No magic bullet: Technology has much to offer in the classroom, but it can’t fix everything

I’m sold on technology in the classroom. I really am. I mean, books, paper and pens are a form of technology — they’re just a comparatively inert and messy form. 

I’m not sentimental about physical books. I’m sure when they came around, some poor slob was sitting in a corner crying because reading would never be the same without handwritten scrolls, and a few centuries before that, when the scrolls came around, some sad shmo was tearing his hair out and wailing that you’d have to pry his stone tablets out of his cold, dead hands.

But I’m not ready to hand the keys over to Apple yet. The fact that new technology is available does not mean we know how to use it. The really cool thing about most of these netbooks, laptops, tablets and e-readers is that they are adaptive to our needs, and if the software is smart, it’s adaptive, too.

Technology is not static. High-tech tools are not shovels; they aren’t created for a single purpose and used that way forever. In fact, it’s my impression that iPads were created because they were cool and Apple figured, correctly, that users would figure out what they were good for through trial and error. Google is now doing the same with Google Glass. God help us all.

But currently we are not talking about technology in schools this way. What I see instead is an approach to technology as if it were a solid, unchanging, one-size-fits-all answer. In my opinion, this way of thinking is a mistake — a very, very expensive mistake. This mistake has two aspects:

1. Top-down, large-scale, prepackaged “solutions” 

Right now, superintendents and schools, terrified of seeming out of date, are investing enormous amounts of money in prepackaged technology without regard to its usefulness in the context of the very different classrooms in which it will be used. The most glaring example is the recent fiasco in which Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Superintendent John Deasy pushed for $1.3 billion to purchase iPads for every single student in the district — with such blind enthusiasm that the original plan was to offer above retail for each and every tablet. Are your ancestors spinning in their graves? Mine are. 

The district also failed to ask whether any teacher actually wanted to use these tablets; as of this year, 80 percent of the high schools that received the iPads reported that they rarely use them. As for the expensive Pearson software “curriculum” purchased for the devices, sight unseen, less than half of 1 percent of all teachers surveyed had ever used it. 

2. The delusion that technology and “blended learning” will allow us to cut back on teachers, saving us money 

This is a fantasy I hear promoted by many blended-learning advocates whose dream, at least as I’ve heard it, was that in the future, classrooms would have 60 or more kids. Here’s how the dream goes:

Each class, divided into three groups of 20 pupils, will have a “master teacher” in charge of 60 kids per class period. One group will be led by the teacher and be focused on discussion or direct instruction. Another group will be divided into small groups who work together on a project. A third group will work independently on computers to do individualized lessons guided by software to meet their needs.

A third of the way through the class, everyone will rotate to a new station. By the end of the class, each of the pupils will have been in a class discussion, participated in a group and done an individualized lesson.

Final result: We save a ton of money. 

The teacher is then carried away on a stretcher.

Actually, that last sentence is purely hypothetical. It’s also the only part I actually believe. Seriously, can you imagine actually teaching a class like this? I mean, for more than an hour? Without being on a Xanax drip?

Let’s get real. Blended learning is a cool idea, but it is not going to allow us to fire half the workforce as if on an assembly line when you upgrade your machinery.

So what can blended learning do? I have now seen blended learning in action at a few sites, and I’m here to tell you that — done thoughtfully, in an organic way that proceeds from a teacher’s needs and with a class size small enough for the teacher to have an individual relationship with students — it looks promising. 

But when class sizes balloon to more than 30, things get much, much dicier. I recently witnessed a really excellent teacher leading a blended-learning English class with 37 students. With this number of pupils, due to funding cuts, the small-group work aspect was not possible because kids just wouldn’t focus without a teacher’s supervision. 

But the biggest issue is sustainability. The teacher I observed was essentially teaching two simultaneous classes; she had to plan the discussion and personally design work for the students doing the individualized lessons, because as far as I know there is no really good software for 11th-grade English — how could there be once you got past basic grammar and vocabulary? The kids not sitting in front of her were filling out worksheets or chatting. Every so often, she’d stop her lesson to redirect them, at which point the other group would drift off task. Just watching her gave me a headache.

Like so many educational innovations I read about, large classrooms and rotating workstations might work in a class of high-functioning, confident students, but in an underserved community where you have a lot of kids coming in far below grade level, with low confidence and a history of negative experiences with school, many students need more individual attention than this. 

And yet, ironically, I only hear people talking about saving money by using technology to allow enormous classes when they’re talking about students of color in high-poverty communities. I never hear people talk this way about saving money on affluent white students. So before we implement the technology “solution,” let’s be honest about which students are being treated as objects on an assembly line and which are being seen as human beings in our educational system.

Technology is a great tool. We are going to be able to do a lot of cool stuff we’ve never dreamed of. But as a society, let’s let go of the delusion that technology is going to replace teachers or allow enormous class sizes.

It’s going to take time. And patience. And that most outrageous of luxuries, human conversation. 

I know, I know, we can’t afford human conversation. We need to spend a billion dollars to gear up for the billion dollars’ worth of standardized testing coming at us.

That, we can afford. How else will we be sure our children are learning?

Ellie Herman is an award-winning writer, teacher and life coach in Los Angeles. She blogs about education, learning and life at

Passover: Touching Liberation

As we were developing the cover story for this year’s Passover issue —“Are we e-slaves?”— I couldn’t help thinking about a little girl in Israel, Amit, who suffers from a neurodevelopmental disorder called Rett syndrome.

According to academic literature, Rett syndrome is characterized by “normal early growth and development followed by a slowing of development, loss of purposeful use of the hands, distinctive hand movements, slowed brain and head growth, problems with walking, seizures and intellectual disability.”

I learned about Amit a few months ago when I spoke at a dinner for Beit Issie Shapiro, the innovative center in Israel that has been caring for Amit and other children with disabilities.

That evening kept popping into my mind as I reflected on the notion of e-slavery. Because slavery is key to the Passover story, it was only natural for us to explore the idea of our modern-day enslavement to technology. 

Has this technology become so incredible that it is starting to own us? Has the power to access virtually any information instantly at any time, or the power to connect instantly with anyone at any time, taken over our lives and made us slaves to science?

For so many of us who have smartphones grafted to our hands, these are legitimate questions. But the evening I spent with Beit Issie Shapiro gave me a whole different take on this subject.

I saw the power of technology not to enslave us but to liberate us.

Specifically, I saw how a wondrous digital machine like the iPad can transform the lives of children with severe disabilities. 

Amit, for example, comes alive as she touches the screen of a specially designed iPad, which allows her to play games, discover music, create art and, most important, communicate. 

Her mother also comes alive. “She has this horrible syndrome, and I didn’t think I would be so much happy and pleased,” the mother says on a video, as we watch her play an art game with Amit on the iPad. “She actually moves her hands better … we just enjoy the light in her eyes when she sees it [the iPad] and she uses it.”

For someone like Amit, whose life has been improved immeasurably by this technology, the idea of being an “e-slave” must seem ridiculous. I can just imagine her seeing our Passover cover and thinking: “What are these people talking about? Technology saved my life!”

There’s some irony in the fact that the very latest in digital progress, the iPad, has returned to that most basic human function — physical touch. For many kids with disabilities, simply touching something is the one thing they’re most comfortable doing.

They don’t have the luxury to indulge in figurative language. Their slavery is real. It’s physical. It’s more like the slavery of our ancestors. They can touch it.

People without disabilities can afford to think about slavery metaphorically, but this also can be a limitation. It’s easy to overthink things. Thinking, itself, keeps us in the theoretical realm. Even when we discuss and debate ideas, they remain in the head. We don’t really touch them.

Children like Amit specialize in touching.

They see a screen with beautiful images, and they touch it. They see a mother or a father’s hand, they see a toy or a flower or a dog or a paintbrush, and they touch it.

They don’t wallow in thinking; they wallow in touching. Touching liberates them. 

But what about us, with fully functioning brains: Are we thinking too much and not touching enough?

While our brains are overflowing with so much noise and static, do we lose something primal and fundamental, like the ability to touch something real?

It’s clear that a side effect of abusing super-fast technology is that it clutters and speeds up our minds, adding even more mental stress to our lives. 

Maybe that’s why Jewish rituals like Passover seders are so helpful. They force us to slow down. They make us think, yes, but they also make us touch. We don’t just tell our story, we touch it. We touch the salt, the matzah, the bitter herbs, the charoset — all the symbols that give our story meaning. 

And we tell a story of liberation that touches our lives.

It is this duality of thinking and touching that helps us feel, and helps us reconnect with the things that matter most, the things technology can never do for us: Nurturing friendships, caring for a lonely parent, being with our family at the Shabbat table, walking in nature, helping a stranger, expressing gratitude.

In her own simple way, a child like Amit can help us rediscover this primal, human state.

It is a state that says, I’m neither slave nor master, just a human being doing the best I can with what I have.

Happy Passover.

David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at

Will LAUSD’s iPad upgrade work?

The Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest public school district in the United States, has approved a plan that will provide every K-12 student and teacher in Los Angeles with an iPad by fall 2014. With more than 650,000 students and almost 26,000 teachers, this initiative represents a huge and risky investment that’s quickly growing from an initial estimate of $500 million to close to $1 billion. The initiative is being financed from monies in a bond fund that had been earmarked for school infrastructure. 

Is it worth it?

As someone who has, literally, written the book on iPad use in the classroom, I can answer with a definitive: It depends.

Incorporating technology into learning can potentially enhance the quality of education — but only if such an initiative has clear objectives, is well planned and properly managed. The quality of a school’s education can’t be validated with a simple tally of the devices being used on campus. The iPad isn’t a magic pill that will cure the ailments of outdated educational models — not unless its use is integrated into holistic educational approaches that address the needs of 21st century learners entering adulthood in a technology-rich, unpredictable and exponentially changing society. 

As a parent deciding between educational alternatives for my child, I would ask several key questions in deciding whether the new LAUSD initiative will improve public education:

How will technology use change the educational dynamics at the school?

We’ve all experienced the depth of “learning by doing.” In contrast to the traditional “sage on the stage” classroom lecturing model, technology can be used to empower learners to research, discover, create and connect within more student-centered, experiential processes. Given opportunity and support, students can analyze and work toward solutions of real-world problems. Student-centered educational models develop independent, lifelong learners that can thrive in a climate of societal change. As examples of student-centered models, consider the school in Culver City where students polled residents about their water usage in order to create public service videos as part of their campaign to promote water conservation. The students in a middle school class in Texas took it upon themselves to research and design cafeteria menus and school programs for healthier eating and increased fitness. When deciding to rebuild their outdoor play areas, one elementary school turned to its students and gave them the chance to debate and offer design suggestions. 

We all get caught up in assessments and academic results. Remember, however, that preparing students for “the test” can often come at the expense of building important skills that prepare them for life. Education needs to focus on preparing children for the journey ahead and not for some arbitrary destination. 

Will technology be used to break down classroom walls? 

The traditional school design gathered students together in a walled-off, physical space, giving them access to a single content source (textbook) and a subject expert (teacher). That model remained largely unchanged for more than a century — and then along came the Internet. All of a sudden, huge libraries of content and teams of experts are available anywhere and at any time. We can steadfastly hold on to our old pedagogical models or embrace the opportunity to help our students connect, analyze, evaluate and utilize the incredible amount of information they have at their fingertips. 

Access and connection — that’s the magic of technology. Imagine their awe when a class of fifth-grade science students in Ohio had a Skype video call with famed international astrophysicist Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson to discuss their interplanetary travel project. Consider the ninth-grade class I worked with that searched Twitter and found the author of the novel they were reading, then arranged a video conference to discuss how he developed the characters and plot. Think of all the classrooms where students can work collaboratively in groups, sharing their work online with others while developing the teamwork and collaborative skills demanded by employers in the workplace. An amazing transformation occurs when you go from “Refer to your textbook and answer the questions at the end of the chapter” to “How and with whom can I connect to develop the answers I’m seeking?”

How will teachers make the adjustment? 

Deploying iPads effectively involves a major change in educational outlook and school culture. This requires ongoing training, mentoring and continual support. Will the teachers at your school receive training on integrating multimedia into lessons, screencasting presentations, creating and publishing class e-books and more … or will they be expected to continue lecturing and use technology for projecting and word processing? Without constant training and reinforcement, not only will technology fail to reform education but it will become a very expensive Band-Aid on an old educational model that isn’t working.

Will classes have a virtual learning environment? 

Learning is occurring in both physical and virtual environments. Schools require a well-designed and implemented online presence that helps students engage in interactive communications and learning practices both before and after the afternoon bell rings. Does your school have an effective online presence that always communicates clear expectations for classes and students? More importantly, can students collaborate and interact with teachers and other students outside of class? Does the school’s online presence encourage and facilitate collaboration with teachers and students in other locations around the world?

The LAUSD plan is a brave and bold first step that recognizes the need to reform our schools. The key question is how schools will use technology to create a 21st century learning environment for students. Answer that question correctly and we’ll be doing our children a great service.

Sam Gliksman is an educational technology consultant, author and speaker. He is the author of “iPads in Education for Dummies” and can be contacted at

Technology makes education omnipresent

There was a time when students at Temple Israel of Hollywood Day School took annual fieldtrips to Spanish missions in California and wrapped up the experience with a final product that may seem as old-fashioned as the structures themselves — a written report.

That all changed when teachers permitted students to bring their iPads and other tablet devices. Suddenly, pupils were freed to record interviews, take pictures and create elaborate multimedia presentations

Which is exactly how technology ought to be used, according to Sam Gliksman, author of “iPad in Education for Dummies” and former director of educational technology at New Community Jewish High School.

“The device is irrelevant. It just so happens that today the device is the iPad,” said the Rancho Park resident who grew up in Australia. “But it’s more about what you do with the technology than the technology itself. The focus is always on educational reform rather than just the use of technology.”

A consultant in education and technology for more than 20 years, Gliksman maintains a blog ( with about 7,000 readers.

His mantra: Society should start viewing students as content creators and publishers instead of as content absorbers. His book, which came out in January, focuses on how iPads can be used as an educational device, with students using it to generate videos, presentations, graphics and more. 

So why the iPad or other tablet device? One of its most appealing features is the arsenal of affordable applications that are available for use, especially in conjunction with its built-in camera and microphone. 

From a practical perspective, tablets are lighter than laptops — or a stack of heavy textbooks — and provide almost instant access to the Internet, saving students valuable time they otherwise would waste booting up and logging on. It helps that the devices have a long battery life and can hold a charge throughout the school day. 

Plus, they’re fun. 

“iPad in Education for Dummies” also focuses on integrating mobile technology into education so that it can be used outside of the boundaries of school.

At Kadima Day School in West Hills, officials replaced a one-to-one student laptop program with one in which every student was provided with access to an iPad. Students use applications such as iMovie and Keynote to create presentations, and the school cut back on paper use by allowing students to submit their work through an app that can be accessed via the iPad. 

“We had a yearlong discussion on how to prepare our students for the future, and after a recommendation from Apple that tablet technology was the future, we made our decision to switch to iPads,” said Bill Cohen, head of school.

Phil Liff-Grieff, associate director of BJE-Builders of Jewish Education, said a number schools are still working to keep up with the times. 

“We are in a transitional moment in terms of technology in education, and, like many things, some are ahead of the curve [and] some are behind.”

This kind of evolution doesn’t come cheap. The newest, basic model iPad sells for $499 and the iPad mini goes for $329. But Gliksman stresses that a school doesn’t need a large amount of technology to influence progress in the educational system as long as the right technology is available to the students. Even if it’s just one device within a group, even if it’s a couple of tablet devices to a classroom, they can be used very creatively.  

In addition, Gliksman says one must take into account the amount of money schools already spend on technology and that there are government grants available to schools.

“American schools spend more money on education per student than any other country in the world; we just spend it very poorly,” Gliksman said. According to U.S. Census Bureau data released last month, Americans spent $10,560 per pupil in public elementary and secondary education in 2011.

The problem, Gliksman said, is that schools use money on expensive technology that provides limited return. They may purchase a Smart Board to aid in lecturing or buy a projector to display content, but the technology is used primarily by the teachers with a focus on delivering information to the students as opposed to helping students create their own content.

“Both of these devices [Smart Boards and projectors] put the teacher in contact with more technology instead of the students,” Gliksman said, “but the iPads allow for relevant technology to be put in the hands of students in an interactive way.” 

Building learning environments that are centered on the students instead of the teachers is one of Gliksman’s top priorities.

“What a lot of schools do is purchase technology, and practices that have been in place for the last 100 years are just reinforced,” he said. 

“The information is everywhere, and the skills that students need are how to access, how to filter, how to evaluate and how to utilize that information,” he said. “Education should be anywhere, anytime, and iPads can be a tool in creating that type of learning infrastructure where students can access knowledge and information anywhere anytime they want.”

App to track Obama’s Israel visit

Israel's Prime Minister's Office launched an app to follow President Obama's visit in real time.

The app, which is available though Israel's Apple store, will assist journalists covering the visit and allow Israelis to receive real-time updates, including video streaming. It will be available shortly for Android.

Now available in Hebrew and English, the app soon will be available in Arabic, Ynet reported.

The app was announced Sunday at a preparatory meeting ahead of Obama's visit to Israel later this month. Representatives from the Prime Minister's Office, the president's residence, the Foreign Ministry, the Defense Ministry, the Israel Police, the Jerusalem Municipality, Ben-Gurion International Airport and other agencies attended the meeting.

National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror said it was “very important” that the visit be marked by three points: “One, that it go smoothly from start to finish. It is important for us that the Prime Minister and the President have fruitful and productive talks — this is the basis for the continuation of work over the next four years. It is important to us that the President and all those who watch the visit see the beautiful Land of Israel as much as possible given the short schedule.

“Cooperation between all elements — among all the Israelis, and between us and the Americans — is also vital for the success of the visit.” 

Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in Israel announced a competition for 20 seats at Obama's speech in Israel. Hopefuls must like the embassy's Facebook page and in the comments section explain why they should be invited. The post had 400 likes on Sunday within six hours of the announcement.

The speech is scheduled to take place at Jerusalem’s International Convention Center.

With an eye on Twitter, StandWithUs releases app for pre-fab pro-Israel messages

To celebrate the 64th anniversary of Israel’s founding, StandWithUs released a new social media application that the pro-Israel educational nonprofit hopes will help expand its impact on Twitter and Facebook.

ShareIsrael, an app designed for iPhones, iPads and devices running the Android operating system, is intended to promote pro-Israel messages in the social media landscape. Using the new app, people can take readymade messages and like them on Facebook or post them to Twitter.

Critics of Israel often use social networking outlets to spread their messages, StandWithUs Israel Director Michael Dickson said, and the group hoped its new app would help counterbalance those critical messages with supportive ones.

“They are able to get their tags to trend,” Dickson said of Israel’s online critics. “That’s something that we certainly want to counterbalance.”

The ShareIsrael app, which was developed by StandWithUs with two Israeli web developers, Omri Ariav and Alon Carmel, allows users to distribute prefabricated messages through email as well as Facebook and Twitter. Of the three portals, Dickson said, Twitter is the preferred one because that’s where the conversation about political matters and current events takes place today.

In 2010, when Israel Defense Forces soldiers raided the Turkish flotilla bound for Gaza and killed a number of those on board, Twitter guided the conversation, but only somewhat. Today, Dickson said, its influence has grown.

“Journalists are as in tune with what’s going on in their Twitter feeds as they are in tune with what’s coming out of the central news agencies,” he said.

With that in mind, the new app’s prefabricated tweets are presented complete with accompanying web links, never exceeding 140 characters and, perhaps most important, equipped with pro-Israel hashtags.

Hashtags—a word or string ofwords preceded by the # symbol—have been used in the conversation about Israel before. In December 2011, when messages with the hashtag “#IsraelHates,” began to emerge as a trend on Twitter, a senior Israeli official promoted a messaging campaign with the hashtag “#IsarelLoves” in response.

The messages promoted by StandWithUs through its app in its first week included, “Warren Buffet’s first purchase outside the USA ever was an Israeli company. #israelat64” and “#Israel: 3,000 years old, 64 years young”.

“We realize that people don’t have a lot of time and are on the go,” Dickson said. “They want to do something good for Israel, and we’re just making it easier and quicker and more effective.”

According to StandWithUs, the app was accessed by more than 2,000 people in its first week via the group’s website. It is expected to be available for download in the App Store and Android Marketplace within a few weeks.
—by Jonah Lowenfeld, Staff Writer

Coming to a seder near you: A haggadah on your iPad

This Passover, Jews can still reliably be called “the people of the book.”

If sales of newly published versions of the haggadah are any indication, on the first night of Passover, when it comes time to tell the story of the Exodus, most people sitting at seder tables will be holding in their hands a text that consists of printed words and images on paper.

Next year, though, it’s anyone’s guess, and it seems inevitable that electronic readers and tablet computers will become a big part of at least some future seders, and anyone with an iPad can experience that future today.

A purpose-built iPad app, titled, simply, “The Haggadah” (Melcher Media) was released on March 28, and another iPad-friendly haggadah, an e-book version of the new ink-on-paper title “Sharing the Journey: The Haggadah for the Contemporary Family” (CCAR Press), has been submitted to Apple’s iBookstore for approval, for a release, the makers hope, before seder time.

The creators of “The Haggadah” app anticipate that people won’t only use the new application to follow their own seder, but also that the app itself could become a site for actual sharing — of recipes, photos, stories and, of course, questions.

[Related: Download the Jewish Journal on your mobile device]

“As far as I know, this is the first haggadah app with this kind of interactivity,” said David Kraemer, a professor of Talmud and Rabbinics at the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), who translated the haggadah’s text into English and wrote most of the app’s additional text. There are features familiar to any reader of Passover books — an introduction to Passover and a history of the haggadah — and Kraemer also wrote dozens of comments sprinkled throughout the text, each one accessible with the tap of a finger.

Search any online marketplace for e-books and you’ll find a few haggadot (the plural of haggadah), each with its own tone, quality and price. Craig Buck, a TV writer who created the 15-page “Ina Gada Haggadah” for his family’s 20-minute seder back in the 1990s, doesn’t think anyone has purchased the Kindle version yet, although hundreds have downloaded versions available each year (in PDF format) on his Web site.

PDFs can be read on many tablet readers, and DIYSeder, an online resource that allows users to customize a haggadah’s text (What word would you prefer to substitute for “God”?) and commentary (Is your seder table full of politicos? Children? Non-Jews?) has apps for iPad- and Android-equipped devices that will allow their haggadot to be read there.

Another haggadah in the Kindle store — “The Union Haggadah,” first published in 1923 by the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) — displays both a menorah and a dreidel on the cover, a clear indication that the seller mixed up Chanukah, probably the best-known Jewish holiday, with the most widely celebrated one, Passover.

“The copyright expired, so it’s technically in the public domain,” Rabbi Dan Medwin, publishing technology manager for the CCAR, said. “We don’t know who took that text and made it an e-book. There’s even an iPhone app.”

That shoddy repackaging of a 90-year-old text (retail price $3.99) is nothing like the e-book version of “Sharing the Journey” that Medwin created for the CCAR Press.

E-books, Medwin said, are becoming more flexible. Thanks to the advent of iBooks Author, software released by Apple in January of this year that allows publishers to incorporate various kinds of media into their e-books, Medwin was able to include a number of special features; for example, he embedded more than a dozen recordings of Passover songs directly into the text of “Sharing the Journey.”

All of the text from the paper version of the book is in the e-book version as well. The illustrations by Mark Podwal are included in the e-book, too; Medwin added tap-activated captions to one illustration of a seder plate.

But if “Sharing the Journey” feels like a powered-up book with a soundtrack included, “The Haggadah” app — which was paid for in large part through more than $25,000 of donations solicited through the crowd-funding Web site Kickstarter — is something else entirely.

“The way people use apps is much more tactile and exploratory than the way they use a book,” said David Brown, one of the developers who worked on the app at Melcher Media, a New York-based book producer that has been creating apps since 2011, including the award-winning app version of Al Gore’s book, “Our Choice.”

“What people want is interactivity and surprise and layers of information in a way that a static page can’t deliver,” Brown said.

Just how layered is the app? Look past the fancy spinning seder plate in the “Preparing for the Seder” section, and consider the other illustrations, all of which come from haggadot that are centuries old.

While the main haggadah text in the app might use only a detail from a particular page — say, a single, ornately inscribed word from the Washington Haggadah, which dates back to 1478 and is held in the Library of Congress — a finger-tap on a magnifying glass icon nearby takes the reader to a new screen. There, the full page where the detail is from is displayed, and with a few pinches and swipes, any part of the reproduced page — crinkles, faded sections, even what look like wine stains — can be viewed.

Most of the illustrations come from the holdings of JTS’ library, where Kraemer is director; some illustrations are accompanied by audio commentary from Sharon Liberman Mintz, the library’s curator of Jewish art.

If the illuminated manuscripts reproduced in “The Haggadah” look as though they might have taken years to create, the app itself was put together far more quickly. Rabbi Irwin Kula, president of Clal, the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, contributed his own audio commentary, which he recorded in a single one-hour session, a little more than a month before the app’s release.

And the running time of his observations was even shorter.

“The challenge was, OK, say something in one minute about ‘Dayenu,’ or say something in one minute about the Four Questions or the four sons,” Kula said, naming a few of the better-known parts of the haggadah. “Say something in one minute that is accessible and usable and relevant — that gets the job done, which is to help create meaning in people’s lives.”

Kraemer said he won’t use the app at his seder — he doesn’t use electricity on the holiday, and prefers to use a “basic traditional haggadah” anyway, to allow for more interaction between the people around the table.

Kula, who hadn’t yet seen the full app but had heard the edited versions of his commentaries, was very happy with the result and is looking forward to using it at his family’s second seder, which has always been more free in its format. In previous years, Kula said, the young adults at the table have incorporated media of all types, everything from recorded songs to YouTube videos.

In 2012, it seems, flexibility and interactivity are the words to live by when creating seders, and in that spirit, Amichai Lau-Lavie, the founding director of Storahtelling, contributed to “The Haggadah” app an alternative order of events of his own design.

Lau-Lavie began creating “The Sayder” six years ago, and the basic model — four rounds, each one focusing on one question and accompanied by one glass of wine — was established early. Since then, the format has changed; what was an “on-the-fly” innovation morphed first into a one-page paper handout, then a Web site ( and now, an app.

“I don’t think the haggadah was ever meant to be read cover-to-cover, as is,” said Lau-Lavie, who is now studying to become a rabbi at the Jewish Theological Seminary. “The Sayder,” he said, has a uniquely spelled name for a reason: “We really wanted people to read less and say more,” Lau-Lavie said.

This year — in light of the harsh conditions under which the workers who make Apple electronics are known to endure, and particularly since there’ll be at least one iPad at his seder table — Lau-Lavie is hoping to get people to talk about consumption and the conditions of workers.

To that end, Lau-Lavie is asking people to put an apple on their seder plates this year.

“Are we the Pharaoh or are we the Moses?” Lau-Lavie asked, modeling the kind of inquiry he hopes to inspire. “How can we do more to spread freedom around the world?”

Technology leading the way to lower-cost day school education

The nondenominational Pre-Collegiate Learning Center of New Jersey doesn’t have a math teacher. The East Brunswick school instead relies on experienced math tutors who help students work through an online math curriculum relying on outside sources.

At Baltimore’s Ohr Chadash, a Modern Orthodox primary school in its first year, students receive iPads beginning in the fourth grade to do more online and group work.

“The things the teachers ask us to do for work are fun,” said 9-year-old Nili Hefetz, a fourth-grader at the school. For example, using Adobe Ideas, Nili and other students draw pictures on the iPads inspired by the Chumash (Bible) lessons.

“The idea was to incorporate technology into the school in a seamless way,” said the school’s president, Saul Weinreb. “It became a way of doing things both in education and administration.”

It’s also a way to save money.

With tuition that can reach $30,000 or more per student, the day school tuition crisis has spurred a search for new options and given rise to a new breed of day schools where technology and blended learning—mixing traditional classroom learning with online education—are reducing costs.

“In the general world, online and blended learning is becoming a wave of the future,” said Rachel Mohl Abrahams, a program officer at the Avi Chai Foundation in New York.

PCLC opened in the fall with 20 students in grades 8 to 11. Its director, Lauren Ariev Gellman, predicts that in 10 to 15 years, all schools—public and private—will have an online component.

“Everybody is going to move in this direction,” Gellman said. “It would serve Jewish schools well to get ahead of the curve. And bring the costs way down.”

Tuition is just $5,000 at the PCLC. The blended learning style has allowed the school to save in a big area: faculty. It employs only two full-time administrators and only part-time teachers. Teachers assign lessons from online curricula, such as math and science lessons from Khan Academy or language lessons from Rosetta Stone, and then provide individual help while students work at their own pace.

The Judaic studies curriculum is more traditional—simply because the resources are not there yet. Two of the classes, however, are run over Skype with a teacher in Israel and students participating from four or five other yeshivas.

Volunteering is also helping to keep down costs at the new schools. At Ohr Chadash, where tuition is $8,400 this year, each family is required to volunteer 25 hours per year. Nili’s mother, Shayna, is co-president of the school’s PTA and volunteers as an art teacher. Other parents have volunteered with office work, on field trips and as lunchtime supervisors.

“We try to utilize parent volunteers as much as possible,” Shayna Hefetz said.

Going paperless also has meant major cost savings, which Weinreb estimates at a few hundred dollars per student. And a budget oversight committee comprised of people otherwise unaffiliated with the school first approves every expense and ensures that budgets are planned around only existing money, not future fundraising. The methods can frustrate administrators, Weinreb acknowledged, but keep the budget in check.

Volunteerism is the main model for keeping down costs at The Jewish Cooperative School in Hollywood, Fla., where 2011-12 tuition ran $7,500. Technology does not play as central a role in the Modern Orthodox school, but as at Ohr Chadash, the administration requires the parents of its 23 students in kindergarten through second grade to volunteer several hours a month.

“I’ve found parents really enjoy being involved in the education of their kids,” said Janessa Wasserman, one of the school’s founders and a parent of two students there. “And the kids really love it.”

Hannah Shapiro, whose 7-year-old daughter, Aliyah, attends second grade at the school, volunteers by putting out a weekly newsletter for each grade, as well as helping once a week in the classroom.

“I love to be involved with my kids’ education, so I try in any way possible to get involved,” she said.

Shapiro says that since Hannah started at The Jewish Cooperative School this year, she jumps out of bed in the morning excited about school.

“It’s like a home for them,” Shapiro said. “It’s something special.”

Avi Chai has provided grants to three of the blended learning schools, including PCLC and Ohr Chadash. The other school is Yeshivat He’Atid in Bergenfield, N.J. Overall, Avi Chai is aware of eight blended learning schools that either opened this year or plan to open next year, from California and Texas to Maryland and Massachusetts.

The concept has started drawing attention from other funders, too.

Determined to figure out new, sustainable ways to ensure that all Jewish parents have the ability to send their children to affordable, high-quality day schools, a group of philanthropists in the New York area formed the Affordable Jewish Education Project, or AJE, earlier this year. The group began with an open mind but honed in on the concept of low-cost day schools, said its executive director, Jeff Kiderman.

“There’s more to them than just their low cost,” he told JTA. “We saw this as a tremendous opportunity to innovate in the world of Jewish education by promoting educational improvements and affordability improvements at a time when our community really needs both.”

AJE discovered several low-cost schools throughout the United States that either recently opened or are in development, but Kiderman noted that there was little connecting them to each other. That’s the role AJE hopes to fill, he said, by creating a network for the schools to share best practices and resources.

Tuition savings at the lower-cost schools can range from 30 percent to 40 percent on the elementary level and 50 percent or more in high school, according to Kiderman. The schools focus on a mix of technology and volunteerism to keep costs down.

Kiderman calls PCLC a “classic example of a school trying to find available, innovative educational models that they can share with the rest of the country.”

The school is “constantly re-examining what they are doing and constantly trying to improve it. That’s what everybody should be doing,” he said.

“This is absolutely the future of education,” said Rebecca Coen, founder and head of Yeshiva High Tech, a Modern Orthodox Los Angeles high school scheduled to open in August with 40 students in ninth through 11th grade and tuition set at $8,500.

Distance learning has been around for years and Jewish schools are actually playing catch-up in online education, Coen said, noting that advances in non-Jewish education often take several years to filter down to the Jewish educational world.

While the students work on online lessons, teachers will rotate from group to group to provide support when needed.

“It’s possible in the same classroom to have ninth-grade students working on ninth-grade English, 10th-grade students working on 10th-grade English,” Coen said. “You can have AP in the classroom, and they can all be working simultaneously with the same teacher because the teacher is no longer the primary source for curriculum delivery.”

This may result in larger class sizes, Coen said, but teachers will “actually spend more time with each student than if they’re standing in front of the classroom.”

Following Ted, not Steve

With the passing of Apple founder Steve Jobs, master creator of the iPod, iMac, iPhone and iPad, many people are now wondering: Which future brilliant gizmo will be buried with Jobs that we’ll never get to see?

As someone who adores Apple products, I appreciate the question, but it still disturbs me.

That’s because it reminds me that we live in a world that worships cool gadgets. I’ve noticed this is especially true with men. I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen a dinner conversation be overtaken by male friends debating megabytes, bandwidth and cellular connections.

Cool gadgets fascinate us because they give us an illusion of power — a sense that we’re always making progress, that we have the power to control an unpredictable world.

The problem, of course, is that machines, however mesmerizing, can’t teach us how to think.

In fact, they might do just the opposite. They train us to consume. The faster our digital gadget, the faster we consume. The more sophisticated the gadget, the less sophisticated we seem to become.

How do we consume our information? In little snippets, posts, Tweets and texts. If the snippet is juicy, like a graphic video of Gadhafi’s last minute, or one of monkeys that can paint, we spread it around so others can consume it, too.

We’re becoming a snippet society. We snorkel and catch newsy snippets and instant opinions that reinforce our thinking but rarely go scuba diving for deeper understanding. 

One of the sexiest snippets is news of The Upgrade. We eagerly await it, crave it, sleep outside the Apple store hoping to be among the first to get it.

Can you imagine Ernest Hemingway, while he was working on “The Old Man and the Sea,” lining up outside a pencil store for a “new and faster” pencil?

Instead of meaningful or creative thought, our new mobile gizmos make us value speed and ease. They spew out zillions of digital Doritos that our minds snack on all day — and once you start crunching, who can stop?

“Information is cheap,” Internet philosopher George Dyson wrote, but “meaning is expensive.”

Yes, but in truth, how can meaning compete with the serial pleasures of our alluring gadgets? We caress them, study them, marvel at their features, and, in no time, discard them so we can marvel at the upgraded version. This pattern of pleasure never stops. A better gadget is always around the corner, waiting to seduce us.

The maestro of this impulse was the great Steve Jobs. His sensual and intuitive machines, it must be said, have added an enormous amount of pleasure, convenience and human connection to the planet, and we owe him immeasurably for that.

But what his machines can’t do — what no machine can do — is encourage us to think more deeply and value the power of human ideas.

For that, you’ll need to go see Ted.

This is one of my favorite Web sites ( because it seduces with ideas — fascinating, challenging, eye-popping ideas on subjects like life, science, philosophy, beauty, ethics, art, astronomy, love — you name it.

The site offers videos of hundreds of the best and deepest thinkers in the world presenting their ideas in snappy talks that last anywhere from seven to 20 minutes. 

As I write this, here are some of the subjects featured on its home page: “How Beauty Feels,” “Art Made of Storms,” “Learning From a Barefoot Movement,” “How to Spot a Liar,” “Less Stuff, More Happiness,” “What Do Babies Think?” and “Finding Life We Can’t Imagine.”

The subjects are endless. The insights are riveting. But here’s the point: The site could be just as riveting in 100 years — even without improved technology — because its hero is content.

When I say content, I don’t mean disposable content that gives you a sugar rush. I mean deep and meaningful content that intrigues you, fires up your curiosity and provokes thought. This kind of content makes you think of new ideas, not new technology.

It reminds us that the ultimate gizmo is the human mind, and the ultimate app is human ideas.

I have no doubt the presenters on the TED site all have their own smartphones, iPads and Twitter accounts. But I also have no doubt that in order to come up with their ideas, at some point they had to slow down, unplug and just think.

The Jewish tradition seems to have a prophetic understanding of this need to reconnect with the essential. Maybe it’s no coincidence that 3,300 years before the invasion of Tweets and texts, God gave us a day for just that purpose. It’s Shabbat, our weekly holy day, when we liberate ourselves from all technology and reconnect with our inner humanity, our inner ability to think and go deep.

It took the extraordinary content of a Web site to remind me of this great Jewish value of elevating our minds over our machines.

This is surely a value that won’t soon die — not with Steve Jobs or any of us.

David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs dead at 56

Apple Inc co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs, counted among the greatest American CEOs of his generation, died on Wednesday at the age of 56, after a years-long and highly public battle with cancer and other health issues.

Jobs’ death was announced by Apple in a statement late on Wednesday.

The Silicon Valley icon who gave the world the iPod and the iPhone resigned as CEO of the world’s largest technology corporation in August, handing the reins to current chief executive Tim Cook.

Jobs, who fought a rare form of pancreatic cancer, was deemed the heart and soul of a company that rivals Exxon Mobil as the most valuable in America.

Jobs was a Buddhist.

Reporting by Edwin Chan; Editing by Gary Hill

The Jewish World: there’s an app for that

TRIBE Media Corp., parent company of The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, has launched the first Jewish news app designed specifically for the iPad.

The Jewish Journal app, which became available for download from Apple’s app store on Oct. 2, offers readers a new way of accessing the Jewish world’s up-to-date news articles and unique blogs, as well as video and photographic content.

“The first Jewish news came down from Mount Sinai on stone tablets,” said Rob Eshman, publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp. “We believe the digital tablet will be the most important news delivery system of the future, so we committed to developing the best and first Jewish news app for it.”

The app is available as a free download and includes content from The Jewish Journal, JTA and Reuters. TRIBE Media Corp. had also recently finalized a deal with The Jewish Daily Forward, the United States’ oldest Jewish news outlet, and will include some of its content on The Jewish Journal app.

“The Jewish Daily Forward is renowned for its rigorous, independent reporting and thoughtful commentary on politics, arts and culture,” Eshman said. “We’re thrilled to have them as a partner.”

Even in tight budgetary times, Eshman said, investing in a new app was a risk that made sense.

“Certainly it’s a big expense,” Eshman said, “but the news is mobile, and we want to be where people are getting their news from.”

A handful of other Jewish news outlets have apps in Apple’s app store, but all of them simply provide direct electronic versions of print publications.

“This is the first Jewish news app that makes use of the iPad’s unique touch-screen features and multi-column features,” said Jay Firestone, the Jewish Journal’s Web director, who oversaw the app’s design and development.

Working with Seattle-based developer Pinch/Zoom Media, the app took just over one year to develop. In the first day and a half of its initial release, The Jewish Journal iPad app was downloaded 328 times onto iPads from the United States to Australia to Brazil. It has just one featured advertiser — the group-discount Web site LivingSocial.

Lately, tech writers have begun wondering whether applications written for a particular device or operating system, known as native apps, are worth the cost of their development., for instance, loads perfectly adequately on both mobile devices and on tablets like the iPad. All of The Jewish Journal’s news content and blogs are easily accessible there.

Even so, native apps have advantages.

“It comes down to having a better engaging experience,” said Aaron Maxwell, the founder of the mobile Web design firm Mobile Web Up.

Maxwell describes himself as “very much a Web person,” and his company helps optimize companies’ Web sites for mobile phones. In February he wrote an article asking whether mobile apps were worth their cost — but he’s not anti-app.

Indeed, with the dominance of the iPad in the tablet market, Maxwell said, launching an app for Apple’s tablet might make good sense, even if an app for the company’s iPhone did not.

“Interestingly, this dominance can certainly lead to situations which justify creating an iPad app in late 2011, but not an iPhone app (with its much smaller relative market share/use among smartphones),” Maxwell wrote in an e-mail.

The Jewish Journal iPad app, Firestone said, will soon move beyond Jewish news.

“The goal of the app is to be the ultimate Jewish source, not just for Jewish news, but for Jewish life as well,” Firestone said. Among future plans for the app, he said, are increased social networking capacities, user-uploaded photo galleries and, eventually, an integration of the app with TRIBE Media Corp.’s directory of local Jewish resources.

“You’ll be able to find the nearest Kosher restaurant, synagogue or school in your area, and comment on them,” Firestone said.

For now, The Jewish Journal app features a constantly updating homepage; news stories are categorized by theme, and readers can navigate from one page to another with the swipe of a finger.

“This is a great way for Jews to stay informed and connected,” TRIBE Media Corp. President David Suissa said. “Now, they can just download the Jewish world.”

How to dip your Apple in honey [VIDEO]

Judoku app released for iPad

Judoku, a Jewish version of Sudoku, has been released as an application for the iPad.

The game uses Jewish symbols such as a Star of David and shofar, or letters of the Hebrew alphabet, in place of numbers. It also includes humorous explanations of the Jewish symbols.

Judoku creator Andrew Charon created a successful mobile Sudoku app before turning to the Jewish version.

“My whole life people have asked me questions about Judaism, and then it occurred to me, here’s the opportunity to merge both into one fun user experience,” he said.

“I wanted a captivating tool I could use to teach my own children about Judaism. Learning the Torah was competing for their attention against Angry Birds and Justin Bieber tweets. I figured if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em! That, and frankly, I really just wanted to create something called Judoku.”

Judoku could be released for other mobile devices such as Apple’s iPhone and iPod, or for the Android and BlackBerry devices, depending on user demand.

Apple removes free ‘Thirdintifada’ from App Store

Apple Inc. removed the Arabic-language “Thirdintifada” application from its App Store following a request from the Israeli government.

The application was removed June 22, a day after Israel’s minister of public diplomacy and diaspora affairs, Yuli Edelstein, wrote to Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs making the request.

“We removed this app from the App Store because it violates the developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people,” an Apple spokesman said Wednesday evening.

The Thirdintifada application, which had been available for free download from the App Store, updates users on anti-Israel protests or allows them to organize their own. It also features anti-Israel articles and photos of terrorists who have attacked Israel or Israelis.

Edelstein, who in his letter to Jobs had called the application “anti-Israel and anti-Zionist,” commended the decision in a statement issued June 23.

“This is an additional step in preventing hostile elements, which are frequently tainted by anti-Semitism, from spreading incitement via the ‘new media,’ ” his statement said. “By its action, Apple has proven, as Facebook did, that it shares the values that oppose violence, incitement and terrorism.”

In March, Edelman appealed to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to remove a page called “Third Intifada” that called for a new uprising against Israel. The page subsequently was removed, though copycat pages arose in its place.

Edelstein in his letter to Jobs wrote, “I believe Apple, as a pioneering and progressive company, places the values of liberty, freedom of expression and creativity as a guiding light. Also, as a leader in its area, I am convinced that you are aware of this type of application’s ability to unite many toward an objective that could be disastrous.”

Open the doors for hungry Gen-Yers to serve

It comes as no surprise that in a world where many neglect the importance of community, iPhones, iPods and iPads are the trendiest gadgets. These devices represent a culture that desires to deconstruct the power and purpose of community, placing all importance on the needs of the individual.

Despite this societal disposition, I believe that many young people of this generation possess an ever increasing eagerness to live lives of meaning. With all the serious setbacks brought on by our new economic realities, the Gen-Y generation still had the opportunity to amass so much material stuff and travel with unprecedented frequency. But these fleeting objects and experiences do nothing to quench their thirst for a purposeful existence.

Just look at the new phenomenon in Israel in which “sheirut leumi”—alternative voluntary national service for those who cannot or do not serve in the military—once was the sole purview of the religious Zionist community. Recent years have seen a rise of new organizations such as Ma’ase, Shlomit and Sheirut Leumi Mamlachti empowering young adults of Israel’s secular community to volunteer for a year of service before their obligatory time in the army or enabling those exempt from army service who still wish to impact the destiny of the State of Israel. These organizations are collectively serving thousands.

One illustration of the same development appears at Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future, which sends nearly a thousand young adults on community initiatives, service learning trips and experiential learning missions across the globe. And the center cannot keep up with ever greater student demand.

Organizations throughout North America that work with young adults have seen a similar phenomenon and are working in partnership to create structures permitting all of us to better respond to this yearning. Recently a new organization, Repair the World, was established to help coordinate and fund successful models of this kind of engagement. It has even created a website allowing adults to find various short- and long-term volunteer opportunities around the world.

In contrast to this vitality, we increasingly hear of grayer board rooms, the passing of philanthropists who supported our organizations, the thinning of the ranks of dedicated volunteers and a dearth of professionals to service our many worthwhile organizations.

So how do we in the Jewish communal and educational world leverage the hunger of the Gen-Yers to insure the future health of our institutions? More importantly, how do we insure that this new generation brings its creativity, charisma and capacity to the leadership table with a commitment to Jewish ideals, guaranteeing the perpetuation of the soul of our sacred community?

We need look no further than these forms of experiential experiences as a start, for they transform young adults. I have often shared with students that their experiences on service missions should empower them to understand why the Hebrew word for giving, NaTaN, is a palindrome. For when one gives to another with the sole purpose of effectuating change, what one receives in return is as great or even greater than the efforts expended.

No more can we hear the old joke told among North American service providers that begins with a participant asking how does one say tikkun olam in Hebrew? Or why doesn’t Judaism have a concept similar to tikkun olam? Leadership experiences, whether in Israel, the former Soviet Union, Thailand or around the corner must be contextualized with the ideals of Jewish leadership. We must share the paradigms of leadership found in the Bible: that of the kohen (priest) and the navi (prophet).

Rooted in externals, the priest realized his holiness through the wearing of his special garb and his lineage. As the custodian of ritual for the Jewish community, he guaranteed that the form and the function of the Temple and the Jewish community passed on from generation to generation.

We must share with our young adults that participation in the identical rituals in which our great-grandparents engaged (and perhaps even using their candlesticks or kiddush cup for the Shabbat/holiday experience) creates a sense of continuity and immortality to the Jewish story. Like the kohen, our leadership experiences must serve as an incubator to engage our young adults in exploring and knowing the Jewish story.

Yet that is just half the job, for they must also embrace the role of the prophet. Dress and lineage possessed no consequence for the prophet. His/her concern rested in the substance of the religious experience in the effort to insure that the ritual not become robotic or devoid of meaning and purpose. Like the prophet, our young adults must experience a tradition imbued with passion and principle.

We must insure the placing of service learning initiatives and leadership opportunities within a rich Jewish context. This allows our experiential experiences to give voice to the immortal and contemporary traditions of our people.

The Gen-Yers wish to live lives that matter. They are hungry for community, and where they do not find ones that welcome them, they will create their own. They do not wish to escape but to engage; they do not want to judge or to be judged but to join. They do not desire indictment; they seek inspiration.

They also are not willing to accept the community silos of the past but are interested in models that perform. They are not interested in being silent partners in an organizational bureaucracy but want to matter and will accept process only if it leads to purpose. They are looking to change the spelling of their gaming console, the Wii, from two i’s to an “e.’’

If we create portals of entry, share with them our story undiluted or whitewashed, and find the courage to let them make it their own, they will do something that we cannot: guarantee our future.

(Rabbi Kenneth Brander is the David Mitzner dean of Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future. Its missions focus on helping impoverished individuals, Jews and non-Jews, around the world.)

iPad comes to Israel

The iPad is now officially available in Israel.

Apple’s official Israeli representative iDigital and Office Depot began selling the devices Tuesday, more than eight months after it became available in the United States and throughout the world, Israel’s business daily Globes reported.

In late November, Apple released a Hebrew-language interface and keyboard.

Israelis have been importing the device since its launch, though they were confiscated for the first two weeks following its release over concerns that the iPad did not meet Israel’s wireless specifications and could place a strain on the wireless Internet in Israel.

Israel lifts iPad ban

Israel has lifted its ban on the iPad.

The Communications Ministry announced Saturday evening that it will allow personal imports of the Apple iPad into the country.

Since its release two weeks ago, Israeli customs officials had been confiscating the device from Israelis entering the country. Officials said the devices were banned because they did not meet Israel’s wireless specifications and could place a strain on the wireless Internet in Israel.

But a report in Time magazine suggested that the reason might have more to do with personal politics: iDigital, Apple’s sole official Israeli importer, is owned by Chemi Peres, son of Israeli President Shimon Peres, and the ban might have been about protecting his monopoly.

A Communications Ministry statement released Saturday said, “The scrutiny conducted by the Ministry technical team vis-à-vis Apple’s team, International laboratory and European counterparts confirmed that the device which could be operated in various standards will be operated in Israel in accordance to the local standards.”

Israel bans iPad

The Apple iPad has been banned from entering Israel.

Israel’s Communications Ministry will not allow iPads to be released into Israel until the machine meets Israel’s Wi-Fi standard. The prohibition took effect Tuesday.

Until Monday, Israelis could enter Israel with an iPad as long as they paid the Value Added Tax. But Customs agents are stopping travelers now and confiscating the machines, which can cost up to $700. If the machine remains in Customs for more than 48 hours, the owner will have to pay for storage and any fines levied.

The Communications Ministry says the computer’s current settings will place a strain on the wireless Internet in Israel, Ynet reported.