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Saving the music: Judaica Sound Archives brings music to millions

It’s often hard to look at past cultures because relics weren’t preserved well and documents, if they ever were prepared, are long gone. At Florida Atlantic University, the musical culture of the Jewish heritage is being saved and distributed digitally online for millions to hear.

The Judaica Sound Archives is a cultural heritage preservation project on the Boca Raton campus. Using specially designed software, the archives have connected scholars, students and teachers to its digitized Judaic music collection.

“Many of these recordings are rare or historic,” said Nathan Tinanoff, the archive founder and director. “Never before has so much Judaic music and voice been so easily accessible and so beautifully reproduced.”

Judaica includes any “literature, religious icons or other items relating to the Jewish faith. It’s one of the oldest world faiths. Its roots go back thousands of years,” wisegeek.com writer A. Kaminksy wrote.

Preserving this music at the FAU library went from just having collections to creating an online database.

“By 2002, FAU’s Wimberly Library had accumulated about a thousand recordings of Jewish music,” assistant archive director Maxine Schackmansaid said. “When Nathan Tinanoff took over responsibility for these recordings, that collection became the foundation for the Judaica Music Rescue Project. The idea was to find and rescue vintage Judaic recordings that were in danger of being lost, discarded or broken with the goal of creating a central repository.”

“In 2005, the project was expanded to include all types of audio recordings, including CDs, and was renamed the Judaica Sound Archives, with Mr. Tinanoff as director.”

The software being used has enabled the Judaica Sound Archives at FAU Libraries to create the JSA-Research Station, which is a search engine and classroom aid for researchers, teachers and students of Judaic music, history and culture.

“Since the research station’s inception, centers in Israel, Canada, England and the U.S. have signed agreements to use it,” Tinanoff said.

The archives has collected all forms of music. It contains Jewish popular music, Yiddish theater, comedy, children’s music, classical music, Israeli and Yiddish folk and sacred Sephardic music. Also included are selections by Jewish performers, composers and conductors, as well as Jewish art songs and instrumental pieces.

“We have one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of Judaic sound recordings in the world. We want to collaborate with people who can make use of it,” Schackman said.

The database continues to grow every day, and the archives always welcomes contributors.

“We are always looking for more recordings. All the recordings in the JSA's collection are donated. We have no budget to buy recordings. So if you know anyone who has Judaic recordings [old or new] we would be most happy to accept them,” Tinanoff said. “If anyone knows any Jewish performers, conductors or composers who have made a number of recordings, we would be interested in reviewing these recordings for possible inclusion in our online collection.”

The archives also welcomes volunteers, both students and adults.

“There is always work to do at the JSA. We have many volunteers who help out in many different ways. Anyone with computer skills is especially welcome to volunteer,” Tinanoff said. The office is on the fifth floor of the Wimberly Library.

“Financial contributions can be made online through the archives website, http://faujsa.fau.edu/jsa/donation_form.php,” Schackman said.

The archive’s goal is to keep preserving this music and allowing others to have access to cultural history.

“The recordings in the Judaica Sound Archives are part of Jewish history and culture. They provide insights into the heritage that modern Jews share with each other,” Schackman said. “We hope that today's students will find inspiration in these roots and history finding new and creative ways to incorporate this into their own lives and music.”



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