The goal of this website is to give the widest possible view into the world of piyut from the distant past until today. As you can see, the website presents many sections engaging a variety of lenses to see into the world of piyut, and we are planning to widen the scope of this work over time.
There are two archives at the core of the website. The central archive is a collection of piyutim and melodies. Here you can find piyutim divided into various categories and run a general search on all of the piyutim. Each piyut has two central “pages.” The first offers an in-depth look at the piyut, presenting different perspectives of background, commentary, and explanation. The second is a list of melodies, including a range of melodies and performances of the piyut.
The second archive contains texts and melodies not classically defined as piyutim – such as selections from Psalms or traditional Jewish prayers. This category of the archive is necessary because there is a close functional relationship between these types of texts and melodies and the world of piyut, both aesthetically and in terms of practical traditional uses.
Additional categories on the website include sub-listings within the two main archives (such as the piyut of the week, the piyut of the month, the top 12 selected piyutim, a “send a piyut” service, and “what’s new.” Soon we hope to introduce additional features, including a website radio station that will allow you to listen to the piyutim in uninterrupted succession as well as a section with information about current news and events concerning piyut from around the world including classes, seminars, people, and events in the field.
The vast majority of the poetic and musical creativity of the Jews emerged in various Diaspora communities during the past two millennia. Since the founding of the State of Israel and the immigration of the majority of these ancient Diaspora communities to Israel, large sections of the great tradition of piyut have been lost or forgotten. Finding access to the remnants that remain is not easy. The brief history of the modern period created, in many cases, a gap between the tradition of the past and the modern society and culture that developed in Israel. Tradition generally, and the legacy of piyut in particular, has stayed alive and meaningful only among a small portion of the Israeli population.
As time has passed, the need for people to connect with these roots has grown greatly. It is a need to access the voices calling from the depths of time, absorbed in emotion and wisdom of the many generations that sang these piyutim. We will widen and deepen our language and understand ourselves and our nation better as part of understanding our ancestors and their traditions better.
The Avi Chai Foundation – which promotes as its central goal making possible a warm and open passage for all Jews to their heritage – is pleased to support the foundation of the website “Invitation to Piyut.”
The piyut purifies and refines key components of Hebrew culture into a totality: language, music, mysticism, history, legend, philosophy, and prayer, as well as personal, family, and national stories and emotions. The signing of piyut makes it possible to experience this totality in its deepest sense.
In light of the vast foundation of Jewish and Hebrew content of which piyut takes part, the challenge of the website “Invitation to Piyut” is to succeed in expressing this rich totality authentically, providing a platform for connecting to all of the components in a full experience. From each piyut many gates open, and we hope that we will gradually succeed in opening more and more.
The experience of piyut is not by definition natural to the Internet medium, and perhaps even foreign to it. Nonetheless, we hope that the wide exposure made possible by the website will succeed in arousing the will and desire to engage this experience of the past through the computer screen.
We aim to gather in one place a meaningful selection of piyutim from all Jewish cultures in a manner recognizing the varied styles and influences existing in the Jewish tradition, turning the website into an “international home” for piyut.
Gathering this material is just the first stage of our project. A complementary goal is to convert the material to approachable forms – not just technically, but culturally, particularly for those who were not raised with a particular traditional background. We hope to offer tools in order to make it possible for the general public to encounter, understand, and feel the experience and messages of piyutim. We are also committed to working diligently to verify that materials presented on the website are researched and examined by experts with traditional background as well as senior professionals in related fields. For more on this effort, see the “Staff” section of the website).
This challenge, as mentioned above, is daunting. First, the repertoire of piyutim is nearly infinite and scattered across the world. In many cases, we refer to recordings difficult for the modern ear to understand both for technical reasons and because of cultural gaps. We believe piyut holds beauty and power which is timeless, and sometimes one must patiently brush off the dust or listen closer in order to capture the voice of a piyut. Sometimes one must allow the heart and mind to carry new blood to the work without violating traditional authenticity. We aspire to succeed in becoming a link in the long chain of piyutim at the same time as supporting new creativity.
We are confident of the relevance of piyutim to the wider Israeli public and throughout the world, perhaps even more than any other form of traditional Jewish creativity.
Much of our effort is invested in the development of our archive of piyutim. We aspire to create a platform of varied repertoire reflecting many generations, broadcasting a wide variety of performances for each piyut. At the same time, we hope to concentrate on a variety of in-depth writing and research providing the background and tools to improve the understanding of the piyut and its perspective and place in Jewish life – from the past and into the present and future. In addition to gathering the existing material and adapting it to a style which blends well with the website, we are preparing production of new recordings of the best of different traditional piyutim performed by contemporary artists. We hope that the website will gradually become the central address for all that is happening in Israel and beyond in connection with piyut – from groups and seminars to concerts and conferences and more.
We are proud that this website serves as a home for “Kehillot Sharot” (Singing Communities) as well, creating a connection between the world of theory and research and contemporary reality and practice.
We aspire to bring balanced expression to the many components and great richness of the legacy of piyut, and because we are at the beginning of this journey, we look forward to your suggestions and comments along the way.
The founding of the website is a joint initiative of the Avi Chai Foundation and “Kehilot Sharot”(Singing Communities), an organization also supported by the Avi Chai Foundation.
We have been fortunate to have the cooperation of several people and institutions who specialize in the area of the musical and poetic heritage of the communities of Israel, all who have been kind enough to provide the website with information and content that they have gathered over the years. We would like to thank the following individuals and organizations:
The Renanot Institute; The National Library Sound Archives; Jewish Music Research Center, Hebrew University, Jerusalem; Machon Moreshet Ashkenaz founded by Binyamin Hamburger; Beth Hatefutsoth – Feher Jewish Music Center; The Azulai Brothers; the paytan and singer Aharon Amram; The Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center; The Morasha Organization; The Shaharit Ensemble; The Yona Ensemble; the paytan Moshe Havusha; The Aram Tzuba Congregations, New York; The Ovadia Institute for the Advancement of Yemenite Music, The Ben Zvi Institute for research of Eastern Jewry; “Mimizrach Shemesh”; the paytan Binyamin Mualem; Mr. Amram Mualem; The “Or Shalom” Center for the preservation of the heritage of Libyan Jewry; The Israeli Andalusit Orchestra; The World Jewish Congress of Bukhara; The Damascus Organization in Israel; The Jewish Federation of France; the Modzitz Hassidic Dynasty website; Nihoach; The ‘Tslilei Rag’ Choir; Binyamin Asulin; Peretz Eliyahu; The Tsfon Maarav Choir; the paytan Kalimo Dos; Yair Dalal; Habrera Hativeet; Shlomo Bar; Kol Oud Tof Trio; Esti Keinan-Ofri; Yehuda Ovadia Ftaya; Meir Abud; Tiferet Hamizrach Choir; the family of the paytan Shalom Tzabari; Yechiel Nahari; Dedi Ben Ami; Emil Zrihan; Shuli Natan; Ehud Banai; Zvi Zelevski; Zion Badash; Zion Veturi; Lior Elmaliach; Aviad Akiva and many others.
Most importantly we wish to thank the great paytanim of the generations and those of today, who have been dedicated to the popularization of the tradition of the piyut, and serve as a bridge between the generations. It is due to them that we have been able to bring to you this rich and wide variety of recordings. It is our hope to widen this circle and any assistance will be most welcome.
- Yair Harel – General Manager and Editor-in-Chief
- Ran Zeira – Project Director, Snunit
- Ruth Zarbiv Holtzman – Editorial and Staff Coordinator
- Hana Ftaya – Chief Editor of Written Material
- Nitzan-Chen Razel – Musical Research, Notes and Listening Guide
- Ofer Amit – Programmer (Snunit)
- Moshe Leibovitz - Programmer (Snunit)
- Leah London - Programmer (Snunit)
- Yaffa Berger - Programmer (Snunit)
- Orly Shalem, Sharon Naor – Graphic Design (Snunit)
- Anat Lavi – Administration and Logistics
- Tal Bar – Research and Layout of Graphic Material
- Basmat Hazan – International and Cultural Affairs
- Writers – Hana Ftaya, Sara Friedland Ben-Arza (Assistant Editor), Ruth Zarbiv Holtzman, Ahuva Naeh, Uri Kroizer, Tirtza Leibovitz, Roni Ish-Ran, David Menachem, Nitzan-Chen Razel, Esti Keinan, Yair Harel, Yehoshua Granat, Basmat Hazan, Itay Marienberg.
- Musical Research – Nitzan Chen Razel, Yaniv Yitzhak, Aviad Akiva, Esti Keinan, Ahuva Naeh, Chaim Azulai, Netanel Musai, Dafna Dori
- Musical Consultant ants – Roni Ish-Ran, David Menachem, Maimon Cohen, Yaniv Yitzhak, Oded Peles.
- Introductions written by: Professor Haviva Pedaya, Prof. Ephraim Hazan, Prof. Edwin Seroussi, Dr. Essica Marks, Hana Ftaya, Yaacov Mazor, Prof. Andre Haidu, Dr. Arik Krasenti, Meir Bakshi, Dr. Komiko yayama
- Poetic Terminology Lexicon – Amnon Sasson
- English Translation – Kinneret Lapidot
- Field Recording Technician – Roee Peled
- Academic Committee: Prof. Edwin Seroussi (Hebrew University), Prof. Ephraim Hazan (Bar Ilan University), Dr. Meir Buzaglo (Hebrew University, Misgav Yerushalaim, The Avi Chai Foundation), Prof. Avigdor Shinan (Hebrew University, The Avi Chai Foundation), Prof. Haviva Pedaya (Beer Sheva university, The Yona Ensemble), Yossi Ohana (Director of Kehilot Sharot), Dror Yehoshua (Mimizrach Shemesh).
- Steering Committee: Prof. Edwin Seroussi (Hebrew University); Prof. Ephraim Hazan (Bar Ilan University); Dr. Meir Buzaglo (Hebrew University, Misgav Yerushalaim, The Avi Chai Foundation); Prof. Avigdor Shinan (Hebrew University, The Avi Chai Foundation); Prof. Haviva Pedaya (Beer Sheva university, The Yona Ensemble); Yossi Ohana (Director of Kehilot Sharot); Dror Yehoshua (Mimizrach Shemesh); Mr. Ezra Barnea, Director of the Renanot Institute; Dr. Gila Flam Director of the National Sound Archives; Cheli Tabibi-Butbul Director of Beit Hillel, Hebrew University; Dr. Yael Shai, National Superintendent for Music Education, Ministry of Education; Eliyahu Barkat, Director of Mimizrach Shemesh; Ran Zeira, Director of the Project, Snunit; Karen Weiss and Eli Kannai, The Avi Chai Foundation.
- Additional Professional Advisers on the Various Traditions: R. Chaim Look, R. Meir Attia, Prof. Eliyahu Schleifer, Yoram Azulai, Ephraim Yaacov, Avigdor Herzog, Prof. Andre Haidu, Ruth Freid.