain open-source and open-source Judaism at Jewish and secular non-Jewish conferences.

Ask organizations to collaborate via open-source

We communicate directly with Jewish organizations, Jewish user-generated content projects, and digital humanities projects soliciting their adoption of Open Content licensing. For example, we encourage yeshivot and other Jewish educational institutions and publications to adopt an open-content license for sharing their published content. Similarly, we request stewards of databases and archives with substantial Public Domain content to adopt sharing content under open terms consistent with U.S. copyright law.

Promote Best Practices

In partnership with member organizations, we author and publish white-papers and other useful resources for organizations interested in adopting best practices in working with open source and open content.

Receive Copyrighted Work

Contingent on our successful registration as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, the Jewish Free-Culture Society will accept creative works under copyright granted through contract or willed by their deceased copyright holders (authors, artists, translators, publishing houses, estates, etc.). As legal stewards of property under copyright, we guarantee such works will be shared immediately or at a future date under free-culture compatible terms through Open Content licensing. (For example, “this copyrighted work will be available with a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license, beginning January 1, 2022 and until the work enters the Public Domain in 2030.”) On the date that such works are published, they are made available in their native file format and in an appropriate open standard file format for dissemination on this website.


Community Support for Open-source Initiatives

Accredit open-source efforts and archives

We accredit Jewish projects whose mission and vision is consistent with the definitions of Open Content, Open Data, and Open Service as maintained by the Open Knowledge Foundation, the definition of Free Cultural Works as maintained by the Free Culture Foundation, and the definition of Open Source as maintained by the Open Source Initiative.

Recognize achievement and hard work

While open-source depends upon the principle of attribution to incentivize sharing otherwise proprietary knowledge and creativity, some community support is welcome in acknowledging the valuable contributions of individual volunteers and organizations. Every year, we acknowledge such contributions and reward good leadership within the Jewish open-source community through an annual award. In this way, we honor progress within our movement, awarding projects like Hebcal and Culmus for long-standing open-source contributions to the Jewish, and Hebrew speaking world. See our projects for more information.

Facilitate Communication and Knowledge Sharing

We advocate for open-source initiatives to develop, utilize, and collaborate in maintaining common data exchange formats and technologies so that Open Data can be more easily exchanged between project databases.

Disseminate Funds

Contingent on our successful registration as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, the Jewish Free-Culture Society seeks to financially support projects committed to the definitions of open-source, open knowledge, and freedom, and which promote open standards and best practices in using open-source culture in the wider Jewish community.

We solicit angel philanthropists and apply for grants from established communal funders. Any received funds (including membership dues) are divided equally to all our member projects in good standing, and to a pool of other open-source projects that group members would like to support (e.g., WordPress, Free Software Foundation, etc.).

Provide Fiscal Sponsorship

Contingent on our successful registration as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, we seek to be a responsible fiscal sponsor to new and existing open-source projects in Judaism. A fiscal sponsor receive tax-deductible donations for partnering projects, and in exchange for managing finances and paperwork, deducts a nominal amount (5%) to help pay for the work of the board of directors.


Promoting efforts and achievements of open-source Jewish projects

Through our Facebook page and Twitter feed we relay news of interest and importance to our mission and cross-promote posts made by open-source projects in Judaism. News from Sefaria, the Open Siddur Project, Mechon Hadar, Orayta, the Digital Mishna Project, and many others are curated in this running news feed. Join our discussion group hosted on Facebook to relay news and take part in discussion and decision making.

Annual Recognition Awards

The purpose of these awards is to bring recognition to the dedication, hard work, commitment, and achievement of individual contributors and community projects in growing the Jewish Free Culture movement.

Nominations will end on Tu Bishvat each year. Award recipients are announced on Rosh Ḥodesh Nissan. Voting participants are permitted to nominate anyone (including themselves or their own community projects) for any of the following categories:

  • Open-source Judaism evangelist of the year
  • Open-source backend developer of the year
  • Open-source UI/UX developer of the year
  • Open Content contributor of the year for original textual work
  • Open Content contributor of the year for original translation
  • Open Content contributor of the year for original art
  • Open Content contributor of the year for curriculum design
  • Libre Open Access contributor of the year for original scholarship
  • Open-source community project of the year
  • Open Content contributing project of the year
  • Libre Open Access publisher of the year
  • Individual Lifetime Achievement to Open-source Judaism
  • Community project historical achievement to Open-source Judaism
  • Libre Open Access publisher historical contribution to Open-source Judaism
  • Recognition of an individual or community project working outside the world of open-source Judaism

Eligible recipients will have shared copyright resources under licenses compatible with the standard definition of Open-source as maintained by the Open Source Initiative, the definition of Open as maintained by the Open Knowledge Foundation, and the definition of Free Cultural Works as maintained by the Free-Culture Foundation.

Nominations will be reviewed and voted on by the Jewish Free Culture Society’s nominations committee. Any member of the Jewish Free Culture Society in good standing is eligible to participate on the nomination committee.

Open Access in Jewish Scholarship

The Digital Humanities and Libre Open Access are two related but separate areas of scholarly interest nowadays. No one to our knowledge who understands open source or open content licensing is actively communicating how they relate to these areas at Jewish conferences and publications.

Digital humanities is an area of research involving predominantly Public Domain work. Often enough, although the original content resides in the Public Domain, related metadata (XML tags, etc.) are not shared under an Open Content license — thus restricting access. Especially for Jewish digital humanities projects, we need someone to advocate for best practices in the licensing of metadata, so that these projects conform to the definition of Open Access. There are a number of journals of academic Jewish studies. None to my knowledge are yet shared with an Open Content license, as many scientific and some humanities journals in the secular world are.

Under the principle that publicly funded research should be openly licensed content, we’d like more journals in academic Jewish studies participating with the definition of Libre Open Access (Libre OA) as written by Peter Suber. In general, there is, in my experience, a great deal of confusion among academic librarians in the policing of copyright law and sharing policies concerning the reproduction of works in their collections that from a legal standpoint, are in the Public Domain. We would like to author or otherwise recommend model sharing policies that academic collections might adopt.

the Open Siddur Project

The Open Siddur Project is a Libre OA digital humanities project developing a comprehensive database of historic and contemporary Jewish prayers and praxes, as well as a web-to-print application for publishing user generated prayer books or related liturgical resources. Commercial printing services are provided in partnership with Dimus Parrhesia Press.

Affirming the Public Domain Status of Het Achterhuis Anne Frank (The Diary of Anne Frank)

Anne Frank died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945. In the United States, copyright lasts 70 years after the death of the author. Additionally, copyright only covers creative work — a transcription of a work in the Public Domain cannot bring it under a new copyright due to the principle in American copyright that “the creative is the enemy of the true.” We support the initiative of Olivier Ertzscheid, a French academic who has shared a digital edition of a transcription of Frank’s work, arguing that it is of primary importance that everyone has access to “this essential voice in the collective history of mankind.” In addition to posting the entire text of Frank’s work as transcribed by her father, we welcome contributions of the digitized images of the pages Anne Frank’s original writings.


The Jewish Free-Culture Society is comprised of individuals contributing to open-source projects in Judaism. As determined by our accreditation review board, membership is open to all individual contributors to open-source Jewish initiatives donating $18 or more USD, and to all initiatives, institutions, or other organizations employing open-source or Open Content licensing. Voting is open to all individual members in good standing. Election to the Board of Directors is contingent on approval from our Board Advisors and a declaration of intent by Tu biShvat of that year. Voting for our annual awards and for our Board of Directors is held every year on the Rosh Ḥodesh Nissan. To become a member, please donate here.

Board of Directors

The positions on the board of directors are:

  • Chair — chief spokesperson, responsible for executing the society’s mission
  • Treasurer — responsible for keeping the finances and formal obligations of the non-profit transparent and fulfilled
  • Archivist — site administrator and legal representative of the society on all contracts receiving copyrighted work

The board of directors are paid in sums equal to 20% of the income of the society (up to $18,000) for their annual work.

Currently, the board of directors is staffed by Aharon Varady (Chair) and Marc Stober (Treasurer). The Archivist position is open. Please contact us if your would like to be considered for this position.

Advisory Committee

Every non-profit relies upon interested and expert advisors to review the organization’s plans, strategies, staff (hiring and dismissal), ensuring that decisions are made in accord the organizational mission. If you agree with the mission outlined above, and feel you have expertise that will help us succeed, we invite you to join our board as an advisor. Advisors are responsible for preserving the mission from strategic decisions and staff that might lead it away from this mission. As an advisor, you would participate in regular meetings with this responsibility in mind. Directors may be removed from their position upon a 2/3rds majority vote by the board of advisors and directors. In such a case, an intermediate advisor will be voted by majority of the board of advisors and directors to replace the descending board member until a new board member is elected. The experts on the board of advisors are:

  • librarian (open)
  • lawyer/legal scholar (open)
  • open-source programmer (open)
  • UI/UX designer (open)
  • web-to-print or on-demand publisher (open)
  • master book artist, crafter (open)
  • rabbi or otherwise degreed Jewish educator (Aharon Varady)
  • open-source project manager (open)

Please contact us if your would like to apply for any of the open positions.

Recognition Awards Committee

The Awards Committee votes on all of those nominated for the annual Jewish Free Culture Recognition Awards (see “projects“). Any member of the Jewish free-culture society in good standing is eligible to vote on the Awards Committee. Any members of the Awards Committee may question the eligibility of an individual or community project nominated for an award based solely on whether the nominee has contributed to Open-source Judaism and the Free Culture Movement according to the standard definition of Open-source as maintained by the Open Source Initiative, the definition of Open as maintained by the Open Knowledge Foundation, and the definition of Free Cultural Works as maintained by the Free-Culture Foundation. (For challenged nominees, final determination of nominee eligibility strictly according to these definitions is made by the Board of Advisors in a majority vote.)


The Jewish Free-Culture Society was co-founded by Aharon Varady (Open Siddur Project) and Marc Stober (jhacker) at the Mikvah Gathering for Collaborative Judaism at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in 2013. There, Aharon and Marc met with Erika Scott (Esoterika Designs) to discuss the scope of the organization’s mission and programming. The original impetus for the formation of the society was the need for some advocacy group to take responsibility for communicating open-source principles and terminology to the wider-community while letting other initiatives in open-source Judaism focus on their core missions.

We are grateful for the additional support for this project given by Douglas Rushkoff, Daniel Sieradski, Judd Maltin, and Sasha Brodsky. If you are working on a project in open-source Judaism or believe in this project, please be in touch if you’d like to be involved!


The Mekitze Nirdamim Society was founded in the 19th century by scholars and manuscript collectors to sponsor the publication of rare and out-of-print Jewish literature. The Jewish Free-Culture Society continues this tradition by supporting the sharing of all cultural works: historic and contemporary, familiar and obscure — those works in the Public Domain whose redistribution and adaptive reuse is complicated by proprietary interests, and those works under copyright whose copyright owners would like to share so long as their attribution remains ensured under copyright law.