Smartphone apps can help with everything from putting on tefillin correctly to finding a minyan to locating a kosher restaurant. Illustration by Lior Zaltzman

Focus on Israel: The ABCs of educational apps


Whether you want to teach your kindergartner the alef-bet or have your high-schooler brush up on ancient history, there’s a plethora of smartphone and tablet apps available for students of all ages and abilities who are interested in Israel. All apps can be downloaded from either iTunes or Google Play.

Eye On Israel

Before your high-schooler spends a semester abroad in Jerusalem, have her brush up on her Old City history and geography with EYE ON ISRAEL. The free app enables users to search for important historic, cultural and religious sites by map or drop-down menu, while also providing real-time information on the area. The app for iOS and Android devices also includes other features, including a timeline and general history of Jerusalem.

 

Birds of Israel

Spending school breaks in Israel can be fun and educational with BIRDS OF
ISRAEL
. Nature-loving teens can use the free app for iOS devices to identify more than 529 species of Israeli birds during hikes and walks around town. Detailed descriptions of each bird accompany colorful photos that make avian identification easy.

 

Kids Puzzles In Hebrew: First Words

 

Intended for children ages 3 to 8, KIDS PUZZLES IN HEBREW: FIRST
WORDS
($1.99) for iOS devices is a collection of 48 puzzles to help nonnative speakers learn basic Hebrew words while also exercising their spatial recognition and matching skills. The beautiful illustrations and professional voice-over will help keep your child engaged while learning proper pronunciation of new vocabulary.

 

HebrewVision: To Count

 

Kids of all ages can benefit from learning numbers and basic mathematics in HEBREWVISION: TO COUNT ($1.99). Besides teaching users how to pronounce and write numbers, the app for iOS and Android devices also teaches practical application of numbers, such as counting and telling time in Hebrew. The app uses a combination of interactive animations, touch-based narration and video demonstrations.

 

Hebrew Bubble Bath

 

With more than 600 words and phrases, HEBREW BUBBLE BATH is perfect for language-learners of all ages. The free app for iOS and Android devices uses a variety of games — aural and visual — in 63 categories with multiple levels in each to help your child hone language skills before the next family trip to Israel.

Health apps appeal to a variety of Jewish needs


Whether you are interested in bringing more Judaism into your daily yoga practice or you are concerned about the halachic acceptability of tattooing for cancer radiation therapy, a number of Jewish-minded smartphone apps are available to help you on your journey toward better health.

Kabbalah Yoga: Ambitious Beginner

If you’ve heard about the health benefits of yoga but aren’t sure where to begin, this app is for you. With easy-to-follow videos that incorporate kabbalah and meditation into introductory yogic practices, it brings the physical and emotional benefits of yoga within reach. The app ($4.99) also includes a workout journal so you can mark your physical and spiritual progress. Those who practice yoga regularly report lower levels of stress and better sleep. And for people with thinning bones, even introductory-level yoga is considered a weight-bearing activity that can help build bone density.

Nishmat: Jewish Women’s Health

The intersection of women’s health and halachic law sometimes can be a tricky and potentially embarrassing topic to broach with medical professionals outside the religious community. With this free, easy-to-navigate app, women of all ages can find answers to even the most difficult personal health questions. The app clarifies Jewish law on topics like contraception, gynecological exams, infertility, lactation, obstetrics and oncology, without belittling or ignoring the most complicated issues a woman might face, including the use of medical tattooing for radiation treatment. While the app was created to help health professionals understand how best to treat their patients, it also has been a useful tool for women seeking to understand how their medical treatment can affect their body, and how they can engage with their partner during and after treatment.

Gene Screen

With a focus on Diaspora Ashkenazi Jews, Gene Screen is a free interactive app that allows users to understand the basics of population genetics, as well as the most common genetic diseases they might be susceptible to. Learn about recessive and dominant genes, play with drag-and-drop Punnett squares, and compare the prevalence of specific genetic diseases between the Ashkenazic population of the United States and the general U.S. population. The iOS-only app also links to a variety of websites that delve into details about genetics and offer genetic testing, including sites such as the Victor Center for the Prevention of Jewish Genetic Diseases.

NutriGuide

This app allows the user to personalize a kosher meal and grocery plan that can be of assistance in reaching health goals while also allowing the user to remain religiously observant. First, users set up a personal profile with their current height, weight, activity level and desired weight. They then can create a tailor-made diet framework to help them pursue a specific dietary goal, whether it be lowering sugar or salt intake, becoming vegetarian or avoiding food allergens. The free app also has a feature that allows users to scan bar codes on items at the grocery store, which delivers nutrition information about the products and whether they contain ingredients the user should be avoiding.

A new generation of simple apps can make life easier at any age


When it comes to technology, some people who did not grow up with an iPhone next to their cribs may be intimidated by the constant advancements of iOS updates and confusing applications, commonly known as apps. But the ever-growing world of technology does not need to be a daunting challenge for the baby boomer generation and older folks.

Rather, plenty of easy and accessible apps can assist baby boomers (generally ages 53 to 71) and even their parents in their daily lives, whether planning a vacation, communicating with friends, staying healthy or finding romance. Apps like these take steps to ensure that every age group can take advantage of new generations of tech advancement.

Airbnb: For retirees with more time to travel or working boomers eager to make the most of limited vacation time, Airbnb is a possible alternative to booking reservations at hotels. Essentially, Airbnbs are houses, apartments and rooms that residents around the world rent out to tourists. This app provides an opportunity for travelers to live like locals, and all the planning can be done via iPhones, Apple Watches or Android devices. The app is free for downloading, and accommodations’ prices are listed based on a user’s living preferences.

Voice Reading: Have a hard time reading the font size on your mobile device? This app reads texts, internet sites, emails and files aloud to its user. The app can be programmed for various accents and languages to aid people to better understand what is being read. This also can be a helpful tool when people are driving and do not want to be distracted by looking at their messages. Voice Reading is available for free on Android devices.

i FORGOT MY GLASSES: This app enables users to zoom in, adjust contrast and change text to black or white to increase readability of colored text — especially handy when you’ve forgotten your reading glasses and want to check out a menu, program or book. It can be downloaded for free on Android devices and for 99 cents on iPhones.

Park and Forget: For those who commonly forget where they parked their car, this helpful app notes the color section of their space, the level of the parking structure and other details. It is available for iPhones for 99 cents.

Waze: This Israeli-invented app efficiently navigates by taking the fastest route to a destination. Waze drivers are working live to provide data and receive a real-time estimate of how long a trip will take. The app is free for people with iPhones and Android devices.

Lumosity: Meant to help keep people mentally active and improve memory, Lumosity enables users to interact with puzzles and brain games. This app was created by neuroscientists and is free on the app store. Once it is downloaded, users can create a free membership account for limited access to the games or purchase subscriptions of various lengths for full access to the app.

Human-Activity Tracker: With people now tracking their steps on their mobile devices, an app like Human-Activity Tracker helps users understand their daily action and improve their activity level. Instead of focusing on how many steps a person takes in a day, this app tracks how many minutes a person is active, as it automatically notes walks, runs and bike rides. It is available for free for the iPhone and Apple Watch.

Pillboxie: Instead of worrying about remembering to take medication at prescribed times, Pillboxie reminds its users. This app also enables people to customize the alerts for the color of the pill needed to be taken. The app is 99 cents for iPhones and iPads.

Uber: While the users of this app may be stereotyped as millennials who want to jump from party to party safely, it also can be used for boomers and older people who no longer can drive or don’t want to drive themselves to work, doctor appointments or social engagements. Downloading Uber on iPhones and Androids is free, but accounts must be created to pay for rides.

JSwipe: Similar to the popular dating site JDate, this app filters matches by age, location, denomination and whether users keep kosher. When a match is made, the screen reads “Mazel Tov!” with the image of a chair being lifted in the air. The app is an easy way to connect Jewish men and women of any age.

Amazon: For anyone who wants to avoid shopping errands, Amazon is a great tool. This app enables you to purchase grocery and pantry items, books, clothes, everyday household appliances and more. The Amazon app is free to download but users must create an account to begin making purchases. You can become an Amazon Prime member for $10.99 per month to get your orders delivered in two days with free shipping. 

Smartphone apps can help with everything from putting on tefillin correctly to finding a minyan to locating a kosher restaurant. Illustration by Lior Zaltzman

These 7 smartphone apps make life easier for religious Jews


These days there are smartphone applications for pretty much anything, from ordering food to finding a date to reporting anti-Semitic incidents.

But what about tools for living a religious Jewish life? Well, there are apps for that, too.

Whereas in the time before smartphones, observant Jews may have had to ask their rabbis certain questions or — gasp! — read a book, now there are apps available that can help with everything from putting on tefillin correctly to finding the nearest kosher eatery.

Here are seven useful downloads for those who lead — or wish to lead — a more observant Jewish life.

Tefillin Mirror: The rules regarding how to put on tefillin can be confusing — for example, the head phylactery has to line up in the middle of the wearer’s forehead and it also has to stay above the hairline. This app functions as a mirror with three vertical lines that help the user properly align the tefillin.

Minyan Now: Time to pray but can’t find a synagogue? This app alerts Jews that someone nearby is looking for a minyan (the quorum of 10 people required to say certain prayers). Users can chat to coordinate a meeting place as they wait for 10 people — men in this case, as the app follows Orthodox customs — to respond.

Shabbat & Holiday Times: Need to know when to light the Shabbat or holiday candles? This app shows the start and end times of Shabbat and Jewish holidays. Users can enter any location in the world or allow the app to access their phone’s location for accurate times.

Kosher Near Me: This app is perfect for travelers or anyone looking to explore new kosher options closer to home. Users can peruse kosher food selections — restaurants, grocery stores and takeout — around the world, including in the United States, Israel, the United Kingdom, France, Ecuador, Gibraltar and South Korea. Listings also include reviews written by users.

Smart Siddur: The days of schlepping around prayer books are long gone thanks to this app. This high-tech siddur features the three daily prayers and services for various Jewish holidays in a clean, easy-to-read interface. It syncs with the Jewish calendar, displaying holiday-specific prayers on the appropriate days so users need not worry about forgetting any special liturgy.

Sefaria: Now it’s easy to study Jewish texts on the go. Sefaria, which was created by the website of the same name, offers a library of works, including the Torah, Talmud and Midrash, as well as Kabbalah, philosophy and a multitude of commentaries. Texts are available in Hebrew and English, and users can search the entire library for specific words or phrases.

@TheKotel: Jews from around the world visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem to pray. With this app, users can leave a prayer at the holy site without having to leave their homes. Electronically sent prayers are printed out and placed in crevices at the holy site, as is the custom.

Managing money goes high-tech


Financial advisers and planners agree on at least one thing when it comes to retiring: Good money management is key to a comfortable retirement. That means keeping an eye on where your money is going and how your investments are doing. But if money management is not exactly your forte, don’t worry. There’s an app for that!

Arielle O’Shea, a staff writer for personal finance website NerdWallet, said it is worth doing the due diligence into these apps — shopping around and deciding what works best for each person. 

“You’re not tied to any of these apps for life,” she said. “Deleting your account information is pretty painless. But it’s definitely worth the time to use some of these services, which can help you save money or better manage it. Because every little bit helps, especially when you’re retiring and every penny counts.”

Here are some financial apps that can help as you hit retirement. (Unless otherwise mentioned, all apps are available for Android and Apple devices.)

” target=”_blank”>Mint (free) helps you consolidate all of your bank accounts, debit and credit card charges, your 401(k) account, and mortgage and loan accounts to track your income and spending. Using that data, the app creates personalized budgets to help maximize savings. Mint also will give you a free credit score if you provide your Social Security number. 

“This app is often called the best because it is so comprehensive,” said Lisa Gerstner, a contributing editor for Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. “It gives a good snapshot of what’s going on [with your finances]. But on the flipside, there’s a lot going on there, so if you want something simpler, this may not be the app for you.”

A related app, ” target=”_blank”>Mvelopes is less comprehensive compared with Mint. After connecting with your bank accounts (you also can add offline accounts, like for cash), it takes your monthly income and creates a customizable budget based on national averages. Users then put money in virtual envelopes for allocated spending. With the free version, you can connect four bank accounts and have 25 envelopes for your budgets. The premier version ($95 annually) permits an unlimited number of bank accounts and envelopes.

” target=”_blank”>FileThis (free) enables you to keep all of the documents from each of your bank, insurance, mortgage, retirement and investment accounts in one location — a cloud drive of your choice. It also will track your bills and help manage your expenses. 

” target=”_blank”>Spending Tracker (free), which also is available on the iPhone. 

OTHER USEFUL APPS

” target=”_blank”>EyeReader ($1.99 on iPhone) uses your camera lens to magnify small text. Similar apps on Android devices include ” target=”_blank”>Screen Magnifier HD (free).

” target=”_blank”>Lifesum (free; premium version $9.99 per month or $46.99 per year) helps you meet your health goals, track your water and calorie intakes, and even share your progress on your social media accounts. 

App launched to commemorate lost Jewish community of Crete


A mobile phone application that enables visitors to learn about the Jewish heritage of the Greek island of Crete and the Etz Hayyim Synagogue has been launched.

The app, a joint initiative between the Canadian and Israeli embassies in Greece, was launched Tuesday, the same day that a ceremony was held to mark the destruction of Crete’s Jewish community in the Holocaust.

“This free tourist application constitutes an important tool, allowing users immediate access to the rich history of the Jewish community of Chania and Crete,” said Julie Crôteau the Chargé d’Affaires of the Embassy of Canada in Greece.

Jewish history on Crete dates back more than 2,300 years, but the community was destroyed during the Holocaust.

In June 1944, the Nazis put the 265 Jews of Crete, along with several hundred Greek and Italian prisoners of war on the ship Tanais.  The Jews were intended to be transported to Athens and then on to the Auschwitz Nazi death camp along with the rest of Greek Jewry.

However, the ship was sunk by a British submarine and all on board were killed.

The app details the rich history of the Jewish community, which in modern times was centered around the city of Chania, and also the Etz Hayyim Synagogue.

At the end of the war all of the island’s five synagogues were destroyed. The Etz Hayyim synagogue also remained in ruin until renovations began in 1996. It was rededicated in 1999.

Today, the synagogue is a central attraction for Jews and other visitors from around the world while visiting Crete.

The app, which is available in the Apple store and will soon be released for Android, was developed by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Centre of Hellenic Studies at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. It is the third in a series on Greek Jewish heritage, following apps for the cities of Thessaloniki and Ioannina.

Tel Aviv now the global leader in app startups


Silicon Valley may be known as the hotspot for tech, but halfway across the globe, Tel Aviv is making its mark. According to Forbes, Tel Aviv has more startups per capita than anywhere else in the world. 

App startups make up a large portion of this growing tech community. One in particular made recent headlines when United Hatzalah, a volunteer rescue service, commissioned an SOS app in the wake of the kidnapping of three Israeli teens. The free app by Israeli startup NowForce allows users to request help with the swipe of a finger. About 60,000 Israelis downloaded it in June following its release.

Other apps are more lighthearted, as developers work to allow users to form new kinds of communities, share videos and more. Here are a few great apps to make their way out of Tel Aviv this year. 

Clubz

Forget about Facebook. According to Moish Levin, CEO and co-founder of the Clubz app, social networking as we know it needed a facelift. 

“Before Clubz came around, the market that existed in social media was based on profile-building and connecting with others because of their profile’s content,” he said. “We felt this was not only boring and limiting but that users deserved a better way to meet those with common interests.”

Clubz is a platform on which “clubz,” or groups, can be created and joined by users. The app, which was released in January, features fans of cat videos, sports teams and alternative music, to name a few. Within these “clubz,” users can produce and post videos, comment on and “like” content, and share their activity on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp.

“Nobody likes having to read through cluttered news feeds and sifting for the information that actually interests them, so we took these thoughts and did something about it,” Levin said.

There are several thousand people using the app and its 300-plus clubz, he said, adding that it’s catching on mostly among sports enthusiasts. 

“Fans at Maccabi Tel Aviv games really grabbed Clubz and found it easy to post their content from games or elsewhere. The whole team noticed how cool the club was and how much better this way of sharing made a fan’s personal experience.”

The company is working on expanding the app so it can be adopted by American sports franchises as well, Levin said. 

LiveLens

You take a video on your phone. Then you have to upload it to YouTube. Along the way, you might run into problems if the file is too big, and even if that isn’t a problem, you might waste time trying to share manually on Facebook and Twitter. 

Max Bluvband noticed that video uploading and sharing was a hassle, so he decided to do something about it.

“When I took videos of my kids or my skiing, I have noticed that no one can see it. Yes, I can upload it to YouTube, prepare an email and send it to everyone, but do we really have the time [to do that] for every video?” he said. 

Bluvband decided to streamline the video-sharing process and created LiveLens. The app, which came out in the spring, allows users to share videos live. They simply hit “go live” and their friends and followers receive a notification that they are streaming or have posted new content. The users can see who is watching them, the comments and the “likes” on the video. 

LiveLens, which is available in the iTunes store, Google Play and on Google Glass, has a target demographic of teenagers and adults up to age 35. In order to monetize the app, the company plans to charge for videos of celebrities. Although Bluvband, LiveLens’ CEO, would not reveal download numbers, there are other signs of success: In May, online newsmagazine VentureBeat reported that LiveLens raised $2 million in funding from investors. 

Samba

In February, Samba — which allows users to send videos and record a viewer’s reaction — made its debut in the Apple Store. Less than three weeks later, it was named the best social app at the South by Southwest festival in Austin. 

The app represents the next logical stop in exchanging videos, according to company founder Barak Hachamov.

“In the real world, when we listen to someone or see something, we react,” he said. “We react with our face, with our eyes, with our smile. In other messaging services, these reactions still exist, but no one can see them. Samba mimics a very basic human emotion and need. We are doing that by gratifying the sender with the most authentic reactions. Samba makes sure that every message gets the response that it deserves.”

The app hasn’t made money yet. However, Hachamov said that Samba is already being integrated into a reality TV show. The founder also plans to approach brands to see if they would be interested in this new way of communicating with their customers. 

In three years, the company hopes to have more than 100 million users. The overall goal, though, is to change how people utilize technology to talk with one another. 

“Our vision is to humanize and bring emotion to the way that people communicate in the digital world today,” Hachamov said.

The Jewish Journal announces iPhone/Android apps


” title=”iPhone and Android” target=”_blank”>iPhone and Android.

These new smartphone apps build on the ” title=”JewishJournal” target=”_blank”>JewishJournal is the number one downloaded Jewish news app for the iPad. The new smartphone apps offer the same cutting-edge local, national and global news updates throughout the 24-hour news cycle, along with an easy-to-navigate interactive experience.

The release of the smartphone apps makes ” title=”jewishjournal.com” target=”_blank”>jewishjournal.com, including ” title=”Rosner’s Domain” target=”_blank”>Rosner’s Domain, ” title=”Nice Jewish Doctor” target=”_blank”>Nice Jewish Doctor and webmaster@jewishjournal.com or call 213-368-1661 or visit

Religious schools add family programs, new apps


Hebrew schools across Los Angeles are starting to look less and less like, well, Hebrew school.

A growing number of programs now invite parents to learn alongside their children. Computer software is becoming just as crucial in class as teacher instruction. And often, lessons don’t take place in a classroom at all.

Rabbi Paul Kipnes of Congregation Or Ami remembers taking 112 kids and parents to the Los Angeles Zoo two years ago as part of the Calabasas synagogue’s Mishpacha family learning program. For a creative lesson in navigating the Tanakh, he handed families a list of 20 biblical quotes and had them find the animals referenced in each text. The activity, Kipnes found, proved to be the kind of hands-on learning experience children remember.

“They learned more about how to use the Bible than if I’d spent a whole afternoon teaching it,” Kipnes said.

Congregations have long been experimenting with alternative models of religious education that impart Jewish values to children in innovative ways. This fall, many of the latest offerings spotlight two key aspects educators believe are central to how children learn: family and technology.

Or Ami’s Mishpacha program is a variation on the Shabbat Community religious school model, in which whole families take part in Shabbat-related programming together. Instead of dropping their kids off at synagogue for a few hours each week, as they would in a traditional religious school, parents stay and become students themselves.

This model favors family activities and communal prayer over student classroom time — a tradeoff that distills the most important mission of religious education: creating kids who love to be Jewish — said Isa Aron, professor of Jewish education at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR).

“The purpose of supplementary Jewish education is enculturation — to bring people into the Jewish culture,” said Aron, senior adviser of the Experiment in Congregational Education (ECE), a national program founded in 1992 at HUC-JIR’s Rhea Hirsch School of Education. “It’s not really about subject matter but how to be part of the community. It’s not about prayer, for example; it’s about how to pray. The more experiential you can make it, the better.”

Shabbat Communities have been around for more than a decade, but the model started gaining momentum in Los Angeles only recently. Much of the current interest sprang from the ECE’s RE-IMAGINE Project, a 2007 initiative aimed at transforming synagogue-based education in the Southland. Increasingly, Aron said, educators are now embracing the notion that learning to be a member of the Jewish community shouldn’t be confined to classroom walls.

At the Shabbaton program of Temple Israel of Hollywood (TIOH), for instance, families learn in informal chavurot, at each other’s homes and gathered around a Havdalah candle.

The experimental program, founded in 2010 as an alternative to TIOH’s traditional religious school, brings families with children in third to sixth grade together for Saturday afternoon study sessions at the synagogue. Beginning at 3:30 p.m., families gathered for songs and blessings and then broke into age groups — children by grade, parents all together — to discuss a daily topic. Later, families formed small chavurot for further study in a mixed-age environment. Participants ended each session with a Havdalah ceremony. Once a week, kids met in small groups for a separate Hebrew-language lesson, usually at a family’s home.

“The overall mission was to build community among families,” said Rabbi Jocee Hudson, director of the religious school and youth programming. “So many parents have told me they did it for their children yet were surprised how much they got out of it for themselves.”

When families learn together, lessons are more likely to translate into their home lives, said Kipnes, who sends Mishpacha families home each session with a discussion topic he calls the “Carpool Convo.”

Founded eight years ago, Mishpacha is the longest-running intergenerational religious school in the L.A. area and has received the Union for Reform Judaism’s Nachshon Award for commitment to lifelong learning. The program features twice-monthly sessions that are similar to Shabbat Community-style learning, except they take place Sunday mornings. Two out of three sessions include some classroom time for kids, but rarely for more than 20 to 45 minutes. The rest of the time is spent in experiential activities and projects that immerse kindergarten to seventh-grade students in active learning, Kipnes said.

“How do kids learn best? It’s not sitting in chairs — it’s by doing,” he said. “If you want to teach about David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir, let’s get kids into a round-robin where they can meet members of our faculty dressed up like them, face to face.”

Joshua Mason-Barkin takes a similar approach at Shabbat B’yachad, the Shabbat Community religious school founded by West Los Angeles’ Temple Isaiah in 2008. Here, learning sessions for families with children in kindergarten through seventh grade occur alternately on Friday evenings, Saturday mornings and Saturday afternoons. In class, educators are more likely to throw kids into a political role play than teach Israeli history by rote.

“It’s hard for us to have much control over what facts kids remember,” said Mason-Barkin, director of congregational learning at Temple Isaiah. “We’re focusing more on ‘who does the learner become,’ rather than ‘what does the learner know.’ The reason parents schlep their kids to religious school is because they care about things like heritage, community, giving kids a values-based worldview and a Jewish identity.”

Most families still opt for Temple Isaiah’s traditional-model religious school, but Mason-Barkin believes family learning offers lasting benefits. Children become more invested in their education, he said, because “kids are getting an explicit message all the time that this matters to their parents.”

But alternative religious schools don’t work for every congregation, said Aron, the HUC-JIR professor. These programs are costly — in terms of time and funds — and require support from the entire congregation, she said. Families must be convinced the concept is worthwhile and often must recruit their peers to commit financially to an untested idea.

Leo Baeck Temple’s alternative track, Family Shabbat Experience, disbanded this year because not enough families enrolled to sustain it, director of education Avram Mandell said. Compared to the Bel Air synagogue’s traditional Sunday morning religious school, most parents felt there was no contest, he said: Sunday sessions typically include art, drama, Israeli dance and even gardening as an elective, or kids can spin Jewish tunes as a DJ on the religious school’s own radio station.

“Since we create that energy on Sunday mornings, it was hard to get people to try the Saturday program,” Mandell said.

But Leo Baeck is making strides in another rapidly growing learning frontier — using digital technology for religious school instruction. Last year, Mandell began offering Hebrew tutoring via Skype. He is also making a series of Hebrew instructional videos that he uploads to YouTube. And for those with iPhones, he has created two Hebrew learning apps, Alef-Bet Bullseye and Alef-Bet Pile Up.

Technology makes religious school more convenient for families who find it difficult, logistically, to get to synagogue on a weekday afternoon, said Jane Slotin, executive director of New York-based PELIE (Partnership for Effective Learning and Innovative Education). Besides, she said, computers and smart phones are becoming ever more popular routes for kids to engage with each other, so why can’t they help kids engage with Judaism?

Bel Air’s Stephen S. Wise Temple Religious School built on that philosophy when educators introduced the school’s iLearn program last year, now available to fourth- and fifth-graders. Kids enrolled in iLearn meet for traditional, in-person instruction on Sunday mornings but also convene digitally on Wednesday afternoons at a “virtual classroom” accessed through their laptops, wherever they happen to be.

Children might relate better to lessons conducted in an interactive computer format that resembles Internet games and chat features they use regularly, said Stephen S. Wise religious school director Andrea Gardenhour. And although iLearn uses new tools that may seem unfamiliar to parents, at its core, the program offers the same instruction kids would get in a traditional classroom.

“Instead of pages in a book, it’s Web frames,” Gardenhour said. “This is about moving into a new age of learning experiences.”

Google removes Nazi-themed Android apps


Google removed Nazi-related applications from its Android downloads following protests from Jewish users.

Google removed the apps from search results last Friday, according to PC Magazine. Google said in a statement that the apps were “upsetting” and violated the terms of service.

The apps came up in a search for the word “Jewish” in the Android App Marketplace.

Anyone can post an application in the Google marketplace for download. Google receives a 30 percent cut of any application bought on the marketplace, according to Rachel Liebold writing in JWeekly. The Adolph Hitler theme app was selling for $2.99 a download.

Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, praised Google for its quick action.

“The intent here was clearly malicious and vile,” Steinberg said in a statement, adding that “We must be ever vigilant against those who would promote hate and even seek to profit from it.”

+