Our Mission

Beth Mardutho: The Syriac Institute seeks to promote the study and preservation of the Syriac heritage and language, and to facilitate opportunities for people to pursue the study of this ancient legacy globally. We aim to serve the academic community and the heirs of the Syriac heritage transcending denominational diversity. We carry out innovative educational projects that globalize Syriac studies, making it available through the internet in every university, classroom, library and home.

Our History

In 1992, the Institute — formerly known as The Syriac Computing Institute (SyrCOM) — was established informally by George A. Kiraz, then at the University of Cambridge. SyrCOM’s main objective was to attract volunteers to work on Syriac projects by means of computer technology.

In 1996, SyrCOM moved to New Jersey, where it was formally registered as a nonprofit organization with a board of trustees governing its activities. By the year 2000, SyrCOM had successfully ventured into a wide range of exciting projects, from technological contributions such as the development of Syriac Unicode fonts for Windows 2000 Professional™, to scholarly activities such as electronic publication of eBooks and an eJournal. Now known as Hugoye, the journal is the premier academic journal of Syriac studies and pioneered open-access publishing years before major university presses. Through these innovative projects, the Institute earned the respect and support of Syriac scholarship and the Syriac-speaking communities.

At the dawn of the Third Millennium, SyrCOM’s mission was broadened and the institute renamed to reflect its widened goals. The Institute’s Syriac name, “beth mardutho,” means a “place of learning,” speaking to our ultimate aim: establishing a Syriac studies center affiliated with leading universities that globalizes Syriac studies through the internet and serves both academic researchers and the Syriac heritage communities.


Our Current Projects

Since 2001, Beth Mardutho has continued expanding the scope and significance of its research initiatives. The current property in Piscataway, NJ, was purchased. In 2010, the Beth Mardutho Research Library was launched, and it is currently one of the largest research libraries on Syriac studies in the world. It holds more than 8,500 volumes, 10,000 letters, 4,000 audio recordings, as well as manuscripts and private collections. Many titles have been digitized for worldwide access through grants and collaborations with Internet Archive, Rutgers University, Princeton Theological Seminary, Catholic University of America, Duke University, Brigham Young University, and De Gruyter eBound.

Language courses have become a hallmark of Beth Mardutho: teaching classical Syriac to scholars, priests, and laity. In 2014, the institute began offering summer intensive courses in Beginning and Intermediate-Advanced Syriac, and, on occasion, Classical Arabic. Asynchronous online courses in Beginning Syriac were later started to meet the needs of a broader variety of learners. Almost 200 students have enrolled in our language classes in the past decade.

Begun in 2017, the Digital Humanities Fellowship program has offered more than 37 graduate students and early career scholars training in Syriac and Semitic-language digital humanities. Fellows have developed Syriac OCR (optical character recognition) and HTR (handwritten text recognition) models, created an ever-growing online database of Syriac literary texts, tagged thousands of dictionary entries for our online Syriac lexica, and TEI/XML-encoded Hugoye journal issues so scholars can easily search them. Every year the advances increase.

The Beth Gazo app was launched in 2018 for both Android and iOS. Preserving traditional Syriac church melodies sung by various chanters, the app assists priests, deacons, and choirs in learning the many complex melodies of the Syriac liturgical tradition.

In 2019, the most ambitious project to date was launched: Simtho. An online database of Syriac literary texts from all periods, Simtho currently contains more than 7.3 million tokens and 600,000 unique words. It allows scholars to more readily search entire corpora of Syriac texts, analyze language shifts, and understand usages of words in particular authors and eras.

Beth Mardutho has always sought to bridge the Syriac heritage and academic communities. Its latest initiative, MelthoLAB, brings the partnership to a new level. Through donor support, MelthoLAB provides jobs to Syriac Christians in the Middle East, who create essential Syriac digital humanities content that is published open access, freely available to all. Team members work on transcribing Syriac manuscripts, correcting OCRed texts for Simtho, populating the Sedra online dictionaries, and creating data for part-of-speech tagging and other online resources.

Learn more about the history of Beth Mardutho and follow our timeline up to the present day!