Jewish Commons gathers, explores and presents digital resources, projects and digitized collections pertinent to Jewish studies. Currently in its nascent stages, the Commons will grow to become a comprehensive guide to open-access material that is available on the web from institutions, libraries and collections across the world. However, Jewish Commons is more than a directory of resources. This website is designed to facilitate conversation—between archivists and curators, software developers and librarians, scholars and members of the public—about what it means to conduct research in the digital age, and about how digital technologies and tools can best serve the people who use them.
All of our visitors are welcome to use the Forum, social media or comment functions to share information on their own projects/research, ideas, challenges, and wish-lists of future technologies or programs of study that will enhance Jewish studies. The mission of Jewish Commons is to provide a venue where institutions and individuals can develop thoughtful approaches to using technology in building the future of research practice and scholarship.
This initiative of the Center for Jewish History is an outgrowth of the Center's November 2011 international conference, "From Access to Integration: Digital Technologies and the Study of Jewish History." At the conference, summary session speaker Barbara Kirschenblatt-Gimblett identified one of the takeaways of the two-day event: "Data does not equal knowledge," she said. Digital technologies have given us unprecedented access to data, but there are many steps from data to knowledge or meaning. While the focus of the conference was "the potential of integration: increasing awareness, networking, collaborating and establishing uniform standards," Kirschenblatt-Gimblett added, the next step is "to create a global resource for enhancing knowledge of Jewish history," she said. Jewish Commons takes that next step.
In November 2011, the Center organized and presented "From Access to Integration: Digital Technologies and the Study of Jewish History," an international conference that brought together 150 thinkers, scholars, archivists and librarians from around the world. Conference participants explored ways in which individuals and institutions might collaborate to create a global resource for enhancing knowledge of Jewish history. This gathering included leaders from the Library of Congress, Oxford University, Princeton University, NYU, the Smithsonian, the National Library of Israel and more. Presentations, excerpts and notes can be found on the Center's blog.
Arthur Kiron, co-convener of the conference, writes:
- What is distinctive and challenging about the conditions facing contemporary Jews—as a diaspora with a modern nation-state as a home, but with primary sources, resources and experiences scattered around the world—is to find ways to bridge distances and communities. Digital technologies, it was shown, offer unprecedented opportunities to preserve local historical records and support living communities while making it possible for people around the world to visit those cultures and communities, learn from primary sources that document lived experiences and discover connections that otherwise would not be visible. In other words, digital technologies allow us to preserve local autonomy, ownership and control and at the same time open up access to invaluable primary historical sources. Perhaps most importantly, they compel curators, collectors, and community leaders to think about how no collection is a stand-alone entity and no place is unrelated to any other.
November 10—second day of the conference. Summary Session led by Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Program Director, Core Exhibition, Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, and University Professor, New York University.