Google’s Android App Marketplace Offers Inspirational Hitler Quotes Apps

Apple has been criticized by mobile app makers for the difficult process involved in getting their apps into the AppStore. The reason for all the red tape in this process, however, is so Apple can approve each app for content ensuring there is no hate speech or racist material in the app. In France, Apple has even removed an app that was in violation of that country’s strong policy on anti-Semitism.

Google, on the other hand, has made it much easier for developers to offer their apps in Google’s Android marketplace called Google Play. According to Google’s website users are asked to “not distribute content that promotes hatred or violence towards groups of people based on their race or ethnic origin and religion.” When Google is notified of potential policy violation, it “may” review and take action by removing or restricting content, however, it doesn’t have the same screening processes in place that Apple does for its app marketplace. Google’s checklist for app developers to submit their creations for consideration in Google Play includes the requirement that one informs Google Play users of the app’s maturity level before publish. The available content rating levels are: Everyone, Low maturity, Medium maturity, and High maturity. However, Google does not provide for apps that are created in bad taste. A Google spokeswoman explained that the company removes apps that violate its policies against hate speech.

Such is the case with a new app for users in search of inspiration from non other than Adolf Hitler. One app in the Google Play store is simply called “Adolf Hitler.” The description states, “All about Adolf Hitler. Get everything in one place – Bio, Pictures, Videos and Quotes. Not only can you get them in one place, you can share all your favorites with your friends in a click.” Another app, Infamous Adolf Hitler Quotes, proclaims: “Looking for Adolf Hitler Quotes?? Then this is the App for you!” The apps often provide a quote of the day and allow the users to search a database of anti-Semitic quotes including such things as, “Jews are like mosquitoes that suck our blood.”

While quotes from The Fuhrer are searchable throughout the Web using any search engine in any browser, mobile apps dedicated to glorifying Hitler’s hate speech are something else entirely. Hitler’s writings, famous quotes and excerpts from Mein Kampf should be readily available for research purposes on the Web, however, Google should think twice before marketing mobile apps that celebrate the words that motivated the Holocaust.

According to the Anti-Defamation League website, the free app from kutaa provides users with vile quotes attributed to Hitler and has been installed by over 10,000 users within 30 days through Google Play. The Arabic-language app, “Hitler’s Sayings,” allows users to read and share what it describes as Hitler’s “beautiful sayings that we could benefit from in our lives” via social media networks. A description of the app says, “Hitler combines the charisma of the skillful physician and the grand juggler…Read in this application all of Hitler’s sayings and share them with your friends.”

These free apps (some have been downloaded as many times as 50,000 times) are not being used by Holocaust scholars or those seeking to gain a better understanding of the Third Reich. Rather, they are being downloaded and installed to extend the reach of Neo-Nazis in the U.S. While the Arabic language app Infamous Adolf Hitler quotes from the Arab app maker kutaa seems to have been removed from Google Play (it’s still available for download at AppsZoom), other mobile apps tauting Hitler as an inspirational leader are popping up in the Android app market.

The other issue with these Hitler apps that extol the Nazi leader is the vitriolic language in the comments section on the review pages of the apps. In the user review section of one of the free English-language apps dedicated to Hitler’s quotes, one of the more than a thousand reviewers called Hitler a great moral leader. Another user writes in a review dated August 2012 that the “app is so great and useful,” and explains that he wanted to learn how Hitler was able to “kill all the yahudi people.”

In September of last year, Google removed a mobile app of the conspiracy theory book The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Google eventually removed The Protocols app from its website amid a large public outcry. Google will continue to remove these apps that praise Hitler, but more Android apps will crop up to plague its app market. Google needs to be more vigilant in prohibiting such hate spewing apps from ever residing in Google Play in the first place.

Cross-posted to the Jewish Techs blog on The Jewish Week’s website

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

Social Media Sites Get Political About Israel

Cross-posted to the Jewish Techs blog at The Jewish Week

Spending a week in Israel earlier this month I kept my eyes open to the way Israelis use technology. Even on my first time in Israel over 18 years ago I noticed that Israelis thirsted for the latest tech gadgets. Being a country that struggled with telecommunications early on in its existence primed Israel for a telecom revolution. In the first decades of statehood, stories persisted about families who waited years just to get a telephone in their own home. So when mobile communications took off in the middle of the 1990s, Israelis were eager to adopt the new technology.

One thing I noticed during my recent visit was that the Apple iPhone is much less common in Israel than it is in North America. I also got the sense that Israelis prefer the GPS app Waze over other GPS services. That could be in part due to Apple’s decision not to link Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in its Maps application or World Clock on its new operating system. Back in September when Apple CEO Tim Cook admitted that Apple’s mobile Maps application was inaccurate and had many flaws (including the Jerusalem situation), he advised users of OS5 to download alternative navigation apps including Waze which was designed by Waze Ltd., an Israeli company.

Other questionable situations in social media have led many to question whether these are really honest mistakes or politically motivated actions. A recent Huffington Post article titled Did Flickr Delete Israel From Its Map? raises questions about the maps plugin of the photo social networking site Flickr. When the user zoomed in on Jerusalem there were no streets or landmarks as there would be for every other city in the world. The article triggered two responses from Yahoo which now owns Flickr. The first email from a company representative stated that Yahoo was aware of the issue and was working to quickly improve what is a third party map provider problem. There was no mention of why Israel was the only city in the world affected. The full email message from Yahoo read:

The geographical data that appears on Flickr and Yahoo! Maps comes from a third party map provider and we are working with them to understand and improve the gap in geographic coverage that has been reported. Yahoo! always wants to ensure the best possible product experience for our users, and this falls short of those expectations. We are continually working to source and roll out coverage where there is room to provide greater mapping details. In particular, we hope and expect that you will see improved maps coverage of Israel shortly.

The next day Flickr debuted a map that rendered Jerusalem as a normal city with its streets and landmarks returned to the way it was. There was no explanation for the error.

Of all the social networking sites, Facebook seemed to be the least problematic with Israel labeling. It is a very popular site in Israel. However, one Facebook user found that according to the site she no longer lived in Israel proper. Laura Ben-David, writing in the Times of Israel, explains how she suddenly was listed as living in Palestine rather than in Israel on her Facebook status updates:

Sorry, I didn’t share the news that I recently moved. In fact, I didn’t tell anyone. It was so sudden and so fast. We’re not just talking about moving from one street to another, or to a different neighborhood. Not even to another city or region. We’re talking about moving out of the country; out of Israel. Yes, I know it’s a shock to you. It was a shock to me as well. In fact, I found out about the move the same way most people find out things these days: on Facebook. I found out when friends saw a photo I’d taken from home and posted on Facebook, and they told me it was tagged with this new, previously unheard of location, ‘Neve Daniel, Palestine.’

Apparently Facebook no longer lists my town of ‘Neve Daniel’ as ‘Israel’, but rather as a city in ‘Palestine.’ Truthfully, this type of geographical blundering isn’t a particularly new development. In fact, I remember a time when I could ‘choose’ to tag my location either ‘Neve Daniel, Israel’ or ‘Neve Daniel, West Bank.’ Since 2010, Bing Maps have powered Facebook’s Places and locations. Frankly I don’t hold much stock in Bing Maps. A simple search in Bing could not even find Neve Daniel at all, in any country. I don’t know the back end of these programs, or how they work or fail to work. I can say that I successfully tagged the location on a photo, as I’ve done many times, as ‘Neve Daniel, Israel.’ Though what I saw, depending on where I was viewing it, was either only ‘Neve Daniel’ or ‘Neve Daniel, West Bank.’ What other people saw, and what they rushed to tell me and send me screen shots of, was ‘Neve Daniel, Palestine.’

While the situation between the Palestinians and the Israelis is indeed a complicated one, full of nuance, I think most would agree that these social networking sites are not the proper forums to play out the political situation. As far back as March 2008 Israeli settlers were fighting with Facebook to list their home city as part of Israel rather than Palestine. Ultimately, users in such settlements as Ma’aleh Adumim and Ariel were able to switch their hometowns back to Israel. However it seems like Facebook is once again taking it upon itself to determine which country users live in. Facebook groups have popped up urging Facebook to remain neutral in this political matter and not unilaterally list Israelis as living in Palestine.

As Ben-David explained, “We are living in a new reality where our sense of history is being molded – crafted, even – through social media. News outlets are barely fast enough to keep up with the speed by which social media spreads information. Hence it is social media that people today turn to for their news. And their facts. Today’s information from social media will be tomorrow’s history. In other words, if Facebook says it’s Palestine, it must be true. Even though it isn’t.”

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

Children and Technology: The Good, the Bad and the Dangerous

Versions of this appeared in the Detroit Jewish News and on the Savvy Auntie website

As our society becomes even more dependent on technology, we will have to continue adapting to the technology innovations that continue to amaze us. The constant advances in everything from mobile gadgets to our household appliances will force us to change the way we currently do everyday tasks. If you need help figuring out how to use any of the new technology, just ask your kids.

Joking aside, children adapt quickest to new technology because they don’t really have to adapt much. Swiping on an iPad screen, controlling the Xbox 360 Kinect videogame console through virtual reality, or starting the family’s washing machine from a mobile app seem to come naturally for children. In the same way that parents joked in the 1980s that they needed their children to program the VCR, today’s parents marvel at how comfortable their children are with new technology.

Children as young as four years old are using the Internet, mobile devices, and gaming consoles. In some cases this is a good thing, but there are certain risk factors that parents should be aware of. While technology can be used for positive educational purposes, there are also serious physical and psychological concerns.

A recent Nielson study finds that in households owning a tablet computer and with children under 12, 70% of children use the tablet. 77% of these children are playing games, while 57% use the tablet for educational purposes. The rest of the most common responses include 55% of these children using the tablet for entertainment purposes; 43% to watch television and/or movies; and 41% to keep the child occupied while at a restaurant or event.

Many parents report that letting their children use tablet computers like the iPad can be very helpful when waiting at the doctor’s office, on long car rides, and before the meal arrives at restaurants. There are also advantages to having children do their homework on the iPad. Julie Feldman of Farmington Hills, Michigan explains that her daughter Emily (a 4th grader at Hillel Day School of Metropolitan Detroit) is excited to come home and finish her advanced math homework on the iPad using the application Wowzers. Feldman, a registered dietician, also sees advantages in technology for children concerned about their nutrition. “My young clients are able to track their daily food intake with an app making it much easier to monitor what they eat.”

There are, however, concerns that some children are spending too much time in front of a digital screen. When children spend too many hours watching television, playing video games, surfing the Web, and using a tablet, they are likely not getting enough exercise or face-to-face social interaction. Dr. Daniel Klein, a children’s psychologist in Metro Detroit, says he sees many young patients who are spending too much time using technology by themselves and not enough time playing outside and interacting with their peers. He works with parents and provides guidance to help monitor their children’s computer and gaming activities. There are also fears that children will see things in video games or online that will have negative effects on their behavior and can lead to anxiety disorders, violent behavior, or hyperactivity.

Feldman believes that parents should determine what technology they allow their children to use based on the child’s maturity level. She gave her daughter a cell phone when she was 8-years-old, but understands that this might be too young for other children. “It’s very dependent on the child,” she says. “My daughter spends many hours at dance classes and needs to be able to communicate with us. Having a cell phone and being able to text us is anxiety reducing for her.” She also has become more cautious about her 3 ½-year-old son’s video gaming activity as she has noticed that he is acting out violent scenes and shooting with pretend guns after playing some realistic video games.

All parents should be aware of their children’s activity online and put monitoring software in place to ensure safe experiences. If a child is using a computer, parents should ensure that adult content does not come up in search results. Google and other popular search engines on the Web have SafeSearch features to filter adult content from search results. Violent scenes can also be avoided with such applications as NetNanny, which provides Internet controls.

In addition to psychological and emotional concerns, there are also physical dangers when children use technology. Dr. Daniel Rontal, an ENT at the Rontal-Akervall Clinic, notes that with the increased popularity of portable music devices among children comes an increased health risk to children’s ears. “Some children don’t realize that something is broken on their ear buds and they scratch their inner ears,” he cautions. “There is also the danger of noise induced hearing loss and that is something that isn’t even realized until years later. It won’t show up for 15-20 years, but we’re seeing more people with early hearing loss in their mid 30’s because of listening to music which is generally being played louder than it was in the 80s and 90s.”

“Kids in general feel that they’re bullet proof,” Rontal adds. “The white iPod ear buds just sit in the ear and those are okay, but the ones that go into the ear canal, called sound isolating headphones, can definitely cause infection and scratch the ear.”

Kidz Gear offers wired headphones for children designed specifically for the Apple iPod, iPhone and iPad. The Kidz Gear headphones feature unique KidzControl Volume Limiting Technology that provides a safe listening experience while helping to protect children’s hearing. This technology delivers a safe volume limited listening experience for children that is always on and limits the volume levels to 80dB and 90dB.

New technology helps us be more productive and improves our lives, but we have to learn to use it safely and in healthy ways. So too, as adults, we must be responsible and monitor the way our children utilize technology. In some cases, technology seems to be make things worse. For example, overuse of computers and mobile devices can curtail important interpersonal communication and can hinder children from developing the skills necessary to deal with others in real life.

There are real benefits to children using technology as well. Reports abound that demonstrate how technology is bolstering children’s learning experiences and complementing the education they receive in school. Some technology is even making it easier for children with developmental disabilities. The bottom line is that, like anything, there are positive and negative implications to the latest, greatest technology innovations. There are risks to children using technology without the proper supervision and moderation. The best thing that parents can do is become well trained in the technology their children are using so that they can monitor it best. That will ensure a positive, safe, and healthy technology experience for children.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

Schottenstein Talmud Goes Digital and Mobile

I had to laugh today as I was reading Deborah Feldman’s new book Unorthodox on an airplane. The author was reflecting on the forbidden books she bought as a young Satmar girl (she has since left that community). The ultra-Orthodox world of Deborah Feldman’s youth banned secular books, including any book with English, from all members of the sect. The 13-year-old Feldman, however, was able to sneak into a Judaica bookstore and with sixty single dollar bills earned babysitting she purchased one of the most sacrilegious books of all… A volume of the Schottenstein Talmud.

While the Schottenstein edition of the Talmud is considered a revolutionary contribution to the world of Talmud study for Modern Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jews, it is looked down upon in the Haredi community because of its English translation of the traditional Aramaic text. The Schottenstein family of Columbus, Ohio led by family patriarch Jerome Schottenstein made this English translation and commentary edition of the Talmud a reality. The entire project was completed in 2004 and it has just been announced that it will be made available in a digital format, as well as a mobile version will be available this summer just in time for July’s Siyyum HaShas, when tens of thousands of Talmud students will gather in MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ to celebrate the conclusion of the seven year cycle of Talmud learning.

With Jay Schottenstein in the Judaica museum at his home in 2006.

At Jay Schottenstein’s home in 2006, he told me the story of how his family became so heavily involved in the project of creating a complete English translation and commentary of the entire Shas (set of Talmud). Jay’s father, the late Jerome Schottenstein, was introduced to the ArtScroll publication committee after the first volume of the project, Tractate Makkos, was published in 1990. Jerome Schottenstein started donating funds for the project in memory of his parents Ephraim and Anna Schottenstein a volume at a time. It was only later that he decided to fund the entire project which cost a total of $40 million. Following Jerome’s death in 1992, Jay and his mother Geraldine rededicated the Talmud project to Jerome’s memory while still honoring the memory of Jerome’s parents.

This past Monday evening, Artscroll announced the launch of the “ArtScroll Digital Library” (see the video below). In addition to the entire library becoming available digitally, the mobile app company RustyBrick will design and develop the application software for mobile devices including the Apple iPad & iPhone. The first app that Rusty Brick will launch will of course be the ArtScroll Schottenstein Talmud. According to a press release sent to me by Barry Schwartz of RustyBrick, “The ArtScroll Schottenstein Talmud will revolutionize how the Jewish world learns and studies the Talmud. By combining Artscroll’s mastery of design, layout and content with our technical prowess, this application will change the world of Jewish study forever.”

The Schottenstein Talmud mobile app will offer the following features: Page Syncing, Place Tracking, Extra Hand, Page Fusion, Hybrid Page, Floating Translation, Quick Scroll, Integrated Notes, Page Mapping Color Coding, and much more. Neither Artscroll nor RustyBrick has announced the price of the app. The first release of the app will be limited to Apple devices including the iPhone and iPad. Later versions will be Android compatible.

Just as Deborah Feldman had to sneak her copy of one of the volumes of the Schottenstein ArtScroll Talmud into her Satmar family’s home several years ago, I’m sure there will be other renegade young people today in the ultra-Orthodox community trying desperately to get their hands on the mobile version.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

Best Jewish Apps of 2011

Originally published in The Jewish Week

As I walked around the recent International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, one thing was impossible to miss. Mobile applications are being integrated everywhere and into everything. Smartphones are no longer the only devices on which users are downloading their favorite apps.

2010 saw a proliferation of iPhones and Android phones on the market, and with that came a sharp rise in the number of mobile apps being downloaded. In 2011, we realized that we needed those apps on our tablets, computers and televisions. And 2012 will be the year we download apps to our automobiles as well.

One of the coolest new devices I learned about at the 2012 CES was Pioneer’s AppRadio 2. With its Advanced App Mode, Pioneer is able to bring AppRadio functionality to its line of auto navigation and DVD receivers. Its new AppRadio 2 supports Android devices as well as iPhones and iPads. Imagine having a seven-inch glass touch screen on your dashboard with the same multi-touch functionality of a tablet. This means we’ll soon be using our favorite mobile apps in the car (with caution, of course) to locate the closest restaurant, see the Yelp reviews, and then tweet an invitation to a few friends to meet for lunch.

Apps will also play a prominent role in the soon-to-be-released Windows 8 operating system. As more consumers add Smart TVs to their living rooms and home theaters, the number of mobile app downloads will continue to surge. For those who think the only place people are downloading apps is from Apple’s App Store, don’t fool yourself. Yes, there are now half a million apps in the Apple App Store, but Android is moving quickly to capture half of the worldwide smartphone market in 2012. The iPhone 4S, which began shipping last year, is a big hit, but Android’s new Ice Cream Sandwich is sure to excite as well.

More smartphones, tablets and smart TVs mean more Jewish- themed apps being created and available for download. Plus, one of the nice aspects of mobile apps is that they can be improved by the developer and updated instantly by the consumer. That means that some of the best Jewish apps from 2010 might be on the 2011 list as well, but be certain that there were noticeable upgrades.
This year’s lineup of the best Jewish apps includes (in no particular order) utilities, educational resources, games and novelties. Many apps designed specifically for either Apple or Android devices can, in fact, be downloaded on both.

This is far from an exhaustive list as there are hundreds of other Jewish apps available. Check out www.jewishiphonecommunity.org for a comprehensive listing of Jewish apps as they are released.

I-TORAH WITH ENGLISH FOR IPHONE & IPAD (CROWDED ROAD) – $16.99
This is a complete English translation of the Torah with options for full page or interlinear mode. Includes audio lecture for every portion, with both chapter mode and parsha mode. Users can jump to the weekly parsha with a single click. It is integrated with Torah commentaries from Rashi and Ramban (Nahmanides) and has a full keyword search.

TANACH BIBLE – HEBREW/ENGLISH BIBLE (DAVKA CORP.) – $2.99
It is the ideal study tool for the Hebrew and English Bible on your iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. Tanach Bible’s new version features crisp Hebrew text with precise placement of Hebrew vowels and cantillation marks, and verse-by-verse synchronization between Hebrew, English, and Rashi’s commentary.

SIDDUR/LUACH (RUSTY BRICK) – $9.99
Take your weekday siddur with you with this feature-packed Jewish prayer book. You’ll get every version of the Jewish prayer book and real time Zmanim will give you the prayer times for each day based on your location determined with the iPhone’s GPS. A Minyanim database will help you find the nearest prayer service. Also available for iPad.

I-NACH FOR IPAD (MAPLEWOODS ASSOCIATES LTD) – $9.99
iNach is the only iPad app focused on the Nevi’im (Prophets) & Ketuvim (Writings) of the Tanach. Featuring English translation & search, classic Jewish medieval commentaries and a user-interface designed exclusively for the iPad.

I-TORAH BLESSINGS (BEHRMAN HOUSE) – $1.99
This app will help you prepare for the next time you’re called to the Torah. Learn or practice the blessings before and after the Torah reading. Touch-n-Read technology lets you hear each word individually as you read along, and the auto-record feature lets you listen to yourself practice. Also includes the Shehecheyanu and parent blessings for a child, plus video demonstrations of putting on a tallit, and participating in the aliyah process.

JEWISH JOURNAL (TRIBE MEDIA CORP) – FREE
Jewish Journal is the first complete Jewish news app for the iPad.
TIKUN KORIM (RUSTY BRICK) – $19.99
Now you can practice for your bar mitzvah with an iPhone & iPad app that helps you learn to read your bar mitzvah parsha. The app is an interactive Tikun Korim. The Tikun works on both the iPhone and iPad and has many features to aid in learning your reading.

POCKET ISIDDUR (GP IMP) – FREE
This free iPod and iPhone version of the prayer book comes with every version imaginable, from Sephardic to Ashkenazic. The new version has adjustable font size. iPad version also available.

SHABBOS ALARM CLOCK (RUSTY BRICK) – $.99
Displays current time on screen. Set up to three alarms, which automatically shut off after a specified duration (10-50 seconds). Chose genuine alarm clock sound or vibrate. No snooze button function interferes with Shabbat rules.

ALEF BET FOR KIDS (RUSTY BRICK) – $4.99
The Alef Bet App works on the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad devices and provides a fun, interactive learning experience for children. It helps them learn the Alef Bet through pictures, sound, animation, and interactivity. Each letter of the Alef Bet is accompanied by its Hebrew and English pronunciations, and by a picture of a word associated with it.

RAMBAM’S MISHNEH TORAH (JOSHUA MEIER) – $7.99
This app includes the entire Mishneh Torah including Maimonides’s introduction and his list of Mitzvot (commandments). The app includes the ability to search the entire Mishneh Torah. You can also bookmark different laws. Supports email sharing.

I-PHONE TALMUD DIRECTORY (TES) – $14.99
The complete Talmud dictionary from Marcus Jastrow with over 120,000 entries and bi-directional Hebrew-English and Aramaic-English references.

EICHAH/LAMENTATIONS (HEBREW IN HAND) – $.99
Fully-pointed Hebrew with English translation. Eichah (Lamentations) cries out through time, engulfing the reader in the loss of a city and her people. This ancient poem transcends history, connecting the human tragedy with a call to remember, and to renew faith.

HEBREW EMAIL (RUSTY BRICK) – FREE
Now you can type emails in Hebrew. This application will enable you to type both subject line and email body in Hebrew. It will then send the data directly into the iPhone’s mail application, for you to send to your contacts.

HEBREW BIBLE FOR ANDROID (IVRI) – FREE
Hebrew Bible application. Read/Search the whole Bible on the go.

HEBREW IN A MONTH FOR ANDROID (LEARN LIKE KIDS) – FREE
How to learn to understand the world — a question that has an answer! How can children learn a foreign language within half a year? And why does a regular person spend years of difficult studies on the same task? It’s all because of a certain skill that children aren’t aware of, and adults have forgotten.

TORAH FOR IPAD (RUSTY BRICK) – FREE
This Torah’s 248 columns (amudim) are magically stitched together on your iPad. The tools are provided to make finding the weekly Torah portion (Parsha), bookmarks (famous selections included) and a pointer (Yad). Dive into the ancient texts and experience it all on the Torah.

I-COMFORT (BEHRMAN HOUSE) – $1.99
This app teaches all the Jewish traditions, rituals, blessings, and prayers for the mourning process. iComfort can help you reach out with care and confidence to family or friends who have lost someone they love. If you have lost a loved one, iComfort can help you learn the Kaddish, and calculate the exact dates on which you should recite it.

I-PARASHAH (JACA SOFTWARE SOLUTIONS) – $4.99
This app gives you the weekly Torah portions in the palm of your hand. Search for any parsha by name or date with this app.

SHABBAT SHALOM FOR ANDROID (RUSTY BRICK) – FREE
The Shabbat application will allow you to quickly check the candle lighting times, Havdalah times and parsha for the week in any location in the world. This comes in handy when you quickly want to know when Shabbat is or if you want to know if it is too late to call your in-laws in Israel. Just flip through the different cities and countries, to see what the local time is and what time they start or finish Shabbat.

JEWISH ROCK RADIO (jacAPPS) – FREE
Jewish Rock Radio is the voice of Jewish youth featuring high-caliber, contemporary Jewish rock music with your favorite Jewish rock artists from the US, Israel, and beyond. JRR broadcasts fresh programming including interviews with Jewish youth from coast-to-coast sharing exciting ways they are engaging in Jewish life.

DAF YOMI+ (OKTM WEBSITES) – $4.99
Upgrade version of the free Daf Yomi with the option to choose Masechet (volume) and Daf (page).

ISRAEL365 (NOAH WEISZ) – FREE
This new app combines breathtaking photographs of Israel with inspiring Biblical passages describing the significance of the Holy Land. It features over 25 award-winning Israeli photographers and covers the width and breadth of the Promised Land.

JEW OR NOT JEW (JOHANN LEVY-J SOFT) – $1.99
While a similar version of this app was banned by Apple’s online App Store in France the developer clearly explains that this app is only intended for fun. This App puts together for you thousands of Jewish personalities and defines their Jewish background: Jewish mother, Jewish father or convert to Judaism.

YIDDISH DICTIONARY (DEEP POWDER SOLUTIONS) – $1.99
This application for the iPhone and iPod Touch is a dictionary-based application about Yiddish terms and words


*GAMES*

HEBREW TRIVIA (LUCIDEV) – FREE
Hebrew Trivia Game For Android Devices.

NOISEMAKE GRAGGER (BEHRMAN HOUSE) – FREE
This app is a virtual grogger on your iPhone. You can pick from different sounds or record your own and twirl your iPhone like a gragger to make noise. Remember to wait for Haman’s name.

THE BIBLE BOOCLIPS (CASTLE BUILDERS) – $2.99
Animated by The Kids Bible Company, the outstanding level of the animation of these videos appeals to children of all ages. This digital Bible book narrates unforgettable Biblical stories to children, using vivid animation, video clips and rich graphics from the Animated Kids Bible stories DVD series.

DREIDEL LABRYNTH (BEHRMAN HOUSE) – FREE
Navigate a ball through the labyrinth while collecting gelt and using the pinwheel to spin the dreidel. Collect and wager gelt as you compete. Earn an achievement for each board in the labyrinth. A different labyrinth appears for each letter on the dreidel.

I-HANUKKAH (BEHRMAN HOUSE) – FREE
Learn Chanukah blessings or refresh your memory with your own interactive Chaunkah. Touch-n-Read technology lets you read along and hear every word and sing along too. Record mode makes it easy to practice reading the Hebrew words and automatically saves your last recording.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

iPads in Jewish Day Schools

A version of this appeared on the JTA.org website

Bill Gates paid a visit to Steve Jobs toward to the end of the Apple visionary’s life. The two technology giants talked about the future of education. According to Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs, both men agreed that computers had made surprisingly little impact on schools. Gates said, “Computers and mobile devices would have to focus on delivering more personalized lessons and providing motivational feedback.” One of the many projects Jobs had hoped to develop before his life was cut short, Isaacson explained, was “to disrupt the textbook industry and save the spines of spavined students by creating electronic texts and curriculum material for the iPad.”

High School students using their iPads at
the Frankel Jewish Academy in Metro Detroit

Rabbi Joshua Spodek regularly studies the Talmud at home with his son, but when he began using an iPad and the iTalmud app, he noticed how his son responded to the “fusion of modern technology with ancient text.” Spodek, who works at the Scheck Hillel Community Day School in North Miami Beach, thought of a way to bring that technology to the classroom. The school is now offering an entirely paperless Talmud course.

“The increased levels of engagement, portability, and space and cost saving have been enormous,” said Seth Dimbert, the school’s director of learning technologies. “Normally, when you study the Talmud, each page is covered with cross-references and tertiary commentaries, and you have bookshelves filled with dozens or even hundreds of secondary reference texts. Using an iPad application puts all of that reference material in hypertext. It’s an ideal way to study the Talmud, which is in some sense the original hypertext.”

At the Frankel Jewish Academy (FJA) in suburban Detroit, students began this school year with a nice surprise. Each student in the high school received a new 16GB WiFi iPad2. The school-wide distribution of the iPad to each student is the result of both a generous gift from an angel donor and the advantageous timing in the school’s computer lease agreement with Apple. Patti Shayne, the school’s director of technology, believes the iPad project is in line with FJA’s reputation as a cutting-edge institution, especially in the area of technology.

“The move to this incredible new technology gives teachers access to so many more sources and enables students to leverage their learning. With the iPad, students have one central place for assignments, communications and in many cases, text books and reading material. They will be able to access sources not available before,” explained Shayne. “Our job is to make that learning as inspiring and exciting as possible and prepare FJA students for a future where competency with all web-based devices is the norm.”

Kindergarten students at the Bohrer-Kaufman Hebrew Academy
of Morris County, New Jersey (Photo by Johanna Ginsberg)

The students aren’t the only ones in the school who have embraced the iPads. The teachers had a chance to play with them before the students even returned from summer break. One teacher at FJA was already an iPad pro. Robert Walker, a government teacher, has had an iPad since 2009 when they were released to the public. “Where I see the iPad really impacting learning is that it appeals to so many different learning styles. Students will have more freedom in choosing the direction they want to go to master their coursework,” Walker said. “While meeting the requirements, students will also have the ability to go above and beyond what they are required to do. It’s a powerful tool that will support learning in any number of ways.”

One way the iPad will help students learn is by giving them the opportunity to review a lecture they might not have fully understood the first time. FJA’s chemistry teacher videotaped himself going through a problem and then uploaded the informational video onto the students’ iPads. “Students now have the opportunity to watch his demonstration several times,” explained Shayne. “Sometimes you don’t catch it all and some students are hesitant to speak up. With the iPad they can listen to the explanation as many times as they need at home or at school.”

That same chemistry teacher uses a free app called Mahjong Chem, which his students use to practice matching elemental names to symbols, naming polyatomic ions, assigning oxidation numbers, earning electronic configurations and understanding metric prefixes. Other apps that are being used include Pages (for word processing), Keynote (for presentations) and Numbers (an app similar to Microsoft Excel). Students are allowed to purchase their own apps, as long as the apps meet the standards of the school’s Acceptable Use Policy. Teachers may even require students to purchase apps; a requirement explained to parents in a document from Shayne as the equivalent to asking students to purchase a calculator, notebook or other necessary school supplies.

Are the students using the iPads for serious academic work or are they just expensive video game consoles with a pretty screen? According to 12th grader Shira Wolf of West Bloomfield, it’s a mix. “In Jewish Leadership, our teacher, Mr. [Marc] Silberstein, is trying to be completely paperless so we went over the syllabus on our iPads and got to play around with the neuAnnotate app to annotate it.” She also noted that it’s common to see her peers playing the popular game “Words with Friends” on their iPads during study hall or even in class, which is frowned upon.

Other Jewish day schools across the country are incorporating iPads into the schools as well. While it’s mostly middle schools and high schools, there are also some elementary schools that have made iPads part of the learning process. At the Modern Orthodox Ohr Chadash Academy in Baltimore, all fourth-through-sixth graders have an iPad. As Julie Wiener, educational writer at The Jewish Week points out, the iPads “bring challenges as well: they are fragile, expensive, awkward to type on and chock full of distractions, especially when connected to the Internet. And it is unclear whether — once its novelty wears off and if it becomes as commonplace as pencils and notebooks — the toy-like iPad will retain its magical power over children.”

Some educators are quick to point out that if teachers use the new technology to teach the same way they always have then the technology is not being used correctly. “To let students simply listen to lectures on their own time – that doesn’t require an iPad. It requires a tape player. Or to study Talmud in the same way, just with a different visual – again, we’re not revolutionizing education,” argues Dr. Erica Rothblum, the Head of School at Beth Hillel Day School in Valley Village, California. “At our school, we have a 1:1 iPad program for all students in grades 4-6, but we are very aware that this is a tool. There are times that a pen and paper are better tools, and students will use those. The iPad does allow us, however, to encourage discovery, play and research.

At Rothblum’s school, the students are creating a “visual tefillah” by finding visuals that represent their prayers and using keynote, including animation, to illustrate what the prayer means. Students there are also creating “voicethreads” in Hebrew in which they record themselves telling a story or a conversation in Hebrew and then parents, teachers and their peers can listen to the recording and leave comments.

So, what’s next? Mobile device learning is certainly the wave of the future and school administrators are predicting innovations that never would have been believed a decade ago. When cell phone technology became inexpensive enough for high school and middle school students to be able to bring their phones to school, policies were quickly implemented to first ban the communication devices and then eventually place restrictions on their use.

One thing that has changed with this younger generation is the innate comfort level they have with technology. After all, this is the generation that has grown up with iPods, digital cameras and smartphones. Shaindle Braunstein-Cohen, former director of the Hermelin ORT Resource Center, underscored this when she said, “We used to teach technology as a subject. We would teach how to use a device. It’s no longer the ‘something’ that we teach; it’s the platform on which we deliver information.”

When asked how long Shayne expects FJA will keep the current crop of iPads until they become stale or even obsolete as Apple continues to release more powerful versions each year, she responded, “We are looking at a three-year refresh rate. As to what the future holds, maybe one of our students will invent it.”

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

Detroit Brothers Produce Over 500 Mobile Apps

Originally published in The Detroit Jewish News

There’s An App For That!
Local brothers’ jacAPPS business rolls out more than 500 mobile apps.

In what could have easily been mistaken for a scene from HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, two brothers sit at a conference room table in Southfield bouncing ideas off each other for mobile applications that could improve Jewish life.

A small collection of iPhones and iPads sits on the table, as one brother remarks that it would be cool if they created an app that would replay the rabbi’s sermon just in case you dozed off in the middle. The other brother suggests they create an app that allows congregants to choose High Holiday seats by selecting the seats before the holiday and making a donation right from their cell phone. They share a brotherly laugh as they reflect on one brother’s seat-saving tradition in which he drapes tallits (prayer shawls) over the rows of seats for the entire family.

With one look these brothers seem to intuit that they’ve found a need for another app. This look is one that has no doubt been flashed from one brother to the other more than 500 times over the past few years. When there’s a need for something to be available on a mobile phone, Fred and Paul Jacobs will be there to come up with the way to do it.

The brothers launched jacAPPS (pronounced Jake-Apps; a riff on their last name) three years ago when they noticed a need for mobile applications in the radio industry. “Back in the fall of 2008 with the economy facing unprecedented challenges, few would have expected a company like ours to emerge as the leading app developer for radio,” company president Fred Jacobs, 60, of Bloomfield Hills explained.

The brothers’ entrée into the mobile apps market wasn’t by accident. Fred, the oldest of three brothers (Bill isn’t involved in the apps company), formed Jacobs Media in 1983 and went on to create the Classic Rock format while sitting at his kitchen table. Today, the company is the nation’s largest radio consulting firm specializing in rock formats. Each year, Jacobs Media uses Techsurveys to track the leading-edge technology trends in their industry, and in 2008 those surveys pointed the way to the smart phone revolution and the explosion of mobile apps. jacAPPS hasn’t stopped creating apps since and today it is one of the top developers in Michigan.

Having consulted rock and indie radio stations since the 1980s, the Jacobs brothers always try to figure out what radio listeners are doing and how they’re using technology. Their job is to help radio stations better understand the listeners. They knew that radio had lost much of its portability as people were choosing to listen to an iPod or MP3 player in place of a Sony Walkman or portable boom box. In recent years, when they realized that people were beginning to stream their favorite radio stations on mobile devices, they recognized that radio would once again be portable and they leapt into action. Rather than allow their clients to have their music streamed along with other radio stations’ music, they decided it was better to have single station apps. Apple’s AppStore had only been open for 90 days when they got to work on their first mobile app.

“Individual station brands deserved their own mobile apps,” wrote Fred Jacobs on the jacAPPS blog. “Surprisingly, some of radio’s biggest broadcasters took a different direction, building their own ‘umbrella apps’ that featured hundreds of their stations. You cannot underestimate the success of iHeartRadio or CBS’s Radio.com — apps that aggregate hundreds of radio stations under a big tent. Many smart phone owners swear by these apps, allowing them the ability to hear ‘favorite’ stations, while providing a diversity of choice. But our contention was that consumers are less focused on corporate brands than they are on hometown stations in their markets — or in cities where they once lived or visited. And for individual stations, the app experience has been powerful.”

After its incorporation, jacAPPS designed and released 20 apps in six months and began hiring young talent to grow the business. They continuously asked themselves what a mobile application can do that the radio station’s website cannot do.

They already had the listening ears of radio station executives across the country who were ready to implement whatever Fred and Paul Jacobs were recommending. When they told these radio stations that there existed a strategic need for customized mobile apps, the radio stations got in line and put in their orders.
The first app jacAPPS created was for WRIF, a Detroit based Rock radio station. “They did a great job and allowed us to be one of the first radio companies to provide iPhone apps to our listeners and they helped us transform our business from strictly broadcast to a multiplatform media company,” said Tom Bender, senior vice president and general manager of Greater Media Interactive, owner of local stations WRIF, WCSX and WMGC.

“We are now in the development of version 3.0 of our station apps for both iPhone and Android phones,” Bender added. “We have brainstormed for additional new functions that would be of high user interest, and jacAPPS was invaluable in that process. It’s easy to get enthused by a shiny new piece of technology, but to have the research and user input to know how often and exactly how it’s going to be used make the difference. That, more than flashy graphics or slick colors, is the real creative input for me.”

The watershed moment for jacAPPS was when Christian Radio signed on. “We were recognized early on by iconic brands like K-Love and Air1, which opened up the Christian Broadcasting world to us,” explained company vice president and general manager Paul Jacobs, 57, of Farmington Hills. “Car Talk, C-SPAN radio, and other great non-commercial radio franchises have added to our portfolio.”

jacAPPS has been grateful for the many Christian radio stations that have ordered customized mobile apps, but they are especially proud of some of the Jewish-themed apps their company has created such as Jewish Rock Radio, launched by Jewish recording artist Rick Recht. “We launched Jewish Rock Radio with the goal of creating the first truly high-caliber, 24/7 international Jewish rock radio station – a critical communication channel for the Jewish world based on the business models, the aesthetics, and ‘best pratices’ of the very best online radio stations offered in the Christian and secular worlds,” Recht, the executive director of Jewish Rock Radio explained. “When we dug deeper to find the developer behind some of the stations we wished to emulate, we found JacApps. With JacApps, we had found a developer who could not only create apps that were on caliber with some of our favorite Christian stations, but literally had created some of those apps!”

The Jacobs brothers believe strongly that radio stations were originally questioning if their music should be available on a stream, but they have taken it to the next level as their clients realize that they must have an app. They see themselves as improving the radio experience in the 21st century by helping radio stations create something that will generate revenue, enchant their audience and help them better distribute their content in the digital age.

While radio was their springboard into the mobile application industry, jacAPPS now designs and builds apps for a wide array of business categories and industries including festivals, events and sports brands. The Southfield-based company, which was spun off from Jacobs Media this summer, has created apps for the Spartan Sports Network, Ann Arbor Art Fairs, the Detroit International Jazz Festival and the Taste of Atlanta. The company is looking forward to creating apps for political candidates as the upcoming election approaches.

One difficulty for jacAPPS has been the lack of compatibility across platforms. They have had to create separate custom apps for their clients on Apple devices, as well as on the Android and Blackberry platforms.
Since its launch in 2008, jacAPPS has created more than 500 apps for hundreds of clients. And with more than 11 million downloads, they can likely claim the most amount of downloads for any app company in Michigan (Crains Detroit wrote, “The company is by far the leading app developer in metro Detroit.”). What has set them apart is their ability to build a company’s entire mobile strategy from the concept of the app to its design through development and marketing. In today’s portable world, Fred and Paul Jacobs have figured out how to elevate their clients’ brands and to successfully integrate that into the dynamic mobile space.

The jacAPPS team is made up of a handful of young, talented employees who are several decades the Jacobs brothers’ junior. They all seem to understand that mobile applications are the next step in the technology revolution. Bryan Steckler, operations manager, said, “We are now where we were with websites in the 90s. Big brands have mobile apps, and now every business is realizing they need an app.”

The two brothers enjoy working together in the same business. Pointing to his younger brother, Fred said, “If you can’t trust this guy, who could you trust?”

They are both quick to acknowledge that they would not be as close if they weren’t in business together. “It’s a family business and that leads to group collaboration,” Steckler said. “The fact that they’re brothers is what makes the company what it is. And that transfers to our clients as well.”

“We’ve been fortunate to build a team of smart, young talented people here in Southeast Michigan. Our apps are truly ‘exported from Detroit,’ and showcase the resurgence of the technology industry in an area more commonly recognized for its heavy industry,” Fred Jacobs remarked.

The future for jacAPPS is bright as the mobile app market continues to surge. “We see nothing but growth and expansion ahead. By blending strategy, research, and keeping a laser focus on the consumer experience, our expectation is that jacAPPS will become a leader in full-service mobile resource for brands of all types that recognize the mobile future,” said Fred.

The company has had its share of proud moments as it became one of the top mobile app developers. jacAPPS has had the top app in the App Store in New Zealand; its NPR Radio app was featured on the front page of the U.S. App Store; and its app for Pulse 88.7 in New York was featured on a billboard for Apple.

jacAPPS has developed a number of mobile apps for nonprofit companies at either no cost or discounted rates. The team has also taken pride in having the opportunity to work with interesting people. Among its clients is a Native American Council made up of several tribes. jacAPPS has created an educational application to teach the Native American language to children. As the development team demonstrates the app on an iPad, it is clear that they understand the role they have played in the continuity of these people’s heritage.

Paul Jacobs holds his iPhone and with a smile says, “We’re never more than six feet away from this device. This is the one device that’s always with you and the one that you’ll return home for in the morning if you forgot it. It is the hub of a person’s identity.”

The phrase “there’s an app for that” has become a popular punch line and much of the reason for that can be attributed to Fred and Paul Jacobs and their creativity.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

Technology in Jewish Schools

I still remember the time in 1st grade when my father brought our Apple II Plus into the classroom in an effort to show my classmates the wonders of Turtle Graphics. It was 1982 and each little 1st grader waited in line to get a chance to touch the odd looking keyboard and try to make the little turtle move. My father beamed with pride as he watched each child get their three-minute opportunity to try to program the blinking green turtle cursor to move across the black screen.

That day was the only day that entire school year that we students would touch a computer at Hillel Day School in Metropolitan Detroit. Today, thirty years later my own children attend Hillel and the Head of School, Steve Freedman, has just announced a new technology plan he hopes to implement for the 550-student Jewish day school, which will include a 1:1 technology program.

Today’s students have more technology in their pockets than entire school districts once owned. In fact, a few generations ago, one would never have imagined the possibility of students bringing battery-powered graphing calculators into math class. Today, the Texas Instruments graphing calculators are still being used by students, but they are the least technologically impressive gadgets in the students’ arsenal.

The thinking goes that the more techy the classroom, the better the students will perform. This is not always the case. In a NY Times article this past September, Matt Richel wrote about a school district in Texas that spent millions on new technology including SMART Boards and laptops for every student, but its students test scores had stagnated. “This conundrum calls into question one of the most significant contemporary educational movements. Advocates for giving schools a major technological upgrade — which include powerful educators, Silicon Valley titans and White House appointees — say digital devices let students learn at their own pace, teach skills needed in a modern economy and hold the attention of a generation weaned on gadgets. Some backers of this idea say standardized tests, the most widely used measure of student performance, don’t capture the breadth of skills that computers can help develop. But they also concede that for now there is no better way to gauge the educational value of expensive technology investments.”

Whether test scores will be affected or not, Hillel’s Freedman is aiming to raise the tech bar at his school, which introduced SMART Boards into every classroom a few years ago. The SMART Boards are “a fantastic tool,” Freedman told me. “Its best integration is the active learning. I see the teacher explaining something and there is interactive instructional learning taking place. The kids can create something that really engages them with the teacher’s instruction.” He is cautious not to allow his day school to get caught up in any tech fads of the moment, however. Like other school administrators Freedman recognizes that the latest technology cannot replace hands-on-learning or the tactile experience of pencil on paper.

A few miles away from Hillel Day School, the Frankel Jewish Academy (FJA) has provided each of its high school students with their own 16GB Apple iPad this year. The school-wide distribution of the iPad to each student is the result of both a generous gift from an angel donor and the advantageous timing in the school’s computer lease agreement with Apple. Patti Shayne, the school’s director of technology, believes the iPad project is in line with FJA’s reputation as a cutting-edge institution, especially in the area of technology.

“The move to this incredible new technology gives teachers access to so many more sources and enables students to leverage their learning. With the iPad, students have one central place for assignments, communications and in many cases, text books and reading material. They will be able to access sources not available before,” explained Shayne. “Our job is to make that learning as inspiring and exciting as possible and prepare FJA students for a future where competency with all web-based devices is the norm.”

Robert Walker, a government teacher, said, “Where I see the iPad really impacting learning is that it appeals to so many different learning styles. Students will have more freedom in choosing the direction they want to go to master their coursework. While meeting the requirements, students will also have the ability to go above and beyond what they are required to do. It’s a powerful tool that will support learning in any number of ways.”

One way the device will help students learn is by giving them the opportunity to review a lecture they might not have fully understood the first time. FJA’s chemistry teacher videotaped himself going through a problem and then uploaded the informational video onto the students’ iPads. “Students now have the opportunity to watch his demonstration several times,” explained Shayne. “Sometimes you don’t catch it all and some students are hesitant to speak up. With the iPad they can listen to the explanation as many times as they need at home or at school.”

At Hillel one thing is certain about its technology future. Freedman has already announced that the school will be wireless by the end of this year. The questions that remain unanswered there center on the type of device that will be best for each student in a 1:1 technology program and whether the students should be allowed to bring their own device to school. Like in any enhanced technology program, whether for a school or a corporation, Freedman is trying to get the answers to these important questions before taking the plunge and purchasing expensive equipment that he knows will become outdated and slow in a matter of years.
In a blog post, Freedman attempted to lay out the new technology plan for the school, but first provided the background on the intricate subject of technology in schools. He wrote:

Recently, the New York Times ran an article about a private school in the middle of Silicon Valley that has a complete ban on technology. This school firmly believes that technology gets in the way of a child’s development and stifles creativity. They even frown on the use of technology at home. On the other end of the spectrum are schools that have fully embraced technology to the point where a book is hard to find and paper is rarely used. These schools see technology as the panacea to all that afflicts education today. And then there are the conversations that would make one think that this is all new to the 21st century; as if we just discovered technology and its uses in schools. Schools celebrate the adoption of new devices as if they are pioneers in a new frontier and that this is the greatest addition to the classroom since the blackboard. (By the way, when the blackboard was first introduced to classrooms, it was met with great resistance!)

Do a Google search on the body of research that discusses the impact of technology in schools and you will find many arguments at both ends of the spectrum. The reason that there is a growing body of research is that technology has been in the classrooms for over two decades (yes, the 20th century!). As Hillel Day School carefully considers our next steps in adopting the latest technology in our school, a committee of educators has been discussing this with other schools and has made visits to other school as well. Recently, some of our staff visited a school in Cincinnati that has been engaged in 1:1 technology (one personal device per student) since 1996! We fully plan to benefit from the lessons other schools have already learned.

Most likely Hillel will begin to implement its 1:1 technology program next year with the 7th and 8th graders. The school will ensure that the teachers are well trained in the technology before rolling it out to the students. Of course, the young students are already comfortable using the new technology and wireless gadgets because of their home use and because they don’t know from anything else. This is the generation that has grown up with iPods, digital cameras and smartphones. Today’s teachers were educated at a time when technology was a subject in the schools, but today the technology has become the tool in which learning is delivered. Technology in the schools is always going to be a game of catch-up because the technology is moving at a faster pace than any school committee and by the time the funding and teacher training is in place, the technology has already advanced. We owe it to our children, however, to at least try.

Advanced technology in the schools doesn’t only affect students’ educational performance; it can also have an effect on hiring faculty. Studies have shown that teachers are choosing their employment based on the level of technology at the school. “If a teacher has two schools to choose from and one has the new technology and the other doesn’t, guess where that teacher is going,” said Gary Weidenhamer, a school district director of educational technology in Palm Beach, Florida.

When asked how long Shayne expects FJA will keep the current crop of iPads until they become stale or even obsolete as Apple continues to release more powerful versions each year, she responded, “We are looking at a three-year refresh rate. As to what the future holds, maybe one of our students will invent it.”

Cross-posted to the Jewish Techs blog at The Jewish Week

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

The Jewish Zen of Steve Jobs

For many years I’ve been writing and speaking about the impact of technology on Jewish life. In 1995 I had the idea to use email (it was still fairly new at the time) to ask random people around the world to wish my brother congratulations on his upcoming bar mitzvah. The response was overwhelming and it got me thinking about the power of the Internet and how it would make the Jewish world smaller. So, as an International Relations major I titled my college thesis “The Globalization of Judaism: How the Internet has Heightened Jewish Religion, Cultural Awareness, and Education on a Global Scale” and tried to predict how technological innovation would change the global Jewish community.

Steve Jobs, a Zen Buddhist follower, is largely responsible for the way we have plugged in to new technology and communication devices. His contributions to technological innovation have indirectly altered Jewish life for the better. We are a more interconnected, organized, and educated people thanks to the genius of Steve Jobs. Like millions of others, when I heard that Steve Jobs had succumbed to Pancreatic Cancer yesterday evening, I immediately began to think about all the ways I’ve used the Apple products that have his visionary imprint on them. While I’ve always favored PCs above Apple computers, I have had my share of Apple products — from Mac desktops to iPods. The role of Steve Jobs at Apple always had less to do with the technology side of the corporation and more to do with the business, marketing, and creative aspects.

Ami Eden, the editor of JTA, asked me to write a reflection of Steve Jobs from a Jewish perspective. At first, I wasn’t sure I was up to the task because Steve Jobs wasn’t Jewish and I couldn’t think what was “Jewish” about his role at Apple. Ultimately, I realized that his contributions to technology have made the world a better place and that embodies the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam – improving our world. A genius like Steve Jobs is unique. His revolutionary work will be felt for generations. Here is what I wrote for JTA:

Social networking sites began buzzing immediately after word spread of the death of Apple Computer visionary Steve Jobs Wednesday evening. Rabbis took time out of their busy preparations for Yom Kippur to halt their sermon writing and post personal reflections on what the contributions of Steve Jobs’ creative spark had on them.

Rabbi Andrew Pepperstone of Dewitt, N.Y, posted to his Facebook page, “Is Steve Jobs a hero? If someone who has vision, discipline, passion, and love for what he does is a hero, then yes. It was not about the money or the fame for him. It was about changing the world in a million little ways that improved peoples’ lives. And his devices and other inventions have been a major breakthrough in helping people with disabilities communicate and employ the best that technology has to offer.” Earlier on Facebook, Pepperstone recounted the plethora of Apple computers and gadgets he had used since his first Apple IIe in 1984.

Answering the question “Why Is Steve Jobs Important to Me?” Rabbi Eric Linder of Omaha explained how Jobs impacted his professional life. On his blog Linder wrote, “In my rabbinate, I have tried to use technology to make Judaism relevant. For Rosh Hashanah we leveraged the power of social media to crowd source answers to the question, ‘What does the shofar call YOU to do?’ All of the technical stuff was done on Apple technology. And the project brought the congregation closer together. It brought people together.”

Over the past three decades, the technological innovation that was inspired by Steve Jobs’ vision had a significant effect on the Jewish community. His genius was in intuiting what would happen when you “strip away the excess layers of business, design, and innovation until only the simple elegant reality remained.” The ways in which Jewish education and Jewish life have been positively affected by the products that Steve Jobs dreamed of and made into a reality are countless. His iPods made Jewish music and Jewish learning more accessible. His computers brought graphic design to new levels for Jewish institutions like synagogues and day schools. His Facetime application on the iPhone allowed Jewish communities separated by continents to come together and communicate. The geographical distances and borders have become irrelevant thanks to the innovative contributions of this genius. The thousands of Jewish themed applications from utilities to resources to games were created specifically for the iPhone and iPad.

Steve Jobs’ understanding of efficiency and connectivity led to the intuitive devices that have changed the way we work and connect with each other. The Jewish high school that has its students learning Talmud and chemistry on the iPad owes a great deal to the work of Steve Jobs. The father who created a slideshow of memories set to music using iMovie for his daughter’s wedding is indebted to the vision of Steve Jobs. The young boy living in a remote area of the country who is preparing for his bar mitzvah by listening to a New York cantor’s podcast on his iTouch is grateful to Steve Jobs.

Did the devotee of Zen Buddhism have a Jewish spark in him? Perhaps he did. There is no doubt that Steve Jobs had a profound effect on the Jewish world. His dynamic legacy will continues to make the world better as we continue to plug in and connect with each other in just the way he envisioned and using the devices he helped design. If the value of Tikkun Olam really means leaving your imprint on the world in a quest to make it a better place for all of us, then Steve Jobs possessed that value a thousand-fold.

May the memory of Steve Jobs be for blessings and may his family be comforted during this difficult time.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

Apple Removes Jewish App in France

Cross-posted to the Jewish Techs blog at The NY Jewish Week

It’s the age old question: Is so-and-so Jewish or not? I’m not talking about the controversial “Who is a Jew” question that gets into matters of lineage. Rather, the dinner party question of whether a celebrity is Jewish or not.

Occasionally I blog about Jewish celebrities here and I peek at the analytics that show what search strings people used to land on my blog. There is an overwhelmingly high number of referrals to my blog from searches from all over the world like these: “Is Justin Bieber Jewish?” “Is Madonna Jewish?” “Is Bruce Springsteen Jewish?” “Is Lenny Kravitz Jewish” “Is Benjamin Millepied Jewish” and so on. What does that mean? It means that people from all over the globe are curious about which celebrities are Jewish.

Well, if people are curious about which celebrities are Jewish and which aren’t… There’s an app for that. But not in France anymore.

The French version of the “Jew or Not Jew” app, called “Juif ou pas Juif?” in French, was selling for 0.79 euro cents ($1.08) in France when Apple decided to kill it. An organization in France called SOS Racisme argued that the app, which was designed by a Jewish man, violated French laws banning the compiling of people’s personal details without their consent. Apple agreed. The app still sells outside France, including in Apple’s U.S. App Store where its price is $1.99.

SOS Racisme released a statement explaining that it called on Apple to remove the app from its online store and to be more vigilant about the applications it sells. In an interview, published Wednesday in Le Parisien newspaper, the “Jew or Not Jew?” app developer Johann Levy said he developed the app to be “recreational.”

“I’m not a spokesman for all Jews, but as a Jew myself I know that in our community we often ask whether a such-and-such celebrity is Jewish or not,” Levy, a 35-year-old Franco-British engineer of Jewish origin said. “For me, there’s nothing pejorative about saying that someone is Jewish or not. On the contrary, it’s about being proud.” Levy said he compiled information about famous people around the world from various online sources.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller