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Facebook users can now add their own commentary in music, video, text and art to the wisdom of famous biblical commentators on a Web site that presents the Bible on a platform built for users of social networking media.
"The Human Bible Project creates a multihued mosaic of contemporary human approaches to the ancient biblical text," touts a promotion for the project.
The goal is to rally Jews from disparate traditions around the neutral ground of the Bible, said the site's founders.
Psookim.com, which hosts the Human Bible Project, was launched by the Ramat Aviv-based Center for Educational Technology. The project revolves around a full version of the Torah in both Hebrew and English.
Each verse is linked to the work of traditional and modern biblical commentators, and encourages users to link applicable works of art and music to the scripture and create their own multimedia commentary and interpretations.
"When we got into the project we started to change our attitude towards the text, because we were trying to find a way for people to feel connected to the text so that there is a dialogue around it," said Avi Warshavsky, the head of the humanities department at the Center for Educational Technology.
"The challenge is to bring people in who are not naturally interested in the Bible, that they will find the magic in the Bible by meeting it in this way."
To open the text up to Facebook, the largest social network on the Internet, Warshavsky said they have to update the platform several times each month to adapt it to the ever-morphing demands of social networking.
"It's not easy, because they change [the] platform every week," said Warshavsky. "But the audience is already there."
About half the site's traffic comes from Facebook and half from outside it, he said.
Another key aspect of the project is to allow users to choose one verse with which they identify and read it in an online video that is linked directly to the text.
"We wanted to take the concept one level further and allow the user to take a video reading one verse in the Tanach," said Warshavsky. "You choose the one that you connect to the most strongly - or that has your name in it... [and] you will find yourself speaking the verse."
"When someone reads a verse, something just happens, and in some of them you can see the excitement just from the reading," he said. "The idea is that you will be able to feel... that every verse in the Bible, some human being who feels connected to it has read."
Opening up the sacred text to user-created content has also created some controversy, Warshavsky said. While no organizations or religious leaders have explicitly condemned the site, he believes it might only be a matter of time, and has already received plenty of mail objecting to some of the content.
"Our material is quite radical sometimes," said Warshavsky. "Some of the art would not naturally be connected to the Bible. Even the attitude that anyone can add commentary to the Bible is an attitude that brings questions."
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