Sefaria wants to leverage technology to make Jewish texts as accessible as possible, and it is our commitment to access that led us to create Sefaria as, fundamentally, a multilingual platform. We currently have 2.7 million words in translation (about 38 average-size novels), including 820,000 words (about 12 novels) created by volunteer contributors. For now, we only feature English translations, but we envision a time when Sefaria will feature translations in many languages.
Our challenge is that while the vast majority of the Hebrew texts we want to include in our database are in the public domain, most of the corresponding translations are under copyright.
Currently, Sefaria features a few English translations in the public domain, including the 1917 JPS Tanach translation, Messilat Yesharim, and Guide for the Perplexed. We know about a few others that we would like to include, but have yet to get to—including S.H. Glick’s translation of Ein Yakov, The Drachman translation of nineteen letters, and the Finch translation of parts of Radak’s commentaries. If you know of other English translations in the public domain that we can add to our database, please email Ari.
We are also very eager to acquire copyrighted translations, and have started conversations with publishers about doing so. We hope to be able to announce our first major acquisition in the next month or two.
While we would ideally love to obtain and publish existing translations by great scholars, we’re also pursuing other avenues for translation, including volunteer, crowd-sourced translations. While some of these translations (like our work on the Mishnah and Even Haezer) are organized by the Sefaria team, we hope that individuals will contribute their original translations to any text we have on Sefaria.
Translations do not need to be complete works, and our strategy for translation does not have to be a linear one, in which texts are completed all at once. Substantive excerpts are also extremely valuable. Since Sefaria is built to support works in progress, we can focus on the most important sections of texts first. We’re starting to do this now by looking at the most popular Sources used in Source Sheets that aren’t translated yet.
Finally, we are looking into the possibility of commissioning our own scholarly translations as well, and are also very much on the lookout for non-commercial translations that people might have done for dissertations or other research purposes. If you know of a translation—whether a complete work or a slew of excerpts—that an author would be amenable to sharing with us, please reach out to let us know. Or, if you are translator interested in undertaking a translation for Sefaria, we’d love you to reach out to us as well.