Some say that the hardest thing about being Jewish is getting a good handle on Hebrew, which, in its liturgical form, is necessary for prayer and in its modern form is a gateway to global dialogue. Thanks to one rabbi, the former has become more accessible, not to mention animated.
The first digital, animated Chabad siddur comes on the heels of an expansion of the original “My Siddur,” the only transliterated Chabad siddur that will include Shabbat and festival services.
The siddur project began in 2008 and is the brainchild of Rabbi Chayim Boruch Alevsky, creator of Tools for Torah and the youth director of Chabad of the West Side with his wife Sarah. A Sephardic edition also is available, and Rabbi Alevsky will be recording updated prayers that will be on the website soon.
With the success and usefulness of the original “My Siddur” and the accompanying CDs, Alevsky saw an animated, digital version as the logical next stop.
“We are expanding the printed version and leaping ahead. We’re going digital,” Rabbi Alevsky said. “This is the ultimate E-siddur. It’s multimedia in its truest sense: paper, audio, digital image and animation.”
For now, the animated digital edition includes only the Shema, Modeh Ani (blessing upon waking), and the Torah blessings, but Rabbi Alevsky is raising funds to make the entire project come alive online. A mobile app also is in the works.
“We’re estimating a few new prayers on the site every week,” he said. “More will be posted as they’re animated, hot off the press.”
Emily Levy, an adult Hebrew learner, was happy to see the animated version of the prayers on the Tools for Torah website.
“This is super helpful to me,” she said. “I appreciate the pace. It’s not unrealistically slow, but it’s not impossible to follow.”
The new digital, animated siddur is, Rabbi Alevsky says, “a real tool to learn how to daven [pray]. You can see each syllable come to life as you hear it chanted.”
The “My Siddur” project was born after Chabad representative Rivky Block of Plano, Texas, mentioned to Rabbi Alevsky that some of her students were having trouble keeping up with the Hebrew prayers.
Rabbi Alevsky made up some CDs with the prayers on them, and the students loved it. Then, Alevsky was approached about adapting the Chabad siddur so that students of all educational backgrounds would have a chance to experience communal prayer in Hebrew.
After many months and revisions, 6,000 copies of “My Siddur” arrived in Hebrew schools and junior congregations from Alaska to Hong Kong complete with a transliterated pronunciation guide, English translations, and highlighted and translated key words that sum up the meaning of the prayer.
For more information on the siddur project, the CDs, and the animated, digital prayers, visit www.ToolsForTorah.com