What constitutes Jewish cultural heritage? Books and works of art created by Jews at some moment in their long history? Ceremonial objects and Judaica they carried with them? Old manuscripts and religious scrolls with sacred writings and beautiful drawings? Ephemera and memorabilia of communities: photographs, postcards, letters, newspapers, journals and posters? And what about video and audio, from historic recordings to modern-day media?
All these and more make the rich tapestry of our cultural heritage, which many consider to be defining their Jewish identity. All over the world, cultural institutions – libraries, archives and museums – have collected and preserved heritage material for decades; they have compiled catalogues, curated exhibitions and started the important work of digitizing their collections for future generations. Now the technology is here which would make it possible to amplify this mission by exposing the collections to a worldwide audience, today and tomorrow. But institutions can't do it alone; their resources are limited and they work in isolation. A concerted digital agenda is needed.
The Jewish Heritage Network (JHN) is a global network of institutions, offering all members an open technological platform to aggregate and present their content, in full respect of owner and access rights. Overlooked materials come to life through engaging online storytelling using the latest web technologies. Once fully developed, everyone will be able to easily search, browse, zoom in, quote, comment, tag and share cultural treasures of every format in extraordinary detail, on computers and smartphones, in every corner of the world.
Our vision is to create a hub for creativity, inspired by Jewish heritage. JHN will curate online galleries and exhibitions, offer tools to experiment with materials of our past and creatively reuse them, and allow for easy distribution of content to online magazines and social media – reaching new audiences and engaging younger generations.
The digital revolution is rapidly changing the way we work, study, consume culture and communicate; increasingly, we do these online. What remains unchanged is that Jewish cultural heritage is a central component of Jewish identity, too important to be left to decreasing museum visitors and library goers. The time is right for Jewish heritage to take a digital turn. This is JHN’s mission: to serve a thriving, diverse, dynamic and global Jewish community by providing open online access to the wealth of heritage content and giving it center stage.
Jewish cultural heritage belongs to everyone. To provide universal access to it, JHN will work with institutions in full and open partnership while recognizing their central role in preserving heritage materials and all owner and access rights.
JHN believes its mission to be an important cause on behalf of the entire Jewish people. Therefore, it will have a governing structure that will be transparent, democratic and as representative as possible of the world Jewry. JHN’s staff, Board and Advisory Committee will be appointed in full compliance with this principle.
JHN believes that only by being truly intellectually independent can it fulfil the mission. JHN must stay above politics, partisanship, and commercial interests. Our financial sustainability and governance will not come at the expense of intellectual independence, which will be safeguarded by an Advisory Committee, an international group of recognised experts, helping JHN in various areas.
JHN believes that it must present the broadest variety of Jewish heritage: a rich tapestry of communities and their languages, traditions and migration. JHN will continuously outreach to diverse sources of Jewish heritage, from memory institutions to personal collections. Aiming to be sensitive to identity nuances, JHN will go beyond rigid categorisation and portray the multiple ways in which Jewish communities form, evolve and define themselves.
Universal principles and morals are rooted in collective memory and do not expire. Preserving memory is at the core of Jewish identity. JHN will keep this tradition in the digital age by showcasing references to heritage materials, which can engage with reality, challenge assumptions and provide space for exchange of firstname.lastname@example.org